DVD/Blu-ray Reviews

1408 - DVD Review



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</script></div>{/googleAds}It's been a while since Hollywood has offered up a truly scary ghost story. Numerous feeble attempts like An American Haunting and the remake of The Amityville Horror have come our way recently, but like those offerings, most fail miserably because they look to the wrong place to conjure up scares. Loud noises, rapid jump cuts, lopped-off limbs, and screeching cats do not a scary movie make. Chills and frights, to be genuine and intense, must come from within the viewer's own mind, not from what the filmmaker shows us on the screen. And this is exactly what makes 1408 so successful as a paranormal thriller. Swedish director Mikael Hafstrom (Derailed) takes a lesson from horror masters Hitchcock and Serling, and builds the movie out of strong characters and solid acting rather than flashy cgi and eardrum-piercing noises. In fact, Hafstrom prides himself on his insistence of using practical effects rather than green screen and cgi. And 1408 is a better film because of it.

Based on a short story by literary horror master Stephen King, 1408 gets its title from the number of a supposedly haunted room in New York's famed Dolphin Hotel where novelist Mike Enslin (John Cusack) will spend the night in hopes of completing the last chapter of his latest supernatural-themed travel book called Ten Nights in Haunted Hotel Rooms. He's especially interested in this particular room because of its deadly past. But like a child asked not to peek at his presents until Christmas day, Mike ignores the pleas and bribes of the hotel manager, Mr. Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) who advises Mike not to stay in the room because he doesn't want to "clean up the mess." Seems there have been no fewer than 56 deaths in the room over the decades, many by suicides, others by gruesome murder-like incidents, and even some by what appear to be natural causes. No one has ever been able to last more than an hour in the room and the maid service crew is only allowed to enter in shifts ... with the door open... and never for more than a few minutes at a time. Now that's scary stuff. Jackson's character gives a perfect description of the room when he says, in what is quickly becoming a signature phrase, "It is an evil fucking room."

Cynical Enslin, having never seen any real paranormal events despite numerous stays in some of the world's most haunted places, finally gets the key to the room. He sits quietly on the bed, speaks into his hand-held voice recorder, while hoping to finally see something witchy. And boy do things begin to happen. As if an endless loop of The Carpenters playing on an unplugged clock radio weren't scary enough, spooky noises fill the suite, the thermostat goes wonky, and ghostly apparitions appear in the room.

Up to this point, 1408 is nearly perfect. Hafstrom and co-writers Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander, and Larry Karaszewski, have installed a firm foundation to the story buoyed by Enslin's haunted past and flippant skepticism. Cusack is perfectly cast as he comes with a built-in likeability that allows us to really care for his character. The filmmakers find great success with the subtle little frights and surprises, such as chocolate mints that appear on a pillow where they weren't before, faucets that run for no reason, and window ledges that lead to nowhere. Undoubtedly, one-hour martinizers and upholstery cleaning companies around the country will make a fortune in the coming weeks laundering soiled trousers and wet theater seats. But as the supernatural events continue to build, 1408 loses its way a bit. I know we're supposed to be experiencing a massive nervous breakdown of Britney Spears proportions, but the proceedings become a bit too manic, approaching overkill. For some reason I can believe in thermostats and window sills that try to kill, but seascape paintings that spill ocean's of seawater into the room stretches my suspension of belief just a little too far.

1408 is indeed a spooky movie that'll make the hair on the back of your neck stand up more than a few times. But it's important to point out that more than it is a haunting tale about a scary hotel, it's a scary story about a haunted man. Real terror comes from within people (both characters and audience members), not from monsters or computer effects. It's refreshing to know that filmmakers still know that. Rod Serling would be proud.


DVD

DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1

Subtitles: None

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; trailer; deleted scenes; director's commentary; making-of featurette; alternate ending.

* Commentary - audio commentary by director Mikael Hafstrom and writers Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski
* Webisodes -
o John Cusack on 1408 (2:31)
o Inside Room 1408 (2:07)
* Trailer (2:32)
* Alternate Cut - Extended Director's Cut of 1408 (112:00)
* Deleted Scenes (5 clips, 11:21 total) with optional commentary
o "Contacting Lily"
o "Wrought With Guilt"
o "I Warned You About 1408"
o "Tilting Room & Lily Pleads At Door"
o "Arriving At The Dolphin"
* Featurettes
o "The Characters" (7:59)
o "The Director" (5:14)
o "The Physical Effects" (4:17)
o "The Production Design" (5:24)

Number of discs: - 2- Keepcase Packaging

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