1408 by Stephen King
a kate west review

The short story "1408" by Stephen King (in his collection "Everything's Eventual") is possibly one of the scariest stories ever written. The recent movie with John Cusack is not at all the scariest horror film. Or even close.

The only similarities are that Mike Enslin (John Cusack), a writer specializing in the supernatural, insists on staying in Room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel, a notorious haunted room. And that he thinks he's seen it all, and has the jaded cynicism of a once-profound writer to prove it, one who's now reduced to base sensationalism. The hotel manager (Samuel Jackson) tires vainly to dissuade him. The movie then deviates into a self-indulgent personal tragic loss for the main character and much of what happens in Room 1408 really does appear to be in his head. And it's not very interesting. So enough about the movie.

The original story on the other hand, is a creepy, bone-chilling account of a truly evil room. It's not haunted, it's evil, and whoever stays there, or even cleans there, is always in danger of going mad. The cleaning women get headaches, the past tenants commit suicide and God knows what else happens behind that sinister door. Do adding up the numbers spell thirteen? You bet they do. The written imagery is startlingly descriptive and eerie and you want to scream for Mike to get the hell out of there before his mind goes, which starts to happen surprisingly fast. Strangely foreign guttural tones over the telephone, slimy bed covers, moving walls and bad people in paintings flow together in a confused jumble, adding to the discordance. It really is a hell of a room.

Stephen King is truly a master storyteller, prolific in the deepest sense of the horror genre. No one else can be as accessible as he can, while at the same time going to a complete grotesque extreme. And he creates clearly relatable characters, a refined technique over several decades. This is one of his finest, close to "The Mist" or even some of his longer novels. So if you haven't given him a try, and enjoy a good read, get started now. But leave on the lights.

Directed by Mikael Håfström
Produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura

Written by Scott Alexander
Matt Greenberg
Larry Karaszewski (writer)
Stephen King (short story)


John Cusack
(Mike Enslin)
Samuel L. Jackson
Mary McCormack
Jasmine Jessica Anthony
Tony Shalhoub

Music by Gabriel Yared
Cinematography Benoît Delhomme

The Short Story Collection:
Everything's Eventual : 14 Dark Tales

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