Director: Mikael Hafstrom
In order to better illustrate the method to his revision madness in his nonfiction work On Writing, master of horror author Stephen King created the first few pages of a story inspired by parapsychologist Christopher Chacon’s study of the haunted Hotel Del Coronado with a piece King named 1408, only to find himself wanting to finish it afterwards. A few years later, it was adapted in screenplay form by a team of three writers and brought to life by Swedish director Mikael Hafstrom (Derailed). Although it’s impossible to escape its roots as a short piece of fiction, the film—which is essentially a one-man show—benefits greatly from the casting of John Cusack as author Mike Enslin, who, after a heartbreaking family tragedy, turns his attention to paranormal phenomena as a ghost buster of sorts, staying in some of the spookiest purported haunted hotels to try and uncover supernatural secrets. Although he’s grown cynical and disbelieving after having never been genuinely scared or greeted by a ghost, he gets a postcard from New York’s Dolphin Hotel advising him not to stay in room 1408 (the numbers of course equal 13 as many of the numbers in the film do as well). Despite the hotel manager (Samuel L. Jackson), who does everything in his power to dissuade the author and warns of the horrors of the room and the over fifty people who have died under bizarre circumstances in the increasingly dangerous 1408, Mike and publisher Sam Farrell (Tony Shaloub) threaten a lawsuit unless he can stay there and eventually he gets his way. The room seems pretty uninteresting and even dull for the first few minutes but then soon enough the clock radio turns on the Carpenters song “We’ve Only Just Begun” and the room begins to come alive. Overly long as we watch his struggle against the supernatural room—it’s Cusack’s show the whole way and his likability keeps us engrossed even when it begins to overstay its welcome, and although it still feels about fifteen minutes too long, it’s still a satisfying ghost story and another worthy King film.