1408 is fully immersive horror at its finest

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1408 (2007)
Rating: 5 of 5 stars.
Directed by Mikael Hafstrom.
Written by Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski.
Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson.
Budget: $25 million.
Gross: $132 million.

Based on a short story by Master of Horror Stephen King, 1408 is the kind of supernatural thriller that succeeds through psychological torture rather than cheap jump scares or gore. Directed by Academy Award nominee Mikael Hafstrom, every inch of the movie is masterfully designed to suck you in, keep you on the edge of your seat, and terrify you with each turn.

John Cusack gives a riveting performance as Mike Enslin, an author and paranormal investigator who doesn’t actually believe in the paranormal. Though he himself has never seen a spectre, he does his due diligence in staying overnight at supposedly haunted houses, hotels, lighthouses and more to cultivate spooky dime store paperbacks for his small but loyal fanbase.

His career brings him to the Dolphin Hotel in New York City, where room 1408 has claimed 56 souls in its 95-year history. Despite being closed to patrons for decades under its current manager, the room still maims the occasional victim during its monthly cleanings.

What is 1408? It’s not a haunting. There’s no demon, ghost, killer, or poltergeist. The hotel manager, portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson, sums it up perfectly. “It’s an evil fucking room.”

Despite Jackson’s best efforts to dissuade him, Enslin insists on staying the night in the room which no one has ever lasted longer than an hour within. Over the course of his stay, Enslin is drawn further and further down the Kafkaesque rabbit hole of eerie happenings and close encounters with the otherworldly.

From phantom confrontations with the room’s previous occupants, to bizarre indoor weather phenomena, events don’t reach the peak of horror until they start to mirror his personal life and innermost demons.

There are only a handful of characters in the film, which gives us more time to develop a relationship with Enslin. As with all truly great horror films, the film succeeds in the human element, constructing a believable and relatable protagonist which Cusack perfectly encapsulates. He’s intelligent and has a quick wit about him, but he is also cynical and plagued by the baggage of his failed family unit.

An emotional encounter with his deceased daughter is one of the most horrific scenes I have ever witnessed, and the final minute of the film is chilling.

The Oscar-winning musical genius of Gabriel Yared puts together a hauntingly beautiful score that transcends the horror genre and entrances the viewer, pulling on all the right heartstrings at all the right moments. Yared’s work fuses with masterful cinematography from Benoit Delhomme and shamefully underappreciated production design by Andrew Laws to fully immerse the viewer in this instant horror classic.