In my second installment of “Film vs. Literature” we’re going to explore some work from the greatest horror author of our time: Stephen King. On the platter today is the highly touted tale (and film) 1408. Though 1408 flew under the radar for quite some time in the literary world (not to say it hasn’t been an appreciated piece of work nce initial print, it’s just a previously oft overlooked gem that deserves to be ranked in the upper echelon of King’s wonderful résumé of short stories.
Thanks to director Mikael Håfström (and fairly rare praise from King himself) not only the film, but the short has quickly ascended to the top of fan favorite horror tales. I’m certain royalty statements saw a sudden increase for King as well, though at this point, that may equate to mere chump change for today’s genuine “Master of Horror”.
Author: Stephen King
Source: Everything’s Eventual (short story)
King’s introduction to the skeptical author, Mike Enslin, who’s made a fair career for himself exploring haunted locations and crafting creepy tale’s is abrupt, but exceptionally effective in establishing a thorough understanding of the cynical author. He’s a man who enjoys his work, but doesn’t necessarily believe in a ngle word he’s written.
Just the same, his books have been met with moderate success, and his career path looks to be carved deep, and no gns point to Mike exiting the buness. Until he encounters the haunting room 1408 in the low-key, but well maintained Hotel Dolphin.
Enslin’s afforded numerous chances to avoid the room by hotel manager Olin, but Olin’s words fall on stubborn ears, and Mike finds himself in room 1408, which isn’t a haunted room so much as a supernatural room with a life all its own.
During his extremely brief stay in the notorious room (which is said to have more than 30 deaths affixed to its haunting legend), Mike is subjected to extreme hallucinations, brief bouts with phycal ailment, and a handful of other…uniquely terrifying experiences.
Enslin’s stay doesn’t last long, as this doubter of the macabre quickly succumbs to the mental torture the room holds in wait. Pictures shift, change, and appear from thin air. Walls contort, wretched sounds abound, and a level of claustrophobia and extreme panic overtake the seasoned writer, who in a brilliant finale, reaches to great depths to escape the other-worldly (and clearly dangerous) presence that dwells in the long vacant suite.
For such a brief King offering, the story is amazing. There’s humor, tenon, fear and (as aforementioned) a disturbing claustrophobic feel to the story. To this day, it remains a personal favorite of mine that should not go unnoticed.
Mikael Håfström’s feature length adaptation remains fairly faithful to King’s original tale.
John Cusack’s performance as the focal character is worthy of gnificant praise, and when condering that he carries the film on his shoulders alone (kudos to Samuel L. Jackson, who turns in a fine performance… all ten minutes he’s featured), a few additional pats on the back are merited. Enslin’s rapid descent into madness is well played, and Cusack brings every frantic moment to terrifying life.
While the film transfer is indeed faithful, there are a few issues I take with the feature.
First, I’m not crazy about the phantom figures that lurk within the room. The effects are fair, but in truth, I think the blatant visuals (which aren’t incorporated to nearly the extent in King’s story) take a bite of the psychological terror that drives this frantic tale. There are a handful of scares played for mple jumps, and that too, in my opinion, steals from the intricacies and intimacies of the source material.
Make no mistake, the film is a fine feature (one of the better King adaptations, I must admit), there were just a few additions to the film that felt a tad forced (communicating via laptop, after we’ve learned that electronics aren’t functional within the room, a drastically altered finale meant for cinematic shocks solely).
Given the overall quality of the picture, and Cusack’s performance however, I’m willing to look beyond the films flaws and accept 1408 for what it is: a fun, creepy ride with a stellar story for a foundation.
Follow me on twitter @mattmolgaard