Monday, October 4, 2010

Movie Appraisal: 1408 (2007)

The first time I saw this movie, I was about as happy as I could be. This movie is psychological horror at its best. It has artistic and beautiful imagery combined with an amazing story and great performance by John Cusack playing the lead character of Mike Enslin, a successful nonfiction author who writes about paranormal phenomena, or lack thereof in different places.

I like this movie a lot. It's one of my favorite movies of all time. I like how everything goes back to the psychological aspects of the character of Mike Enslin and how much he's gone through with losing his daughter and walking out on his family. In many ways, although John Cusack is the only actor who is really in this film, the room itself, Room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel in New York City, is like another character with its own motives and ideas, and it becomes a fascinating battle of wills between Mike Enslin and Room 1408.

In many ways, going back to a previous review of mine, this movie reminds me of Silent Hill 4: The Room, mostly because both character from the respective stories are stuck in a room with no way out.

I like how this movie starts out too. It's almost as if it might be some kind of comedy film rather than the psychological horror film it turns out to be. John Cusack has a few genuinely funny moments in this film before he enters the room and even after he has as well. His chemistry (for the little time the other actors are in this film) with Tony Shaloub, who plays Mike's agent, and Samuel L. Jackson, who plays the manager of the Dolphin, is awesome and hilarious. It makes the film seem like it could be nothing more than a zany comedy before taking back the curtain and showing off its horror side. Even the colors seem indicative of something other than a horror movie. The film is not shot as most modern horror movies are with a filter going toward the grainy or the blue end of the spectrum. It's like the movie itself is trying to mess with the viewer's own perceptions as well as the protagonist's. It's an amazing feat if that's what the film was trying to pull off, and I think it works amazingly well.

I just want to take a moment to speak of the source material. "1408" is actually a short story by Stephen King anthologized in his 2002 collection of fourteen short stories, "Everything's Eventual". I remember reading the story a few years ago and not being blown away by it. There were other stories in the same anthology that I thought were much better like "The Man in the Black Suit", "Riding the Bullet", and "The Little Sisters of Eluria" to name a few. For whatever reason though, this story was the one that did well when all the rest kind of faded to general obscurity, and I'm going to postulate it has something to do with the similarities that this story has to a very famous Stephen King novel turned movie, The Shining.

Now, on the surface, and underneath the surface there are a ton of similarities between the two works from the history of violent deaths in both hotels (but in 1408 it's in Room 1408 specifically) all the way to the main character going insane from the place itself.

Now, I like this movie and I've been biting to review it for a long time, but I will admit that this movie isn't for everyone. It can really make a person feel like they're losing their mind a little bit and for people who don't like their mind messed with it can be a difficult movie to watch and enjoy. A friend of mine watched this movie with me a while back and he was thinking that reality was falling down around his head. Granted it was about four in the morning and we had also watched Jacob's Ladder, another great psychological horror film, that night... but he was intensely nervous after we watched this film, whereas I was gushing with joy at being able to watch it, so much so that for the next six months or so I would watch this movie every few weeks just because it gave me a reason to really smile. I like certain movies and this is one of the movies that really appeals to me, and I think it's the psychological horror aspects of it. But what I find hilarious is how I never really liked the source material, but I loved the movie.

I guess that sometimes the movie of a novel or story can be better than the original itself.

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