Thursday, June 16, 2016

Checking Into Stephen King’s Other Haunted Hotel, or Thoughts on 1408

How can you not compare 1408 (2007) to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), arguably the greatest horror movie ever made (or at least in the top 5), by one of the greatest directors in cinematic history?  Both movies are based on novels by Stephen King, both are about haunted hotels and both feature male writers as central characters.  At least it’s not a sequel or a reboot, though the question remains, do we even need another Stephen King haunted hotel movie?
The Dolphin Hotel in New York, unlike the Overlook Hotel in Colorado, is not isolated by snow and completely haunted.  Only one room, the titular 1408 has a notorious history of driving guests mad and much like the haunted mirror in Oculus, manipulating them into self-harm and suicide.  It’s a faster, less complicated story than The Shining, less grand in scope, though the film makes a valiant effort to overwhelm the viewers with haunted thermostats, haunted paintings, haunted windowsills, and haunted radios that only play Karen Carpenter.
John Cusack plays one of Stephen King’s favorite characters, a commercially successful writer but failed novelist.  Now a professional skeptic debunking haunted hotels, he takes it as a personal challenge that no one has been able to spend even an hour, much less a night in room 1408.  His abrasive and cynical performance as the clever and smug travel writer with a paranormal gimmick is off-putting initially, though there is something emotionally satisfying about watching a skeptic get proven wrong. His rapid descent into madness devolves into a collection of told you so moments as he gets beat up by the room, both physically and emotionally.
Samuel L. Jackson is the sinister hotel manager Gerald Olin, who is no Stuart Ullman.  With Tony Shaloub as his overworked New York editor, and watch out for Drew Powell as the Assistant Hotel Manager.  If he seems familiar it’s because you’ve seen him as Butch Gilzene in Gotham.  Also Isiah Whitlock Jr., Clay Davis from The Wire, as the hotel handyman.
John Cusack seems to work better in an ensemble cast, like his performance in Identity (2003).  Playing off the CGI tricks of the room and bouncing off the walls doesn’t give him enough to work with.  This was his second Stephen King collaboration; you may have forgotten he was in Stand by Me (1986), which remains, along with The Shining and John Carpenter’s Christine (1983) and Brian DePalma’s Carrie (1976), still one of the best adaptations.  He returned to Stephen King territory in Cell (2016), fighting cell phone zombies with perennially cool co-star Samuel L. Jackson.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.