1408 (2007)

Rated: PG-13
Grade: CCDC=C
Budget: $22.5 million
Box Office: $72 million US, $6 million int’l, $25 million DVD
Directed by: Michael Hafstrom, who previously made Derailed and a bunch of Scandinavian movies.
Starring: John Cusack, Tony Shalhoub, and Samuel L. Jackson.
A man who lost his faith when his daughter died of cancer becomes a novelist and ghost-story debunker. On a lark, he travels to New York to stay the night in room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel over the protests of the manager, who tells him that dozens of people have died or hurt themselves while staying in that “evil” room.

Entertainment Value: C
This movie is fairly compelling all the way to the ending, where it totally fails to deliver, even in the alternative endings. It’s based on a short story by Stephen King, and that’s probably the problem. Short stories are often not novels precisely because they don’t resolve well, but once you’ve invested two hours in a movie, you want some sort of solution. The movie even sets up a couple of plausible endings, but none of them come to pass. Nonetheless, interesting.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol D , Sexuality A, Violence D, Language C, Illegality A.
We watched the DVD unrated version, but I suspect the regular version isn’t a lot different. Most of the offensive stuff here is scary and gruesome content, including assaults and people being harmed, pictures of dead people, suicidal behaviors being shown, and descriptions of other awful events being told. The language is right in the mainstream of PG-13.

Significant Content: D
Precisely because the movie doesn’t really resolve itself, it’s hard to draw any lessons from it. But the primary impact would be the reality of at least some supernatural phenomena. Evil is real, it inhabits places, and people can suffer as a result of it. Apparently the way to beat evil is not with God but with fire. There is also a strong component of grief and love in the loss of his daughter, with whom he communicates while in the room.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
Instead of being a great movie with a complex plot, this is really a simple plot with a hundred weird events thrown in to lengthen it, and it felt that way. I kept thinking, okay, I have to wade through all these detours to get to what I really want: the solution. Anytime I’m that aware of the process, I’m not really enjoying it. The thought value has to do with why people would experience what this room delivers and then want to end their lives.

Discussion Questions:
~It’s been said that nobody rejects God because of theology but because they have experienced pain in their lives. How might this movie fit this notion?
~Do you think that evil can inhabit particular places such as a room? If you encountered such a place, what would you do?
~Facing the prospect of the eternal repetition of a series of horrible events, it’s easy to understand why people would contemplate suicide. How is this room a metaphor for what suicidal people do experience? In what ways does this room represent life in the real world without hope or Christ? Is this room a metaphor for hell?
~Cusack seems most motivated to destroy the room once it becomes possible that someone he loves might be endangered by the room. What does this reveal about his character?
“I left because every time I looked at you, I saw her.” Is this a legitimate explanation of Cusack’s behavior?
~If you were the manager of this hotel, what would you do?
~What do you think of the ending? The alternate endings? How would you have ended this film?
~Do you think it’s possible to communicate with the dead? What does the Bible say?

Overall Grade: C
It felt a bit like the Shining, only not quite as good. For eternal recurrence movies, Groundhog Day is much better.

No comments: