Monday, August 11, 2014

A Belated Review to the Film "1408"

I stayed up very, very late, waiting for some people to arrive. (They did and all is right with the world.) In the process, I became very, very drunk. So there's this post now. Because I decided to watch the film "1408" again.

And I think it's a damn good spooky movie.
Whatever its weaknesses, 1408 holds you captive. The film may seem like a one-room version of THE SHINING, condensed and tight rather than big and sprawling like the Kubrick movie, but Hafstrom does an impressive job of keeping its limited space visually interesting for feature length, and when all else fails the story succeeds on the strength of Cusack’s performance. The actor is allowed to give a virtual one-man show, ranging from funny to fearful, alternating between broad physical action (when the character explodes in rage against the room’s asault on him) with quieter interludes of angst and despair. Forcing the audience to experience his terror with an almost first-hand immediacy, Cusack runs the emotional gamut, delivering a performance as layered and complex as any of the 2007s Oscar nominees. Thanks in large part to his efforts, 1408 comes close to being a character study rather than a horror film – WILD STRAWBERRIES, with ghosts. Unlike too many movies that aspire to more than mere horror, this one achieves its goal without neglecting the fear factor.
Here's my take: The room seeks out people's weak points and drives them to self-destruction based upon them. We don't know the back-stories of many of the room's victims, but we're given some clues. A Chicago industrialist in the 1920s. Pointless to speculate. A sewing machine salesman. Who knows? But they mention a hotel maid from El Salvador (pointedly), who got locked in the bathroom and gouged her eyes out within a minute. We're to imagine that someone from El Salvador witnessed many horrible things, if she was in that country in the 1980s.. (The Reagan years.) I honestly think that was a subtle political statement

So, anyway, the room has been frustrated, because the manager refuses to rent it out and (for reasons that are explained in the film) allows room service once a month, with him at the door and two maids quickly doing a quick turnover. As a result, the room looks out into the world for a victim. And it finds the lead character; a horror writer who doesn't believe in any after-life or anything supernatural. It seeks him out because he's the only sort of person who would press to stay in the room and, having lived a fairly privileged life (aside from his daughter's death) he is not traumatized and psychologically strong. The room likes a challenge.

It's his relative privilege and psychic strength that (for the sake of argument about this work of fiction) that can be argued shield the writer from the room's psychological assaults. The horrors don't come too thick and fast because he hasn't experienced that many and because he's a strong individual. But the room does gradually insinuate itself into him.

It's a fine horror film. As another reviewer said:
If you like to be creeped out by movies, this is one to see. It reminds us what it's like to be scared in a theater rather than overwhelmed by buckets of blood and gore.
Good night.

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