Mike (John Cusack) writes books about scary spots around the country, none of which frighten him because he doesn't believe in God or the afterlife. (Think the guy might have a traumatic past?) After hearing about a haunted New York hotel room in which no one has lasted more than an hour, Mike packs his bag and checks in, despite the warnings of the hotel manager (Samuel L. Jackson).
Catch it: Avoiding the over-the-top hysterics of "Bug," "1408" chillingly closes in around Mike amidst changing temperatures and the random jolt of a clock radio -- while employing few of the usual cheap shocks and creaky doors. As the film chips away at the psychological barriers that protect a non-believer from being scared, don't expect your defenses to fare any better.
Skip it: If you are still annoyed by the mathematical scare tactics of Jim Carrey's "The Number 23." You can only roll your eyes at Mike noticing that 1 plus 4 plus 0 plus 8 equals the-spookiest-number-of-all, 13.
Bottom line: Mike's daddy issues seem out of place, and "1408" grows repetitive by doing too much too soon after Mike checks in. But this is an impressive allegory about the power of repressed memories and the way that the worst demons live longest in your mind.
Bonus: To account for his, um, curiosity, Mike wears a hat proclaiming, "Paranoia is total awareness." If you listen closely, you can hear Harold and Kumar mellowing out big-time.
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.
Directed by Mikael Hafstrom; screenplay by Matt Greenberg, Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander, based on Stephen King's short story; photographed by Benoit Delhomme; edited by Peter Boyle; music by Gabriel Yared; production design by Andrew Laws; produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura. A Dimension Films release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:34. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for thematic material including disturbing sequences of violence and terror, frightening images and language).
Mike Enslin - John Cusack
Mr. Olin - Samuel L. Jackson
Lily - Mary McCormack