Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Take Five: Things That Bugged the Hell Out of Me About 1408

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on December 2, 2007

“It’s an EVIL fucking room.”

I don’t consider myself a particularly finnicky person when it comes to cinematic plausibility. Movies don’t have to truly correspond with reality to be great, anyone can tell you that. What bothers me, though, are when movies are largely illogical. Like, OK, 1408. You’ve got the titular room, which is evil for some reason, and which tries to get residents to kill themselves, by wrecking them physically and emotionally until they need ot use the hotel’s “emergency checkout system”. That, by any stretch of the imagination, is not a plausible set up–especially when you factor in the fact that the hotel keeps the room open, to be in accordance with some archaic law requiring a hotel to lease out all of its available rooms. Not exactly a buyable story, but fair enough.

But 1408 doesn’t do a nearly good enough job of getting beyond this central implausibility throughout the movie. It contradicts itself too many times, it sets up rules and then fails to follow them, or just doesn’t set up rules at all. So how can we really root for John Cusack to live or die when we don’t even really know what we’re rooting against, and if there’s even a chance it can be defeated? Examples, rife with SPOILER ALERTS:

  1. When weird shit starts to happen to John Cusack that he can’t explain by common sense, he concludes that maybe the hooch that Samuel L. Jackson gave him at the beginning of the movie was laced with some psychedelic drug making him paranoid. Now, if John Cusack didn’t know that this was a movie based on a Stephen King story, that’s a fair enough conclusion–the things going on are too weird to be explained away with any non-supernatural-or-hallucinatory influence, so given the greater likelikhood of the latter, it’s not an unreasonable conclusion. But then as things get slightly worse, Cusack goes right back to drinking. What happened to “just riding this one out”? It was probably the best idea Cusack had the whole movie.
  2. When John Cusack calls his ex-wife on his laptop to try to get her help in getting out of the room, she actually listens to him about it, and decides to come down and help her Husband out. Of course Cusack’s evil computer doppleganger has other plans, and tries to insist she enters the room once she gets here. Real-life Cusack of course tries to insist she do otherwise, but it’s too late, she’s already on her way down. Now, clearly being in this room fucks with the outside world–Cusack even climbed out the window to realize the next window would be literally impossible to get to–so how come Cusack is able to contact his ex-wife, who actually does show up at the hotel at the end of the movie? Shouldn’t it just be some fragment of his imagination or something? You can either have it be all in his head or all actually hapenning, but 1408 wants to have the best of both worlds, which is way too tough.
  3. What the fuck is up with that long-ass fake escape sequence? So, temporarily we’re tricked into thinking that the whole thing was just a dream of Cusack caused by a surfing accident out in LA., which he has now just woken up from. Fine–we know it’s probably not the very end of the movie, and of course it isn’t, as during a later scene in the post office, the employees start dearing down the walls to reveal the 1408 decor underneath. But…what happened to no one ever outlasting an hour in the room? If technically he’s still be in the room the whole time, isn’t that like three weeks and fourty minutes? It fucks with your movie’s internal clock when you take a multi-week detour like that.
  4. HOW COME SETTING THE ROOM ON FIRE FUCKING WORKS? Time and time again Cusack proves to himself that the room is basically indestructible–he’ll spend like ten minutes beating on something, only for it to return compeltely in place in the next scene. However, set the room ablaze, and apparently it’s the room’s one weakness–you can even hear it audibly moaning as it gets burned to a crisp. C’mon, why didn’t anyone else think of that before? And shouldn’t evil hotel rooms have a working sprinkler or hose or something?
  5. How was I not absolutely petrified by this movie? I WAS AT A FUCKING HOTEL WHEN I WATCHED IT. It should’ve have made me afraid to get into bed that night, or to get out of bed in the morning. And that turned out to not be the case–I slept like a baby that night. Boooourns.

One Response to “Take Five: Things That Bugged the Hell Out of Me About 1408”

  1. Anton said

    1 – He’s too crazed (possibly high/drunk) to stop drinking. He forgot that he thought it was the booze because he was so fucked up.

    2 – The room controls its content, and thus has control over the laptop. The fact that its control over the laptop can be broadcast via wifi is not in violation of the rules.

    3 – That long as escape sequence was ridiculously lame and boring; nods, tips, and props for calling it out.

    4 – Fire is a continuous force of destruction. If something gets replenished, it instantly burns again. If John Cusack could somehow be perpetually smashing the furniture, maybe the room would have moaned then too.

    5 – We all know you’re way too brave.

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