1408 DVD review

After Vacancy I was quite accustomed to the idea of actors who have mostly based their careers in comedic roles trying out their fate in a thriller. In fact, many actors who usually inspire laughs have done this in recent years. Michael Keaton tried his fate in White Noise, and it didn’t look great for him in the film or the box office. Ryan Reynolds found his way into the Amityville remake, a surprising choice after his Van Wilder fame. Even John Cusack made Identity, and once again he returns to the genre which now seems to treat him best, while his romantic comedies lately have not been as inspired. 1408 also comes with the dangerous/promising hopes that always come with a Stephen King adaptation. Though there were some classic adaptation of his novels and short stories in the past, most of the adaptations which have come about in the last five years have a promising start and never seem able to follow through.

Following in the tradition of many stories which seem to ring of Stephen King relating to the main character, John Cusack plays Mike Enslin, a writer about paranormal activity. He writes books about haunted hotels, visiting each and rating them on their abilities to frighten the guests. Apparently if it goes beyond mild irritant the addition of a ghost can increase hotel visitors rather than detract them. I suppose the Roosevelt Hotel is a great example of this, as a hotel with several rumors of ghosts connected with classic Hollywood stars that once stayed at the elegant hotel, and the staff will gladly tell you all they know. Mike does this for a living, yet he is more than a little skeptical about the truth of paranormal activity until he stays in room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel in New York. Not only does the hotel promise Mike a climactic ending to his book, but it also brings him to his home city after a long absence. After a tragic accident left him and his wife Lily with a destroyed home, they separated and the visit to the hotel will be his return.

King also seems to find hotels particularly frightening, and in the case of the hotels in his stories I would tend to agree.  Despite grave warnings about the room from the hotel manager (Samuel L. Jackson), and even an insistence not to allow guests in the room that makes Mike enlist the help of his agent (Tony Shalhoub), a lawyer and the threat of a lawsuit just to book the room. An expert in history and research, seeing as he never actual encounters ghosts on his visits, Mike is able to dig up the story behind room 1408 before entering it. He finds that there was a suicide from the room window in 1938, and since then there have been fifty-six deaths in the room since. Some of the deaths were even of natural causes, making the room even more frightening. Despite the laborious setup and research before we finally enter the room, Mike has been warned that nobody lasts an hour and his alarm clock begins a countdown, letting us know that we are about to join Mike for one hell of an hour.

The dark and twisted happenings in the hotel aren’t as difficult to take in the theatrical version, which is fortunately included in the two disc set. Disc one has the theatrical version with a much more optimistic and redeeming version of the film, whereas the second disc contains a far darker ending to the film with very little to be glad about. The special features are split on the two discs, with the commentary on the director’s cut of the film on the second disc. The commentary includes director Mikael Hafstr√∂m and the writers who adapted the story. Disc two also has deleted scenes and a featurette about the making of the film. The features on the first disc pale in comparison, with only two brief internet spots that were created to help push the film and a theatrical trailer.

No comments: