1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: 1408 - Director's Cut Edition  [DVD] (DVD)
This is a film that starts out well - very well - but loses its way after a while. You can tell this because the film had alternate endings, always a sign that the studio can't make its mind up about where the story ought to go.
The plot, basically, has Mike Endlin (Cusack) playing a writer who writes books about supposedly haunted places, and who usually gives credence to the stories of hauntings, even though he doesn't believe in them himself. He receives written invitations to visit such sites from people, usually hotel owners, keen to improve their popularity via notoriety (and free publicity) in his books. One day he receives an anti-invitation, from a hotel telling him NOT to stay with them.
Intrigued, and convinced that this is a riff on the usual way of attracting his interest, he goes to the hotel and meets the manager, Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson), who does everything in his power to stop Endlin staying there, specifically in room 1408, where no-one has survived for more than an hour. Cusack insists on staying there... you can imagine the rest...
Jackson plays with his usual funky gravitas (shame he's not used more than he is in this film, since he has some of the best screen-presence around) and shares the acting honours with Cusack, who does a superb job of transitting quickly from world-weary cynic to terrified pawn in some supernatural game. There are some genuinely jarring moments in the first half-hour or so which had me checking behind the sofa, and which promised to develop into something cinematically very special.
However, eventually the effects become rather gross, thus losing their power to enthrall and shock - in suspense films less really is more, especially where the supernatural is concerned. Comparisons with "The Shining" are unavoidable when walls start bleeding and guilt surfaces from the past to haunt Endlin, with apparitions of his dead daughter appearing like Marley's Ghost. By the end it is clear that the story has effectively disappeared, with the studio just cobbling together a mish-mash of gory effects and false endings to try and sustain the running length. A shame, for a film that started out so very well.
So, all in all a disappointment, but worth seeing for the first half. Switch it off once the walls start to bleed, and give it to Oxfam.