Friday, 31 August 2007


I have been reading Stephen King for the past two decades and I don’t think I know of any other contemporary author whose works have been translated to the medium of film as many times as his. Most of the adaptations have been average save for an exceptional few, of which The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me comes to mind (incidentally both stories from the same book Different Seasons).

Although considerably expanded, this latest King adaptation of 1408, about a cynical author who spends a night in a haunted hotel room, manages to keep to the spirit of the slender tale of the same name in Everything’s Eventual, a collection of uneven short stories that failed to scale the same delicious heights of Skeleton Crew since it offered many rehashed familiar fiction from King’s previous works and that of others.

And this is no exception: haunted hotels have been done with The Shining and this stripped down version distils into just one “evil fucking room” (a tongue-in-cheek line which made me laugh out loud as it was clearly tailored specifically for Samuel L. Jackson who played the small but significant role as the hotel proprietor. I half expected him to go...I’ve absolutely positively have HAD it with this motherfucking room in this motherfucking hotel!!!).

Directed by Mikael Håfstrom, the film eschews gore and delivers in spades the psychological tension the moment the disbelieving victim barges his way into the Dolphin Hotel. The excellently cast John Cusack plays the jaded hack Mike Enslin whose own haunted past becomes unhinged in a game of psychological wits with the diabolical room in question. Although some clichés of horror films, from bleeding walls, ominous music and a Twilight Zone-esque ending may cheapen it somewhat, Cusack does very well to keep the audience entertained in this taut tale since the only two actors in the film were essentially him and the room.

Watching his cock-eyed sureness rapidly degenerate in front of the audience’s eyes with pulse quickening moments punctuated by occasional understandable human humour, it’s an actors’ piece through and through delivered via the horrors of the mind. From authors as varied as King and Vonnegut who recognise the art of short stories as like a quick affair and that of the novel like that of a marriage, this piece is one definite quick kiss in the dark delight.

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