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Horror novelist Mike Enslin believes only in what he can see with his own two eyes. But after a string of best-sellers discrediting paranormal events in the most infamous haunted houses and graveyards around the world, he has no real proof of life—afterlife. But Enslin's phantom-free run of long and lonely nights is about to change forever when he checks into suite 1408 of the notorious Dolphin Hotel. Defying the warnings of the hotel manager, the author is the first person in years to stay in the reputedly haunted room. Another best-seller may be imminent, but first he must go from skeptic to true believer—and ultimately, survivor..
For more about 1408 and the 1408 Blu-ray release, see 1408 Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on September 12, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Mikael Håfström
Writers: Scott Alexander, Matt Greenberg, Larry Karaszewski, Stephen King
Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormack, Jasmine Jessica Anthony, Tony Shalhoub, Len Cariou
» See full cast & crew
1408 Blu-ray Review
Should you buy this disc and spend some quality time in room 1408?
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 12, 2008
In and out, nobody gets hurt. It's just a job.
When you are exposed to as many movies as regularly as I am, and to such a broad range of movies at that, it's hard not to become a bit cynical, remain focused on the stinkers, and get excited over the mundane. It wasn't all that long ago that I found I could enjoy even the worst filmdom had to offer. After all, I didn't have to write about what I had seen, give my full attention to the film, or pick apart what did and did not work about the movie. Now, with movie watching a full-time job, sitting down to watch something becomes an exercise in endurance, and it's a rare occurrence anymore that I find myself lost in a movie, which is what happened with 1408. Does that mean it's a great film? Absolutely not, but it is a good, yet ultimately somewhat uninspired, one in the context of its genre that probably will play better to the casual movie fan than it will to anyone who spends as much time with movies as I do.
Mike Enslin (John Cusack, War, Inc.) is a writer of books that deal with the occult. He's barely recognized as a famed author and draws a miniscule crowd at a book signing. Nevertheless, he continues on writing, and when he receives a postcard featuring New York's Dolphin hotel and its famed room 1408 (the numbers add up to 13), Enslin deduces that a chapter on this room would make for a fine closing chapter in his latest book. Unfortunately, because of several past tragedies, the room is unavailable, but the persistent Enslin convinces the hotel's manager, Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson, Unbreakable), to let him have the room for the night. Olin presents Enslin with plenty of evidence that a stay in the famed room is not in the writer's best interest, but he shrugs off the tales and settles into the room for the night of his life. What presents itself as a normal hotel room soon develops a few odd quirks and scares, and eventually engulfs Mike into a night of terror he'll never forget.
1408 is typical Stephen King, or at least typical among his works I've read and he film's based on his stories that I've seen. That means that it easily grabs your attention and sucks you into the story, but leaves you somewhat disappointed at the end. There is no doubt that 1408 creates a fantastically tense atmosphere and tells a wonderful story, at least up to a point. 1408 feels almost like two films. The first begins and ends all too abruptly and tells the tale of Mike's arrival at the Dolphin Hotel and the set-up for the rest of the film, involving a great exchange between the Cusack and Jackson characters. The second, and lesser, is the story of what happens inside room 1408. Mike Enslin, after his first few minutes in the room, says into his tape recorder, "Round one goes to the hideous Mr. Olin, for effective aggressiveness I have to admit he had me going." That sums up the movie nicely. The open definitely "has you going," but the second half leaves a bit to be desired. While intriguing, it falls into creepy convention and we're never all that surprised by what the room has in store for Mr. Enslin. His actions, and the room's reactions, never truly throw us for a loop. Everything we learn about his past predictably becomes integral to the story, though at two hours, movies don't really have the luxury of a novel that can delve fairly deep into character development and interaction for the sole purpose of creating a fuller, more believable world. The standard-length 1.5-2.5 hour film must use every frame wisely as it has no time for extemporaneous material, but as noted in the opening paragraph, it's these sort of conventions that become far too readily apparent to anyone who watches a lot of movies; it becomes annoying in the process, a fact that can ruin a film or drastically reduce its effectiveness.
Nevertheless, 1408 has some real positives. Mikael Håfström's direction is not flashy but is rather effective. He gets into some Hitchcock-like shots and angles, a standard for suspense. He keeps the pace relatively quick, though the film does slow down in the final act. In fact, it fades, gradually, over time, never becoming bad or completely uninteresting, but it clearly loses steam as the movie progresses. Though appearing for only minutes in two or three scenes, Samuel L. Jackson, as usual, brings vitality and realism to his role. He's truly a gifted actor with a broad range and the ability to turn almost any role into a good one. John Cusack is also very good in his role as a man wrestling with his faith, the obscure theme of the movie. His is an intriguing character. Told in flashbacks, we learn the story of his young daughter's death, his loss of faith (at least once asking what sort of God would allow something like this to happen, and also stating God does not exist in a separate scene), and his separation from his wife. He also works in faith. As a writer dealing in the paranormal, which by definition is something that is "against the norm," his audience must accept his words on faith alone, lest they choose to visit those supposedly haunted locales of which he has written, and even then it is assumed that "your results may vary." Also of key importance is that he writes on a subject he doesn't seem to believe in. He leaves the first place he visits (what seems like a cozy bed and breakfast), mocking the experience. Even as he arrives at the Dolphin Hotel, his attitude is one of complete nonchalance; he has no faith that something truly could be amiss in the supposedly cursed room, and even though Mr. Olin "had [him] going," he never believes in the room's power until it's too late to accept the evidence presented to him by Mr. Olin at face value. Indeed, Mike Enslin's life is one at constant struggle with his faith in all aspects of his existence.
1408 Blu-ray, Video Quality
1408 brings us into its world via a 1080p, 2.39:1-framed transfer. What we see is a somewhat dark, nondescript transfer that offers little in the way of eye-catching detail. There are a few very nice looking moments, such as a surfing scene in chapter three that is drenched in natural light, but the vast majority of the movie that takes place in room 1408 rarely provides viewers with any material worth getting excited over. That's not to say the movie doesn't benefit from the 1080p treatment. It's definitely a good transfer, just a remarkably average one in the world of high definition transfers, thanks more to bland cinematography and odd color schemes than any fault of the transfer itself. There is a golden tint to much of the image with a hint of green, too. It reminded me, in a way, of the look seen in The Matrix, but not quite as drastic and with less of a green push. As a result, flesh tones never really look all that natural, either. Black levels are fine, and some of the darker scenes in the film, such as one that takes place in the ducts above the rooms, turned out quite well. The print itself features absolutely no blemishes. Fine detail is never seen in abundance and there is generally a soft edge to the picture. 1408 is another in an ever-growing list of transfers that are acceptable, but not awe-inspiring.
1408 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
1408 unlocks its secrets on Blu-ray with a rather strong Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. At the open of the film, at least, we are presented with a bland and fairly standard listen. Music and effects play across the front with little rear channel presence. We find the occasional nicety that makes its way to the rear, but the track definitely features a front-heavy feel to it. As we move along, it gets substantially more aggressive and immersive. Rears are still used in support, but their use continues to build and finally begins featuring some great discrete effects. As the track gets spookier and spookier along with the movie, the lossless option definitely aids in creating a tense, scary track. I don't want to mention any specific instances for fear of ruining parts of the movie, but rest assured the soundtrack does a fine job in recreating the tension and fear that is to be found in room 1408. Dialogue is strong and natural, too. There is a nice clarity and presence to the entirety of the soundtrack. It is very well-mixed with nothing coming across as too loud at reference volume, and the track is very good at doing what it's primary purpose should be: compliment the movie perfectly without drawing unwarranted attention to itself. It's not as precise and engaging as Transformers, for example, but for a soundtrack that accompanies a psychological horror movie, it's plenty good.
1408 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
1408 comes to Blu-ray with a nice selection of special features. A commentary track with director Mikael Håfström and writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski is first. This is both a lively and informative track. The writers really take the reins and discuss the conventions the characters fall into, and some of the more general character traits taken away from them (namely Enslin). Someone always has something to say, whether they are discussing the power and authority Sam Jackson brought to his role (and the single use of the "F" word in true Sam Jackson fashion), their interpretations of the story (as heard over chapter 10, a great segment to listen to), or scenes that were lengthened or shortened over time. I found this track entertaining and informative, and it's worth a listen if you enjoyed the movie.
The Secrets of '1408' is a four-part feature. The Characters (1080i, 8:00) looks at the character the room in the film becomes, the real effects seen in select moments of the film, and moving on to take a closer look at the various characters that inhabit the film, intertwined with plenty of clips from the film. The Director (1080i, 5:14) take a closer look at the film's Swedish director, Mikael Håfström. The Physical Effects (1080i, 4:18) is an examination of how the crew created some of the film's on-set effects, focusing on a scene involving water in the room. Lastly, we find The Production Design (1080i, 5:24), a piece that examines the design of the film's central location, room 1408. Two "Webisodes" are next -- John Cusack on '1408' (1080i, 2:33) and Inside Room 1408 (1080i, 2:07). These shorts are basic promo pieces that feature John Cusack talking up the film -- nothing special. Rounding out the special features are two alternate endings (1080i, 10:39), five deleted scenes (1080i, 11:23) with optional commentary from the director and writers, and the film's original theatrical trailer (1080p, 2:33).
1408 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
1408 is a decent movie, better than a lot of the junk out there, but it's not one you'll regret not seeing should you find yourself on your deathbed looking back on what you missed in life. The movie starts out very well and begins to slow down and fall into convention thereafter, but it never gets bad. It's entertaining and oddly engaging, even if we can predict much of what will happen. John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson provide good performances, and Mikael Håfström's direction is better than average. This Blu-ray release from Genius/Weinstein is solid yet unremarkable. With a picture quality that is passable, a nice lossless audio mix, and a selection of several decent extras, the overall package will satisfy fans. 1408 comes recommended, though Blu-ray fans who have yet to see the movie might want to rent it first before laying down $21 to purchase the film.
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1408 Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - September 16th - September 16, 2008
The biggest releases this week actually come for one of the smallest major studios. After a nasty divorce with Disney, Harvey and Bob Weinstein left the Miramax name behind and formed The Weinstein Company. While their film library may be small - they only retained ...
• The Mist and 1408 Get Detailed - August 5, 2008
Weinstein Company have detailed the extras for the upcoming Blu-ray release of 'The Mist' and '1408', both due to hit store shelves on September 16th. Both titles will have video presented in 1080p VC-1 accompanied by a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtracks. As previously ...
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