John Cusack in a Hotel with Stephen King

[Republished from an ancient blog, long abandoned and forgotten, originally posted on June 23, 2007.]

I have just had the scariest, most gut-wrenching movie experience I’ve had since, oh, I can’t remember when.  Maybe never.

1408 opened today, and I happened to stumble across a trailer for it online just this evening.  Apparently the movie is based on a Stephen King short story of the same name, published in the collection “Everything’s Eventual.”  The crazy thing is, I have this book.  I have read all of the short stories in this book.  I remembered very few of them, and 1408 is no exception.  After the trailer scared the shit out of me–and after pausing to reflect for a moment about just how much I really like John Cusack, who stars in this movie–I decided what the heck, I’ll go see it.  Now, I rarely go to movies alone, let alone scary ones, let alone on the spur of the moment.  But I also rarely get the opportunity to even go to movies these days, so I figured since opportunity was knocking I would let it in.

The main character, Mike Enslin, is likeable enough.  He reminds me a bit of King himself, in fact.  He’s a writer who makes a living discrediting supposedly authentic haunted locales.  John Cusack has always been able to make any of his characters extremely likeable, and he does another great job here.  When he checks in to the Dolphin Hotel, determined to stay in “haunted” room 1408, he’s ready for another letdown.  But either this room is inhabited by pure evil, or Enslin is losing his mind.  The story alternates between one and the other, and there comes a point where you can almost tell that Enslin is *trying* to make it all just be in his head.  Of course, I can’t tell you whether it was real or not–what fun would that be??

I think maybe the reason I forgot ever reading this story might be because any action that takes place is merely descriptions of strange stuff going on in the hotel room.  Enslin’s actions in this story can pretty much be summed up in two words: “freak out.”  For once, I do believe King wrote something that actually works better on screen than on the page.  This is huge for me because usually after I’ve read one of King’s books, I end up hating the movies that follow.  Perhaps Dreamcatcher was one exception.

Anyway, back to 1408.  I’ve been home for about half an hour now, and I still have knots in my stomach.  The sheer sense of unreality really stays with you after the movie.  This is not a “simple” King slash-and-gore fest; as if anything written by King could dare to be called “simple” anyway!  It’s so frightening, so emotional, so completely out in left field.  I was uneasy and tense through the entire darned thing, which usually doesn’t happen to me.  The way the whole scenario deteriorated, and the way it looked visually as it happened, was thoroughly amazing.  When you watch it, you find yourself questioning everything you see.  “That can’t really be happening,” you think to yourself, even as Enslin is thinking or saying that very thing.  Even driving home (in the pouring rain, nice touch, lol!) I found myself looking at the windshield almost like a movie screen, looking from outside myself, watching very closely to make sure that what I was seeing was really there.  I gotta hand it to King, he really got deep into my head this time!


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