For this year’s 31 Nights of Horror Challenge, the Day 14 prompt was Mostly Ghostly. I chose one I had not seen before, and it did not disappoint. It is an adaptation of a Stephen King story called 1408. If you are a rabid reader of mine, you know, I love anything from Stephen King, even the movie adaptions, and the ones that stray far away from the book are okay too.
The cynical and skeptical writer Mike Enslin writes books evaluating supernatural phenomena in hotels, graveyards and other haunted places, usually debunking the mystery. While writing his latest book, he travels from Los Angeles to New York to spend one night in the Dolphin Hotel’s posessed room 1408, which is permanently unavailable for guests.
The reluctant manager Mr. Gerald Olin objects to his request and offers an upgrade, expensive booze and finally relates the death of more than fifty guests over decades in the cursed room.
However Mike threatens Mr. Olin, promising to sue the hotel, and is finally allowed to check into the room. Later in the night, he finds that guests of room 1408, once they have checked in, might never leave the room alive
Our Thoughts on 1408
This one is really good, in my opinion. It is not your typical horror/scary movie story but rather a story about the stages of grief.
Of course it has enough suspense and jump scares to make it worth its while.
Albeit, this one consists of three elements, typical of the King formula.
The first is the expression of terror, shaped safely so that you can watch but not be personally threatened. I think this is a King invention. Here, we know WE would have taken seriously the warnings so he deserves what he gets. It relieves us.
The second element is trite, so far as I am concerned. Also a King specialty is to weave some sort of emotional trauma into the otherwise merely decorative horror. Here it is the death of our character’s child, which happened before we meet him. This allows for the final zinger.
The third element is the stuff I study and that King knows well. I call it narrative folding. Situations are nested in each other. Time gets shifted, at the same time that the period in the room proceeds in real time, even with a clock counting down. Ghosts inhabit ghosts and all people are ghosts. Cold is hot. Water is land. Daughter is wife.
This is the stuff that makes the film work, and I think it is done pretty well. Its why they picked Cusak. He understands this stuff. Has since “Malkovich” and “Fidelity” and mastered in “Identity.”
9 out of 10
In the movie, Mike Enslin (John Cusack) says to his recorder, “Hotel rooms are just naturally creepy places, don’t you think? I mean, how many people have slept in that bed before you? How many of them were sick? How many were losing their minds?” Stephen King wrote this in his explanatory note of 1408 in his compilation book of short stories.