Stephen King novels that are adapted to film result in movies that are often, well, not very good. His short stories, however, turn into movies that tend to be pretty awesome. Most of the ones I would name just aren’t very horror-y, though, so maybe the problem is in the genre rather than the size of the adaptation? In the good news for people who have taken the bull by the horns of this particular dilemma department, 1408 came out a couple of weeks ago. John Cusack portrays a still popular but objectively washed-up author of scary-themed guidebooks (10 Terrifying Cemeteries, for example) who himself has long concluded that the paranormal just isn’t out there to be found. But he still has bills and deadlines to think about, and when he receives an anonymous tip that room 1408 of an upscale hotel in New York City would be worth his while, he naturally follows up.
In the novella, what follows is a Lovecraftian masterpiece of nightmarish hallucinations and gradually eroding sanity. The movie is a touch more straightforward than all that, but not in a way that bothered me. Mostly because the changes gave Cusack’s character a little bit more of an arc to grow into; the story was a lot more about the experience than the man having it. Although I found myself missing some really good interactions with the telephone that were kind of the essence of Lovecraft’s contention throughout his entire body of work that everything in the world is the enemy of mankind, biding its time and conspiring to remove us from the face of the Earth, the elements of the story that stayed in were more than good enough to keep me happy, and the acting was solid throughout. (They maybe could have removed or altered the scene in the mini-bar, but you can’t have everything.)
On the whole, it was that rarest of creatures, a horror movie released in the summer that’s actually scary. Plus, who doesn’t love Samuel L. Jackson? I say go see it. I will provide fair warning, though: there’s a scene that will make you, if you’re anything like me, want to walk out of the theater. You should ride it out, though, because things get better again. I promise. I think I need to watch more movies, though, because at the moment I’m quickly falling behind. Maybe someone has seen that Fantastic Four sequel by now, I guess? Any good?