Sunday, June 08, 2008


Mikael Häfström (whose Derailed came up in an old post hereabouts) manages to imbue his adaptation of Stephen King's short story with enough atmosphere and to mark a minor miracle in the canon of King adaptations. While it offers no threat to Frank Darabont's leisurely undulating approach, the film makes a worthy addition to the horror genre by deftly building a competent atmosphere of dread and taking its time doing so.

John Cusack plays Mike Enslin, a skeptical writer debunking the paranormal, imbuing the character with a genuine credibility. The elements are familiar tropes of horror, and specifically of the he-who-scoffs-at-the-haunted-house-has-it-coming subset of stories. Despite his sarcastic asides and dry wit, Enslin's a tragic figure dealing with the death of his daughter and a separation from his wife (a trait shared by several characters in King's fiction). The film takes its time setting things up for us as Enslin makes his way into room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel (despite the fervent pleas of hotel manager Gerald Olin played by Samuel L. Jackson). There's great restraint in the narrative as the screw begins to turn and the inevitable unfolds, backed by the inspired use of We've Only Just Begun by The Carpenters. Right until the end, the film refuses to yield to the temptation of devolving into a mess of flash cuts, moments of quick shock and cheap thrills. This doesn't threaten the rich curve of Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining, but has no need to fear joining the ranks of Maximum Overdrive. It's an evil f*cking room, said Gerald Olin and you had better believe it.

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