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John Cusack in 1408

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

STEPHEN King adaptations tend to be either brilliant and inspired (The Shawshank Redemption, The Shining) or breathtakingly poor (Children Of The Corn, Sleepwalkers).

But while 1408 may add up to the number 13 it’s fortunate in so many ways – and so much better than the current glut of torture obsessed horror movies.

First of all, it boasts a terrific leading man in John Cusack, a wonderful extended cameo from Samuel L Jackson and a director in Mikael (Evil) Håfström who very much knows how to conceal a shock or two.

Cusack stars as Mike Enslin, a tormented writer who makes a living by debunking ghost stories while trying to come to terms with the death of his daughter.

When he receives a mystery postcard informing him of a New York hotel room that’s pure evil, he determines to prove otherwise.

Ignoring the pleas of the hotel’s desperate owner (Samuel L Jackson), Mike enters the room aware that no one has ever survived more than an hour – and the haunting begins.

Stripped back to basics, the film is essentially a one-man show that harks back to classic ghost story convention. It’s Cusack against the room and boy does the actor deliver. Things start creepy (a radio keeps flicking on with a Carpenters track announcing “it’s only just begun”) and gradually get worse, providing Cusack with plenty to react to without interacting with.

It’s testament to his immense ability, however, that you never tire of his presence or fail to care about his predicament. Rather, he slowly sheds his trademark cool persona to reveal a vulnerable, fragile side that has to call upon all his reserves to survive.

Håfström, for his part, keeps things tightly wound for most of the journey, beginning with a suitably creepy early exchange between Cusack and Jackson and then teasing the audience with several well-timed jolts.

He does eventually succumb to a special effects overload as the room fully unleashes the extent of its powers and tacks on an ambiguous ending – but it’s a small price to pay for the fun to be found along the way.

If nothing else, 1408 is worth seeing for the way in which it gleefully bucks the mainstream trend for tacky shocks and needless gore to deliver a suitably old-school chiller. You won’t regret checking in.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 1hr 44mins
DVD Release Date: December 26, 2007