Wednesday, April 27, 2011

14-Oh-Wait...



In 1408 (2007) John Cusack is sad. Not because he's a writer (which is what I thought) but because his daughter died a few years ago. Yes, one of those eerily perfect children vanquished by some anonymous disease. He seems upset because of her death, I feel like we've avoided another Children of the Damned situation. A once prolific-ish novelist, he now spends his days writing Scariest Places in America type books. Which is supposed to tell us he's a hack and has become disenchanted with writing. I personally kind of dig those books, but that's probably because I'm not a prolific-ish novelist and therefore too good for most things.

Cusack then receives a mysterious envelope telling him not to go to room 1408 in the Dolphin Hotel in New York. So he goes to room 1408 in the Dolphin. After Hotel Manager Samuel L. Jackson (I know he has a character name, but isn't he always really Samuel L Jackson?) tells him of the gruesome history of the room and tries every tactic in the book to get Cusack not to go in 1408, he still goes in. And this is where the movie loses me.

If we've established for the first part of the movie that he is not really into this whole writing about scary places thing then why actively pursue going to yet another one? Yes, there are potential motivations but the script is sooooo wishy-washy about the whole thing. Cusack just seems obsessive.

There are few things worse than sitting through an amazing, creepy beginning of a film only to have it descend into sheer absurdity. Interestingly, the bit of dread that is created in the film dissipates when Cusack enters the dreaded 1408. There are a few unsettling bits but the room get too full-blown too quickly. The crazier the room gets the more the plot tugs on our heart strings.

I guess that's my problem with Stephen King stories. They're too mushy. The dead kid, the ex-wife he still has feelings for... it all feels a bit much. Just scare me. Don't give me a Lifetime movie. I know the room is supposed to represent some kind of inner struggle with his own unresolved issues, but at least try to imbue the sequences with a little bit of subtlety.

For myself, horror/thriller movies work within constraints. (i.e. Freddy won't get you unless you're asleep) Not sheer, bat-shit crazy. That gets boring. When the room can do anything, it no longer feels familiar. It feels like a Michael Bay movie.

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