Review by Leonard Norwitz
Theatrical: MGM & Dimension Films
Blu-ray: Genius Products/Dimension Home Entertainment
Runtime: 112 min
Size: 50 GB
Case: Standard Amaray Blu-ray case
Release date: September 16, 2008
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Video codec: VC-1
English 5.1 Dolby True HD (48 kHz/24-bit), English 5.1
English SDH & Spanish (feature film only)
• Commentary by Director Mikael Hafström and Writers
Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski.
• Alternate Endings x2 (including original theatrical
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Director
Roger Kumble (12:32)
• 4 Featurettes: The Secrets of 1408 (22 minutes) in HD
• Webisode: John Cusack on 1408 (2:23) in SD
• Webisode: Inside Room 1408 (2:07) in SD
• Theatrical Trailer in HD
1408 reconsiders the popular euphemism to now read:
Scary things happen. An unkind review might read:
Cynical writer of haunted houses debunked, John Cusack,
checks into a hotel room where scary things are said to
have happened. He dares them. Scary things happen. Less
unkind: John Cusack's daughter died at a young age. Now
estranged from his wife, he goes about the country
investigating notorious hotels and other night spots
expecting to debunk them. He writes about them. One day
he suffers a bad blow to the head by surfboard. He comes
to on the beach. Is he really dead, we ask ourselves?
Cusack finds a postcard daring him to check out room
1408 at the Dolphin Hotel in New York City. He is
strongly advised by Hotel Manager Samuel L. Jackson not
to spend so much as five minutes in that room in which a
couple score people died mysteriously and unpleasantly.
For all practical purposes 1408 is now closed to the
public, though appearances are kept up so as not to
frighten hotel patrons unduly. Cusack is determined to
spend the night. He closes the door behind him and
waits. It doesn't take long for a series of increasingly
scary things to invade and/or alter the room. We ask
again: Is he dead? But as these things begin to involve
his father, daughter and wife, we start to ask whether
these things are just metaphors for a grieving process
he may never be able to work through.
M. Night Shyamalan did us no favor by placing questions
like these in our head. We can no longer enter the world
of horror with the innocence we once had for Robert
Wise's The Haunting or Kubrick's
The Shining. It's not
that we require things to be scarier, it's that we need
them to be honest. And, at the very least, the
actor/victims themselves need to be convincing as
frightened and vulnerable. Cusack, whom I have always
admired from The Sure Thing on, never convinces me that
he's in a frightening room, though he tries most all the
right things. Perhaps he wants to keep all the
possibilities about his characters so alive in our minds
that it's like he's playing all of them at once, with expected
results. Jackson is, in his own way, detached. Of
course, his character is unclear to start with since we
don’t know what metaphysical plane he's operating in.
The Movie : 5
Keeping us guessing about reality is not my idea of
horror – or even of some internalized psychic voyage.
So, why did I think – and still do - that
was the picture of 2001!
The first number indicates a relative level of
excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a
ten-point scale. The second number places this image
along the full range of DVDs, including SD 480i.
I felt the image to be vague with dull blacks, a bizarre
color palette and overzealous contrast. I would like to
have known if this is how the movie looked in theatres,
but it wasn't all that much fun to watch on its own
Audio & Music:
I found the dialogue, which is often soft-spoken, as is
Cusack's trademark, to be a little muddy, even in the
uncompressed audio track. Otherwise, the Dolby True HD
mix was sufficiently suggestive of atmospherics –
nothing like we heard in The Orphanage, but pretty good
all the same.
Sensibly laid out, except that I thought the fonts
smallish for displays under 50 inches. I only missed not
having elapsed times for the bonus features.
Most of the supplemental material are presented in
1080i (and is duplicated on the 2-disc SD-DVD reviewed
HERE), which has the appearance of being upscaled from a
lower value. All the same, the numerous takes on
production, set design, characters and the director are
worthy, brief as they are. I found the commentary more
interesting when the writers talked about how they
developed Stephen King's short story into their scenario
for the film.
Given the promise of a movie with Cusack and Jackson, I
expected something more agreeably disturbing. Not today.
September 13th, 1408