1408 is a 2007 Psychological Horror film directed by Mikael Håfström and starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, based on a Stephen King short story by the same name.Cusack plays horror writer Mike Enslin, who specializes in investigating supposedly haunted houses and other sites of supernatural activity, which he has documented previously in books like Ten Haunted Graveyards and Ten Haunted Mansions. However, these investigations have yet to bear fruit in the form of confirmable sightings, leaving him pessimistic and jaded. Through an anonymous recommendation, Enslin learns about the Dolphin Hotel, in which no one has been able to stay even a single night (or even one hour) in one particular room - the eponymous 1408. According to his research, everyone who tries has committed suicide or died from anything from heart attacks to drowning. The manager, Gerald Olin, tries to warn him away from staying in that room, to no avail; Enslin is unconvinced by his warnings and tales, preferring to see things for himself. After all, what's the worst that could happen?Critics consider the film one of the stronger adaptations of King's works, and it's not hard to see why — terrifying, suspenseful, witty, and a strong performance by Cusack, who is pretty much carrying the entire film by himself and pulls it off.
1408 contains examples of:
Adaptation Expansion: The original story has him in the room for about seventy minutes before he sets his shirt on fire (according to the text: it seems like it would be more like fifteen or twenty). The movie also expands more on Mike's motivations and what his life was like outside of ghost-hunting, and of course this is used to twist the knife further during his stay.
Adult Fear: For Enslin, when Katie was dying of a terminal disease, and not only could he not do anything to prevent it, but as an atheist he couldn't even take refuge in prayer.
Air-Vent Passageway: Subverted. Not only are the vents incredibly cramped, not only does he fail to escape, but something chases him in the vents...
Alien Geometries: In the short story the door is first crooked to the left, then it's straight, then to the right, then both. Each time, it changed when he looks away. And the room itself also take on some extremely alien geometries near the end. Mike found "Moorish" the closest thing he could come up with to pinning a word to it. King's text called it "a convex, rotting cave full of swoops and mad tilts".
The film nods to this with a painting of a ship in a storm which, no matter how Enslin adjusts it, always appears to hang crooked.
All Just a Dream: Subverted in the film. And done remarkably well, too—at the point in the film where this happens, enough running time has elapsed that you might actually believe the movie was coming to an end.
And it gets even more meta than that. The surfboard incident at the start of the film has no other reason to be in the movie than this scene, and the well-publicized change from the Downer Ending made it seem like a particularly lazy way out. Even the restaurant scene contains a Shout-Out to the ending of the film version of Misery, reinforcing this.
And You Were There: When Mike realizes that the clerk at the post office and the hotel boy were the same person, the illusion starts to crumble.
First, the window that slams shut on his hand hard enough to break the skin.
Later, when Enslin tries to escape to the next room over by going out the window, he is unable to reach the expected next window over - and then sees that 1408's are the only two windows within about five miles of otherwise featureless wall. Naturally, the window tries to bite him again on the return trip.
Despair Event Horizon: Enslin reaches this after the vision of Katie dying in his arms. And the room keeps going.
Died in Your Arms Tonight: Just when Enslin thinks he might have his dead daughter back, she falls limp while he's hugging her - and then to twist the knife further, the radio startles him (again) and she crumbles into ash.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: The entire premise itself (An evil location that draws people to it, then uses their own guilts and fears to drive them insane and kill them) it's basically if Stephen King wrote Silent Hill.
The original ending had Enslin dying with the room. Test audiences did not approve, and this ending was reserved for the international releases.
The short story ends on one too. The room melts and distorts near the end, and is about to consume Enslin. Enslin sets himself on fire, and the room lets him leave. Enslin is saved by another hotel guest who happened to be walking by with a bucket of ice water. Enslin doesn't publish his story, the recordings are useless, and he has third degree burns, scarring him for the rest of his life. He retreats to a house in Long Island where he lives out a lonely life, has health problems, and is completely traumatized by his 70-minute stay in room 1408.
Dramatic Drop: At the end, when Enslin is listening to his notes while his wife is unpacking from a recent move. Her reaction to hearing the voice of their dead daughter on the tape is entirely understandable.
Eldritch Abomination: The "good" news is that there are no ghosts involved. When Enslin refers to a phantom in the room, Olin sharply rebukes him, in the charming way that only Samuel L. Jackson can (see the quote at the top of this page) pull off. This arguably makes the movie even harder to watch. You desperately want something to hate for everything that's happening to Enslin, but hating a room is like, well, shouting at a minifridge. The good thing about this is that you're relieved that it's just this one room....
Enclosed Space: In the movie, after Enslin has been in the room for a while, the door simply refuses to open. Going out the window doesn't work, and there's something horrible in the ventilation ducts, so that's out. Oh, and the room actively hates him.
Evil Phone: "Five. This is five. Ignore the sirens. Even if you leave this room, you can NEVER leave this room. Eight. This is eight. We have killed your friends. Every friend is now dead. Six. This is six."
Eye Scream: A cleaning lady who found herself locked in 1408's bathroom for four seconds used a pair of scissors to cut her own eyes out. What had she seen? No one knows. In the short story it was subtler yet in its own way scarier. She simply goes temporarily blind while cleaning the room, and yet she says "she's blind, but she can see the most awful colors".
Face of a Thug: Inverted. The room looks rather nice before it goes to hell.
Fate Worse than Death: "You can choose to repeat this hour over and over again, or you can take advantage of our express checkout system".
Faux Affably Evil: The room itself. It offers Mike, in a very polite manner, the option to take advantage of its express checkout system: showing him a rope to hang himself.
Foreshadowing: When Enslin calls down to the front desk to request someone to fix his thermostat, he mentions that the room is on fire.
Haunted Technology: At the end of the director's cut, Enslin's tape recorder recovered from the burnt-out shell of the titular hotel room finds its way to Sam Jackson's character. After listening to it for several seconds in his car, he jumps with fright upon seeing Enslin's charred corpse in his rear-view mirror, giving him a weary grin. Whether this is the room's malign influence spreading or simply Enslin seeing his last work completed remains unclear.
Hell Hotel: Played with. Only the one room, and the owner does his best to explain the risks and discourage most people from going in there. The rest of the hotel is exceptionally pleasant. Hell, even the room (before it goes to shit) looks like a lovely spacious apartment.
Hope Spot: The nightmare sequence late in the movie where Enslin thinks he's escaped from the room.
Horror Struck: Mike's skepticism soon turns into a terror of realization.
Last Unsmoked Cigarette: Literally. Enslin, who has quit smoking, keeps a cigarette behind his ear throughout the movie. When Mike sets the room on fire and expects to die, he lights it up.
Latex Perfection: The final nightmare sequence features the best variation ever, executed by the room itself.
Laughing Mad: In the movie, Enslin gets a massive case of the giggles as the room burns around him.
Littlest Cancer Patient: In the movie: Katie Enslin, who dies from an unspecified disease (possibly terminal cancer) a year before the events of the movie, an event that spurred Enslin to travel around the country investigating haunted locations. The room's visions of Katie still alive with Mike in the room really seem designed to go for Mike's jugular.
Actually, a bit of Mike's dialogue in a flashback seems to imply that someone (likely the recurring figure of a wild-eyed bald man Mike sees) gave her whatever she dies from. How is unknown, though that’s probably for the best.
Mind Rape: In the movie, it is implied that the room peers into the darkest corners of its current occupant's fears, regrets, and insecurities, and customizes itself to whatever nightmares will traumatize them the most.
Mirror Scare: Mike gets shocked by seeing the reflection of the man with a hammer in his bedroom mirror. He turns around to realize he is alone in the room.
Missing Floor: The corporation running the Dolphin Hotel believes that Thirteen Is Unlucky, so they pretend there's no 13th floor. Hence Floor 13 is re-numbered as 14, putting the room of death on the appropriate level (with digits that also add to 13).
Negative Continuity: Played straight. Over the course of the hour, many details of the room change, starting subtly with a crooked hanging, but growing increasingly elaborate. Even the varying levels of cognac left in the bottle are likely intentional.
Enslin believes himself to be this: he doesn't believe in the supernatural, claiming even if it was real, there isn't a God to protect them from it. He even wears a hat at one point with the words "Paranoia is just total awareness".
In comparison, Olin is definitely this. He decided after the 4th death under his watch to have the room sealed and forbade any guests to check into it. He has 1408 serviced once a month, under his direct supervision, with maids working in pairs and the door kept open at all times. He tells Enslin that he treats the room as if it were filled with toxic gas, and won't even go near it unless he has to.
Paranoia Fuel: DiscussedIn-Universe. Enslin states that hotel rooms are inherently creepy due to the fact you have no idea who else has come and gone from them before you came, and who will come and go after. Any number of those people could have been sick or insane at the time they stayed, and several of them have probably already died.
Parking Problems: The protagonist takes up two stalls with his SUV in front of the post office at the beginning of the movie.
The Precarious Ledge: Mike tries to escape The Room by climbing out onto the thin, windy ledge and shimmying into the next room over's window, only to discover that there are no other windows, only an infinite sheer brick wall. He turns back, ending up in a Literal Cliffhanger thanks to the ghost of a woman committing suicide by throwing herself out the window.
Race Lift: Mr. Olin, a white middle aged British man in the story is played by Samuel L. Jackson in the film. It's a very effective transition at that. If some British guy walked up to you and said 'Don't go in the room!', you'd probably do it out of spite. Now if Samuel L Jackson told you 'Don't go in the fucking room'...
Schmuck Bait: The postcard Enslin receives, warning him "Don't go in 1408!"
Schrödinger's Butterfly: The whole movie plays with this concept a lot but especially when the main character (as well as the viewing audience) is tricked into thinking that he escapes the hotel room and has returned to a normal life before he realizes that it was all a vicious illusion. This arguably comes to an end when he burns the place down and escapes, but there's still the feeling that too could possibly be an illusion. Only in the theatrical ending, though. In the director's cut it's clear he burned the entire room down, though at the cost of his life.
Shell-Shocked Veteran: In the book, Enslin becomes totally paranoid after his experience. He cannot sleep in strange places, he can't answer the phone, he can't allow any light from the sunrise or sunset into his room (as it reminds him of the horrible colors in the room), and he is an all-around broken individual.
There's a small blink-and-you-miss-it reference to the original short story. When Enslin is walking down the hall to the room for the first time, he is shuffling through his notes. On one page is a line from the original short story from when Enslin first begins to feel the effects from the room.
"My brother was actually eaten by wolves one winter on the Connecticut Turnpike."
After the climax and Enslin's escape, he starts seeing the ghosts of those trapped in 1408, including while having lunch in a restaurant in a frame-for-frame shout out to the ending of Misery. Then he finds out he's not escaped after all.
Enslin's attempt to find a rational explanation for the strange occurences, described by him as "Let's Encyclopedia Brown this bitch."
Snow Means Cold: When it gets to freezing in the room, the floor is covered with a layer of snow. The sprinklers were on for awhile, but it should have generated some ice, not snow. But of course, the room's Reality Warper nature can explain such little details.
Spit Take: In the movie, Enslin learns why you shouldn't drink anything when staying in a hotel room with a sadistic radio...
Spiritual Successor: Replace "evil hotel room" with "disgraced opera singer's home" and you have Magnetic Rose from Katsuhiro Otomo's 'Memories'.
Spooky Painting: Enslin finds three framed examples of Generic Hotel Artwork that get more menacing as the movie goes on. Specifically, a painting of "constipated English lords" hunting changes to a scene wherein they are attacked by their hunting dogs, a ship being tossed about in on the high seas suddenly has a full crew fighting in vain against a storm, and a painting of a woman and her child becomes a painting of a woman breastfeeding her dead baby.
Straw Vulcan: Enslin is a scientifically minded skeptic and atheist, and the narrative of the film is set up to show that his worldview is a foolish one, and that his skepticism was his own undoing, and he would have been better served to have heeded the warning of superstition.
To be fair, any reasonable scientist would have noticed SOMETHING odd about the massive number of fatalities.
To be even more fair, Enslin DID notice something weird about the fatalities. That was a major part of why he was stayed there. The guy's entire point of all those ghost haunts was looking for proof that the supernatural did indeed exist and by extension that perhaps his daughter really is in a better place. A definite example of Be Careful What You Wish For, since he found his proof...
Taking You with Me: When Enslin finally snaps, he makes a Molotov cocktail with the cognac given to him by the manager to burn himself and the room. He even says, "If I have to go down, I'm taking you with me.
It's debatable whether he actually succeeds or only plays right into the room's... "hands". Remember that it's the room that kept giving him nudges in the direction of fire, specifically with the 'burn me alive' message. This idea is supported by the fact that in two of the three possible endings - the ones where Olin visits Enslin's funeral and the one where Enslin's publisher gets the manuscript mailed to him that Enslin wrote while in the room - both scenes end with mystical occurrences that make it look as if the room's influence has spread through the objects connected to it, with Olin seeing Enslin's burned body in the seat behind him and with the publisher reading the manuscript as the camera pans out and reveals that the busy office has mysteriously gone abandoned except for him, and the last words we hear are 'As I was... you will be'.
Tempting Fate: As mentioned in the description above, Enslin insisted on staying in the room.
That Was Not A Dream: 1408 is such a bastard that it let Mike think he'd been out for a week or more before informing him, nope, you're still here.
Thirteen Is Unlucky: All over this room. The hotel also doesn't have a 13th floor, to accommodate superstitious guests (actually a pretty common thing in the hotel business).
1 + 4 + 0 + 8 = 13.
The room also keeps fiddling with the thermostat to extremely hot or cold temperatures, the digits of which always add up to thirteen.
The numbers that the phone calls out add up to thirteen in pairs.
Also, since the hotel doesn't have a thirteenth floor, the floor numbered fourteen, where the room is, is actually the thirteenth floor.
The Dolphin is at 2254 Lexington. Also, the metal plate inside the door's lock is engraved with "6214." And, the DVD's run time is 104 minutes, 8 seconds (1 + 04 + 8 = 13). The director's cut clocks in at around 112 minutes: 1 + 12 = 13.
Took a Level in Badass: Takes effect once the voice on the phone offers Enslin the express checkout and he acts completely nonchalant for the rest of the film, such as relaxing on the couch as the place is set on fire.
Trash the Set: After Mike seems to have escaped from 1408 and lived a week or so of his normal life, he goes to the post office to deliver a letter, and suddenly all the employees start destroying the place, to reveal 1408 beneath it.
The Unreveal: In spades. We never learn what the room is, who sent the postcard, or whether Enslin really escaped.
Up to Eleven: Near the end of the film, you think the room has done its worst to Enslin—tricking him into thinking that he had actually been out of the room for weeks before bringing him right back. Then it does that thing with Katie, and you can't possibly imagine it doing anything more horrible than that, as Enslin looks like a textbook example of a broken man. Then it rewinds to the beginning and tells him he's going to relive the experience over and over and over until he kills himself...
And then the theatrical release has his wife overhearing their daughter's voice on the tape at the end of the movie, begging to be allowed to stay with her parents, before the room reclaims her. Remember this was the ending the studio forced so it wouldn't be such a Downer Ending.