Fri, Aug 03, 2007 - Page 17 News List

FILM REVIEW: Checking out may not be an option

In Stephen King's latest movie, '1408,' the hero faces fire, flood, vertigo and assorted supernatural entities

By Jeannette Catsoulis  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

The room service sucks at Dolphin Hotel.


A troubled writer, a haunted hotel room - who else but Stephen King? In 1408, adapted from a 2002 short story by King, John Cusack is the hack who drags his emotional baggage to Room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel in Manhattan, accommodations whose history of grisly deaths demands investigation. Once there, he learns that checking out might not be an option.

Directed by Mikael Hafstrom with old-fashioned restraint and a stylish use of intense close-ups, 1408 is more psychological thriller than outright horror. Recycling many of King's familiar motifs, the story traps its protagonist in an apparitional loop filled with repeating signs of occult infestation: a Carpenters song bursting from a bedside radio, paintings that tilt and transform. The movie is most effective in its early scenes of prickly menace, and while the Dolphin is no Overlook (the haunted hotel in The Shining), its old-world creepiness is exactly right.

King is a writer who excels at finding malevolence in the mundane, and consequently his tortured Everymen have often been more successful on the small screen than on the large. Cusack's character descends directly from David Soul's in Salem's Lot: scarred heroes who have lost their faith. In Cusack's case, it's waiting for him behind the door of 1408.


DIRECTED BY: Mikael Hafstrom

STARRING: John Cusack (Mike Enslin), Samuel L. Jackson (Gerald Olin), Mary McCormack (Lily Enslin) and Jasmine Jessica Anthony (Gracie Enslin)



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