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Cusack plays horror writer Mike Enslin, who specializes in investigating supposedly haunted houses and other sites of supernatural activity, which he has documented previously in books like Ten Haunted Graveyards and Ten Haunted Mansions. However, these investigations have yet to bear fruit in the form of confirmable sightings, leaving him pessimistic and jaded. Through an anonymous recommendation, Enslin learns about the Dolphin Hotel, in which no one has been able to stay even a single night (or even one hour) in one particular room - the eponymous 1408. According to his research, everyone who tries has committed suicide or died from anything from heart attacks to drowning. The manager, Gerald Olin, tries to warn him away from staying in that room, to no avail; Enslin is unconvinced by his warnings and tales, preferring to see things for himself. After all, what's the worst that could happen?
- Adaptation Expansion: The original story has him in the room for about seventy minutes before he sets his shirt on fire (according to the text: it seems like it would be more like fifteen or twenty). They somehow managed to turn a short story into a 2 hour long movie.
- Adult Fear: For Enslin, when Katie was dying of a terminal disease, and not only could he not do anything to prevent it, but as an atheist he couldn't even take refuge in prayer.
- Air Vent Passageway: Subverted. Not only are the vents incredibly cramped, not only does he fail to escape, but something chases him in the vents...
- Alien Geometries: In the short story the door is crooked first to the left, then it's straight, then to the right, then both. Each time, it changed when he looks away. And the room itself also take on some extremely alien geometries near the end. Mike found "Moorish" the closest thing he could come up with to pinning a word to it. King's text called it "a convex, rotting cave full of swoops and mad tilts".
- All Just a Dream: Subverted in the film. And done remarkably well, too--at the point in the film where this happens, enough running time has elapsed that you might actually believe the movie was coming to an end.
- And it gets even more meta than that. The surfboard incident at the start of the film has no other reason to be in the movie than this scene, and the well-publicized change from the Downer Ending made it seem like a particularly lazy way out. Even the restaurant scene contains a Shout-Out to the ending of the film version of Misery, reinforcing this.
- Attack of the Killer Whatever: In this case, a hotel room.
- Balcony Escape: Mike tries, and fails as the other windows all disappear from the wall.
- Big No: Kind of.
- Billing Displacement: Samuel L. Jackson is in the movie for a total of about fifteen minutes, yet he gets the same billing (and same amount of space on the DVD cover) as John Cusack.
- Cassette Craze: Enslin keeps his notes on a portable tape recorder. In the original short story he states that he found that when camping in graveyards, cassettes were easier to use than paper.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Mike's habit of keeping a cigarette handy for emergencies.
- At the beginning of the movie, Enslin receives a bottle of cognac from Olin. This is later used to make the molotov cocktail to destroy the room.
- Mike's description of the room on how completely unremarkable it is. By the time the film ends, every aspect he describes will be twisted into a vision of terror.
"I need you to send somebody to fix my thermostat. Room's on fire."
- Cigarette of Anxiety: The protagonist has a cigarette stored behind his ear for these types of situations.
- Dangerous Windows:
- First, the window that slams shut on his hand hard enough to break the skin.
- Later, when Enslin tries to escape to the next room over by going out the window, he is unable to reach the expected next window over - and then sees that 1408's are the only two windows within about five miles of otherwise featureless wall. Naturally, the window tries to bite him again on the return trip.
- Deadpan Snarker: The Room itself, though this does nothing to absolve it of its Complete Monster status.
Front Desk Clerk!The Room: You can choose to repeat this hour over and over again, or you can take advantage of our express checkout system.
- Death by Adaptation:
- Enslin in the director's cut.
- The room itself in both cuts.
- Despair Event Horizon: Enslin reaches this after the vision of Katie dying in his arms. And the room keeps going.
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: Just when Enslin thinks he might have his dead daughter back, she falls limp while he's hugging her - and then to twist the knife further the radio startles him (again) and she crumbles into ash.
- Downer Ending: The original ending had Enslin dying with the room. Test audiences did not approve.
- Drop What You Are Doing: At the end, when Enslin is listening to his notes while his wife is unpacking from a recent move. Her reaction to hearing the voice of their dead daughter on the tape is entirely understandable.
- Driven to Suicide: See Fate Worse Than Death.
- Earn Your Bittersweet Ending: Boy, did Enslin earn it.
- Eldritch Abomination: The "good" news is that there are no ghosts involved. When Enslin refers to a phantom in the room, Olin sharply rebukes him, in the charming way that only Samuel L. Jackson can. The story is also very clear on this.
"At least [ghosts] were human once, but that thing...that thing..."
- This arguably makes the movie even harder to watch. You desperately want something to hate for everything that's happening to Enslin, but hating a room is like, well, shouting at a minifridge. The good thing about this is that you're relieved that it's just this one room....
- Eldritch Location: See Eldritch Abomination directly above.
- Enclosed Space: In the movie, after Enslin has been in the room for a while the door simply refuses to open. Going out the window doesn't work, and there's something horrible in the ventilation ducts, so that's out. Oh, and the room actively hates him.
- Evil Phone: "Five. This is five. Ignore the sirens. Even if you leave this room, you can NEVER leave this room. Eight. This is eight. We have killed your friends. Every friend is now dead. Six. This is six."
- Eye Scream: A cleaning lady who found herself locked in 1408's bathroom for four seconds used a pair of scissors to cut her own eyes out. What had she seen? No one knows. In the short story it was subtler yet in its own way scarier. She simply goes blind while cleaning the room, and yet she says "she's blind, but she can see the most awful colors".
- Fate Worse Than Death: "You can choose to repeat this hour over and over again, or you can take advantage of our express checkout system".
- Foreshadowing: When Enslin calls down to the front desk to request someone to fix his thermostat, he mentions that the room is on fire.
- The recurring use of "We've Only Just Begun" by the Carpenters.
- When Mike gets to the 14th floor, he ambles along through the corridors absent-mindedly, not looking where he's going, and inadvertently ends up back at the elevators, right where he started.
- Genius Loci: The room doesn't have anything evil in it. The room itself is evil.
- Groundhog Day Loop: how the room put the screws to its residents sanities
- Haunted Technology: at the end of the director's cut, Enslin's tape recorder recovered from the burnt-out shell of the titular hotel room finds its way to Sam Jackson's character. After listening to it for several seconds in his car, he jumps with fright upon seeing Enslin's charred corpse in his rear-view mirror, giving him a weary grin. Whether this is the room's malign influence spreading or simply Enslin seeing his last work completed remains unclear.
- Hell Hotel: Played with. Only the one room, and the owner does his best to make sure only a few select people go in there. The rest of the hotel is exceptionally pleasant. Hell, even the room (before it goes to shit) looks like a lovely spacious apartment.
- Heroic Sacrifice: At the end when he sets the room on fire and sits back and lights up his Last Unsmoked Cigarette and watches it burn.
- Hope Spot: The nightmare sequence late in the movie where Enslin thinks he's escaped from the room.
- Horror Struck
- Hollywood Atheist: Enslin, though he was an atheist before his daughter passed away.
- If Ghosts Then Jesus: Mike doesn't believe in the supernatural, claiming even it was real, there isn't a God to protect them from it.
- If Jesus, Then Aliens: This comes back to bite him hard.
- I Never Said It Was Poison: When Enslin calls to reserve a night in 1408, he is told it is unavailable. He then points out that he didn't specify the night he wanted to stay.
- Inn Security: "Even if you check out, you can never leave..."
- It Has Only Just Begun: Featuring The Carpenters as the voice of unfathomable evil.
- It Won't Turn Off: The clock radio, which keeps counting down even after Enslin pulls out the plug.
- Kill It with Fire: Used in both the short story and the movie to escape the room... but in slightly different fashions.
- In a "blink and you miss it" foreshadowing, when the post office is being torn down to reveal the room, one of the bricks on the wall has "Burn it alive" written on it.
- Kubrick Stare: Mike at the end
- Last Unsmoked Cigarette: Literally. Enslin, who has quit smoking, keeps a cigarette behind his ear throughout the movie. When Mike sets the room on fire and expects to die, he lights it up.
- Latex Perfection: The final nightmare sequence features the best variation ever executed by the room itself.
- Laughing Mad: In the movie, Enslin gets a massive case of the giggles as the room burns around him.
- Littlest Cancer Patient: In the movie: Katie Enslin, who dies from an unspecified disease (possibly terminal cancer) a year before the events of the movie, an event that spurred Enslin to travel around the country investigating haunted locations. The room's visions of Katie still alive with Mike in the room really seem designed to go for Mike's jugular.
- Actually, a bit of Mike's dialogue in a flashback seems to imply that someone (likely the recurring figure of a wild-eyed bald man Mike sees) gave her whatever she dies from. How is unknown, though that’s probably for the best.
- Magic Countdown: The clock radio counts down from 60 minutes. Over and over and over.
- Mind Rape: In the movie, it is implied that the room peers into the darkest corners of its current occupant's fears, regrets, and insecurities, and customizes itself to whatever nightmares will traumatize them the most.
- Negative Continuity: Played straight. Over the course of the hour, many details of the room change, starting subtly with a crooked hanging, but growing increasingly elaborate. Even the varying levels of cognac left in the bottle are likely intentional.
- Only Sane Man:
- Enslin believes himself to be this, he doesn't believe in the supernatural, claiming even it was real, there isn't a God to protect them from it. He even wears a hat at one point with the words "Paranoia is just total awareness".
- In comparison, Olin is definitely this. He decided after the 4th death under his watch to have the room sealed and forbade any guests to check into it. He has 1408 serviced once a month, under his direct supervision, with maids working in pairs and the door kept open at all times. He tells Enslin that he treats the room as if it were filled with toxic gas, and won't even go near it unless he has too.
- Parking Problems: The protagonist takes up two stalls with his SUV in front of the post office at the beginning of the movie.
- Precision F-Strike: "It's an evil fucking room."
- Primal Fear:
- Notably on the Heights and falling part...
- And the "Spectre of Death" part as well.
- Pseudopod: The horror elements are explained in "The Pseudopod Autopsy: Stephen King’s 1408"
- Psychological Torment Zone
- Race Lift: A white middle aged British man played by Samuel L. Jackson. A very effective transition at that, as pointed out on his page: "If some British guy walked up to you and said 'Don't go in the room!', you'd probably do it out of spite. Now if Samuel L Jackson told you 'Don't go in the fucking room'..."
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Enslin receives one from his minifridge.
- Room 1408
- Schmuck Bait: The postcard Enslin receives, warning him "Don't go in 1408!"
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: In the book, Enslin becomes totally paranoid after his experience. He cannot sleep in strange places, he can't answer the phone, he can't allow any light from the sunrise or sunset into his room (as it reminds him of the horrible colors in the room), and he is an all-around broken individual.
- To the fridge scene from Ghostbusters.
- There's a small blink-and-you-miss-it (Seriously, the pause button will be required) reference to the original short story. When Enslin is walking down the hall to the room for the first time, he is shuffling through his notes. On one page is a line from the original short story from when Enslin first begins to feel the affects from the room.
"My brother was actually eaten by wolves one winter on the Connecticut Turnpike."
- "We've Only Just Begun", the song that becomes Enslin's Madness Mantra by proxy, is also played in the insane asylum where John Trent winds up after the events of In the Mouth of Madness (but at the beginning of the actual movie).
- After the climax and Enslin's escape, he starts seeing the ghosts of those trapped in 1408, including while having lunch in a restaurant in a frame-for-frame shout out to the ending of Misery. Then he finds out he's not escaped after all.
- Snow Means Cold: When it gets freezing in the room, the floor is covered with a layer of snow. The sprinklers were on for awhile, but it should have generated some ice, not snow. But ofcourse the room's Reality Warper nature can explain such little details.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: "We've Only Just Begun", indeed... The room had only just begun to fuck with him. No matter how long he spent in there, 1408 could always think of something new...
- Spit Take: In the movie, Enslin learns why you shouldn't drink anything when staying an a hotel room with a sadistic radio...
- Spiritual Successor: Replace "evil hotel room" with "disgraced opera singer's home" and you have Magnetic Rose from Katsuhiro Otomo's 'Memories'.
- Spooky Painting: Enslin finds three framed examples of Generic Hotel Artwork that get more menacing as the movie goes on. Specifically, a painting of "constipated English lords" hunting changes to a scene wherein they are attacked by their hunting dogs, a ship being tossed about in on the high seas suddenly has a full crew fighting in vain against a storm, and a painting of a woman and her child becomes a painting of a woman breastfeeding her dead baby.
- Straw Vulcan: Enslin is a scientifically minded, skeptic and atheist, and the narrative of the film is set up to show that his worldview is a foolish one, and that his skepticism was his own undoing, and he would have been better served to have headed the warning of superstitution.
- To be fair, any reasonable scientist would have noticed SOMETHING odd about the massive number of fatalities.
- Take a Third Option
- Taking You with Me: When Enslin finally snaps, he makes a Molotov cocktail with the cognac given to him by the manager to burn himself and the room. He even says, "If I have to go down, I'm taking you with me.
- Tempting Fate: As mentioned in the description above, Enslin insisted on staying in the room.
- That Was Not a Dream: 1408 is such a bastard that it lets Mike think he'd been out for a week or more before informing him, nope, you're still here.
- They Look Just Like Everyone Else: Nonhuman version here. Until weird things start happening, 1408 looks like any random (if very nice) hotel room.
- Thirteen Is Unlucky: All over this room. The hotel also doesn't have a 13th floor to accommodate superstitious guests (actually a pretty common thing in the hotel business).
- 1 + 4 + 0 + 8 = 13, making it the thirteenth room on the thirteenth floor.
- The room also keeps fiddling with the thermostat to extremely hot or cold temperatures that always add up to thirteen.
- The numbers that the phone calls out add up to thirteen in pairs.
- Also, since the hotel doesn't have a thirteenth floor, the floor numbered fourteen, where the room is, is actually the thirteenth floor.
- The Dolphin is at 2254 Lexington. Also, the metal plate inside the door's lock is engraved with "6214." And, the DVD's run time is 104 minutes, 8 seconds. The director's cut clocks in at around 112 minutes: 1 + 12 = 13.
- It came out on the 22nd in 2007. 2+2+2+0+0+7=13.
- Through the Eyes of Madness
- Title by Number
- Took a Level in Badass: Takes effect once the voice on the phone offers Enslin the express checkout and he acts completely nonchalant for the rest of the film, such as relaxing on the couch as the place is set on fire.
- Trash the Set: After Mike seems to have escaped from 1408 and lived a week or so of his normal life, he goes to the post office to deliver a letter, and suddenly all the employees start destroying the place, to reveal 1408 beneath it.
- The Un-Reveal: In spades. We never learn what the room is, who sent the postcard, or whether Enslin really escaped.
- Up to Eleven: Near the end of the film, you think the room has done its worst to Enslin--tricking him into thinking that he had actually been out of the room for weeks before bringing him right back. Then it does that thing with Katie, and you can't possibly imagine it doing anything more horrible than that, as Enslin looks like a textbook example of a broken man. Then it rewinds to the beginning and tells him he can relive the experience over and over and over...
- And then the theatrical release has his wife overhearing their daughter's voice on the tape at the end of the movie, begging to be allowed to stay with her parents, before the room reclaims her. Remember this was the ending the studio forced so it wouldn't be such a Downer Ending.
- Yank the Dog's Chain:
- Enslin is waiting for the clock to count down to zero, thinking then that he'll be safe. Then the clock starts up again at 60 minutes.
- And letting him "escape". And showing him his daughter, then ripping her away again.