If you ever wanted to see John Cusack cooped up in a room like the one in Poltergeist with things flying all over the place, 1408 is precisely the movie for you. Based on a Stephen King short story about a haunted New York hotel room, 1408 starts with Mike Enslin (Cusack), who writes travel books about haunted houses, at a signing attended by four people. When he hears about a hotel that refuses to reserve one particular room, Enslin flies to New York, where he encounters hotel manager Gerald Oldin (Samuel L. Jackson), who does everything in his power — such as showing Enslin a scrapbook of the gory goings-on in the room over the years, which includes multiple suicides, and warning him that “it’s an evil fucking room” — to stop him. But Enslin demands the key, and soon the fun begins.
The next hour is like watching somebody else’s bad trip. Enslin’s unresolved issues over the death of his daughter and the dissolution of his marriage get played out before his eyes as the walls start to crumble and bleed. When water fills the room, he flashes back to a recent blackout while surfing. You think the nightmare is over, but that’s just part of the hallucination.
Swedish director Halstrom’s deft hand provides just the right jolts and shivers. And you’ll probably never think of rom-com stalwart Cusack the same way again after watching his bravado performance in Room 1408.