One night back in the '70s, when I was in high school, a bunch of us went to see an X-rated, 3-D movie at the old Texas theater on The Drag. The film was entitled, wait for it, LOVE IN 3-D. I know, clever, right? When we entered the lobby after buying our tickets, an usher handed each of us a pair of 3-D glasses. One of my buddies, Smiley, looked at the glasses and asked "What are these?"
"They're 3-D glasses, " I said. "You gotta wear 'em to see the movie. What did you think we were coming to see?"
"Oh, I thought LOVE IN 3-D was a room number," he replied.
I tell that story to point out that 1408 (2007) is indeed a film about a room number. Based on a 1999 Stephen King short story (what is it with King and hotels, anyway?), the film stars John Cusack and a haunted hotel room. That's pretty much all there is to this movie. One guy, alone, in a hotel room that's trying to drive him to insanity and suicide.
Mike Enslin (Cusack), is a paranormal investigator and author. He doesn't really believe in the supernatural but he makes a living writing guide books to "haunted locations", including infamous hotels, most of which use the paranormal angle as a marketing tool. Mike is bitter and disillusioned following the death of his daughter and his estrangement from his wife Lily (Mary McCormack). Mike gets wind of Room 1408 in New York's ancient Dolphin Hotel and decides he simply must spend a night in the room in which all previous guests have died. Hotel manager Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson, in what amounts to a cameo appearance, despite the movie poster art), at first refuses to let Mike stay in the room but he eventually relents. Mike moves in and the craziness begins.
At the end of the second act, the film plays the old "it's all a dream" move, a plot development I suspected from early on when Mike was submerged during a surfing accident and had a near death experience. I figured that from that point on, everything in the movie was a dream/fantasy and sure enough, that's exactly what director Mikael Hafstrom and screenwriters Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski deliver. But there's still a good twenty minutes of running time left, so how is this all going to play out if it was only a dream that's now over?
Turns out, it's real after all and the whole "it's only a dream" was only a dream. Mike is still trapped in the murderous room from which he finally engineers a successful (although painful) escape.
That's really all there is to 1408. One man. One hotel room. Lots of bat shit craziness. It's nowhere near as good as Stanley Kubrick's abmitious yet flawed THE SHINING (1980). Cusack (and special effects) do all of the heavy lifting here. The film isn't clever enough to surprise and not intense enough to truly terrify. Thumbs down.