by Stephen King
(Discounted Paperback from Amazon)
From a short story in Stephen King's collection, "Everything's Eventual" director Mikael Hafstrom explores the theme in a supernatural thriller in which a writer of tour guides who specializes in debunking so-called haunted hotels, motels, graveyards and bed and breakfast inns meets his match.
Mike Enslin has seen enough unsupported claims of supernatural phenomena to write a book. In fact, he's written several, and may be a foremost expert on the subject. Which hasn't exactly translated into huge mainstream success. While he's enjoyed a steady income off his several books his appearance at a book signing draws just a few fans. Still, he's not put off by the relative disregard, nourished, perhaps, by the loyalists and their praise for his work debunking myths.
He's unrelenting and possessed, you might say, in pursuing false beliefs, and the stranger the better. He's got his paranormal detectors ready to go at a moment's notice. So, when he catches wind of a room at the posh New York hotel, The Dolphin, that they won't book because of its evil effects on occupants, Enslin makes a reservation for 1408.
He's entirely ready for the campaign to talk him out of it. Manager Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) is magnanimous, offering him a better suite for the same money, a bottle of rare champagne as a gift, and a litany of the room's murderous effects on its previous occupants. But both men know that the hotel cannot legally deny him access if he insists. His insistence is unwavering.
Happiness, for him, is finally entering this supposed harbor of evil ghostliness. He pulls out his meters and sensors and goes to work examining all the nooks, crannies, wall art and furnishings. And then all hell breaks loose and we're in Stephen King land, aided and abetted by screenwriters Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, co-conspirators all.
In what is a tour d'force of solo acting, Cusack shows us considerable skill in engaging with the spectrum of twisted, multidimensional horrors and time shifts as clocks go off on their own and continue to operate even when unplugged; as the thermostat and cooling system turns the room into a day at the north pole; as the room key breaks off in its slot; as hotel windows disappear making a desperate escape route impossible; and as the great doubter is obliged to believe everything he scoffed at.
He even reaches the point of desperation to contact his estranged wife Lily (Mary McCormack) for help, his first appeal to her since losing their young daughter Katie (Jasmine Jessica Anthony) who appears to him from the beyond. Delusions have become his new reality and who could deserve it more?
In fact, the straightforward roles in a modern setting for Cusack as well as Jackson affords them both refreshing appearances that take advantage of their strengths. They are performing here at their spirited bests.
Art direction by Stuart Kearns and production design by Andrew Laws get a thorough workout, as one might imagine, and cinematography by Denoit Delhomme does full justice to the concepts. Music by Gabriel Yared helped keep the tensions elevated.
Picture's good length of 94 minutes seemed slightly burdensome due to the restrictive and repetitious nature of the short story that supports it's interesting theme of eventuality: even the strongest doubter may one day come around to belief in King's insensate world of warped reality.
~~ Jules Brenner