Monday, July 02, 2007

Popcorn for One: 1408


If you have been reading this blog since it started I don’t have to explain the headline above. On the other hand, if you aren’t familiar with it you just need to know that PfO was the name of the review section of my old apa-zine. It was for movies I saw alone, and not with first Elayne and later Donna. I don’t know that I’ve used it since we moved from West Haven back to Brooklyn.

I hadn’t originally planned on seeing either of the two movies I attended, until they popped on DVD or on cable. Still when Donna told me that she and Kristina were heading to Las Vegas, I felt this was a good opportunity to catch a couple of films.
While multiplexes aren’t the perfect place to see movies in the opinion of some folks, I don’t have a problem with them. In fact, they are perfect for those of us just sneaky enough to want to take in two or more movies and pay one admission. I can’t tell you the number of times I've done this before, but I found it just as easy here. Frankly, I doubt that most theatres even care anymore and certainly the minimum salaried folks working the ticket booth and snack stand couldn’t care less. Who can blame them?

1408, is based on a short-story by Stephen King, which features John Cusak as writer Mike Enslin. Early on we learn that although Enslin has made his reputation searching out ‘haunted’ hotels, graveyards and other such places, he himself has no belief in any of it. In fact, Enslin feels that he has good reason even to doubt the existence of God, let alone ghosts & ghoulies. We learn as the story progresses that Enslin may indeed be justified in his non-belief, at least as he sees the situation.

I haven’t read the original story, so I can’t tell how much remains under the hands of director Mikael Hafstrom and his three credited screen writers. Visually the film is great, really giving us a sense of the claustrophobia and paranoia that begins to skim away Enslin’s cynicism. Hafstrom was the director of the Jennifer Aniston/Clive Owen film DERAILED, which also played with audience perception of events. He is definitely a filmmaker I’m going to keep my eye on if these two are an indication of what he can do.

Doing research on a new book, Enslin finds that the Dolphin Hotel in New York City has a room noted for its history of problems. Suicides, and an abnormal number of ‘natural’ deaths have led the hotel to have a policy where Room 1408 is not given to any guest. Enslin decides that no matter what he is going to stay in that room, if only to prove that the hotel is faking the entire situation to build up interest. When he arrives at the Dolphin he is met by the hotel’s manager, Gerald Olin (played nicely by Samuel L. Jackson), who tries without success to convince Enslin not to stay the night.

I’ll not give anything away that you can’t see for yourself in the trailers and promotion of the movie. Cusack is outstanding and carries a good portion of the film by himself. The effects early on are nice and there are some real scares and a feeling of menace. Unfortunately, later in the film the FX go a bit over the top and basically just bring attention to themselves rather than add to the sense of dread. It’s Cusack’s intensity that make most of the movie work. Marie McCormack has a small but pivotal role as Enslin’s wife, and one of my favorite actors Tony Shaloub has a cameo as Enslin’s editor.

I highly recommend the movie, if this is your kind of thing. It really does have some good scares. Be warned however that it takes some strange turns in the last reel. Finally, if you are going to this movie because you are a fan of Jackson, you’re going to be disappointed. I doubt that he is on screen for more than fifteen minutes at most. It’s John Cusack’s movie from beginning to end and he more than does his job well.

Next time out the movie I originally set out to see. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
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