Tuesday, November 27, 2007

1408 is Great

When I first saw this poster, browsing Blockbuster Online, I thought maybe John Cusack and Samuel Jackson had been teamed up in a historical drama about the year 1408. Maybe John Cusack would put on a corset, and Samuel L. Jackson would stare into middle distance and contemplate oppression. As it turns out, not.

I sometimes feel hesitant about movies based on Steven King stories. After all, Lawnmowerman. You know? But I have never been disappointed in either John Cusack or Samuel L. Jackson, so I trusted these actors. And 1408 was fantastic.

Here's the premise: John Cusack is a writer who goes around debunking hauntings. He publishes books about the "Most Haunted Country Houses" and "Most Haunted Mansions" etc. but he does not believe in ghosts, he has only eye-rolling for wide-eyed proprietors and their warnings of locking your door against spooks. In the first scene we see him investigating a bed and breakfast that's supposed to be haunted but turns out to be about as spooky as a mushroom omelet. Then he gets an anonymous tip: Don't stay in room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel in NYC.

When he arrives in New York to stay in room 1408, after having to sue the hotel for the right to do so, hotel manager Samuel L. Jackson gives him dire warnings against it, as well as a whole dossier of pictures and case files from suicides in that room. Many, many suicides, usually after less than an hour in the room. John Cusack rolls his eyes and marches upstairs, enters the room, and closes the door.

After this point, all the other actors and actresses in the movie fade into the background, and it's John Cusack's stage. Whenever I see a great performance like this, I think, "Who else could have pulled this off? Nobody!" This may or may not be true, but Cusack's natural sneer, his indifferent posture, and his cool factor really made this character work. Totally, totally amazing. It was so creepy, so ghastly, so horrifying that I almost crawled into my husband's armpit for safety.

There was no gore. No decapitation. No severed leg flying through the air. This was not Saw or Hostel or Grindhouse or any of those bloodbaths. This was pure, tight, excrutiating psychological thrill, and it was perfectly, perfectly executed. Okay, well, the ending was a little loose, but... I'm glad of that. I needed a little breathing room by the end of the movie.

I wholeheartedly recommend this. It's the best kind of horror movie. No disgusting tearing apart of flesh, nobody burned alive, no goofy monsters, and you can go to bed and sleep well, because the situation is so specific (just in room 1408!) that you don't have to worry subconsciously that the horror is going to get into your house.

Five pumped fists for 1408.

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