Tuesday 18th January 2022

1408 (15)
Directed by: Mikael Håfström
Reviewed by: Paul Fonz

There are a certain number of tools a director of horror films has in his bag. Among them are suspense, loud noises, things appearing or moving quickly in the background and, of course, blood and gore. None of these things is of much interest to me, and it's for this reason that I find most horror films very predictable and generic. But every so often, one comes along that uses these tools better than the others.

I've stayed in worse
I've stayed in worse

1408 is one such film. It might not be wildly original or groundbreaking, but it is well executed and good at what it does. John Cusack (always watchable) stars as a jaded author of uninspired horror books. His latest project is a book about the top ten scariest hotel rooms in America – he stays in each one, gives it a brief write-up, awards it a mark out of ten and collects his royalties. It is clear that he's more of a researcher than a believer in the paranormal, so when he arrives at the Dolphin Hotel's mysterious room number 1408, he is quick to ignore the desperate pleas of the Hotel Manager (Samuel L. Jackson).

The manager tells him that the room has seen 56 deaths since 1912, and the guests usually don't last more than an hour – the room itself is evil. Cusack doesn't care, so he stays in the room regardless, and behaves very much as any rational human would. He makes wry comments when anything odd happens and looks for a logical explanation – a cynic to the last. And then things get really bizarre.

The director (whose name I don't even want to try and spell) very cleverly uses suspense, shocks, creepy images and dry humour to keep the audience on edge throughout, and while none of these tools is new, it's the balance with which they are used that makes this film work. There are also lots of clever references to the number 13 – in fact the film as a whole does a good job of treating the audience intelligently, instead of repeatedly trying to shock them and scare them in the patronising manner of lesser horror films.

1408 is marked down slightly for having a bit of a rubbish ending, but then again, ending horror films is very hard work indeed. There are really only about 4 ways to end a horror film, and it goes without saying that they've all been done many times before. Overall though, I was impressed that this film not only held my attention, but genuinely made me tense and on edge throughout. It's a must-see for horror fans.

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Length: 94 minutes
Certificate: 15
Official Site:
IMDB Link:
Release Date: 31st August 2007

Top Five Rating: 70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0% (70.0%)
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