The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Weinstein Company - 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 112 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Tony Shalhoub, Mary McCormack
Directed by: Mikael Hafstrom
Music by: Gabriel Yared
Written by: Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander, and Larry Karaszewski based on the short story by Stephen King
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: September 16, 2008
"No one lasts more than an hour"
Based on a short story by suspense master Stephen King, 1408 stars John Cusack as a skeptical writer investigating paranormal events. When he insists on staying in the reportedly haunted room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel against the grave warnings of the hotel manager (Samuel L. Jackson), he discovers the room's deadly secret - an evil so powerful, no one has ever survived an hour within its walls.
I saw 1408 when in the theater when it was released in during the summer of 2007. Being both a John Cusack and Sam Jackson fan made this an easy sell for me. I thought that it was okay and I liked the concept of this inexplicable evil inherent in this one room in the hotel. I didn’t have a strong enough reaction to it that I wanted to pick up the DVD but when I heard of its release on Blu-ray my interest in it was aroused. After this re-visit I felt that I enjoyed it more this time. John Cusack’s character Mike, seemed more sympathetic and I got more out of his performance here than from my first viewing. I suspect that part of the reason is that with film’s like this you find yourself focusing more on what is about to happen rather than what is happening at the moment. The second time through that anticipation is removed and you end up seeing things you may not have noticed before. I saw Mike as a person filled with varying emotions that surrounded the premature death of his daughter Katie. He also had repressed feelings about his relationship with his father. Lastly, he left his wife abruptly after Katie’s death without ever discussing his reasons with her. I think that these issues weighed on him and he never had any real emotional closure with any of them. He is not a spiritual person and does not believe in such things. His ex-wife on the other hand did and passed that on to her daughter which he resented. When she died he felt that part of the reason was because she wasn’t afraid of the finality of death because of her mother’s religious beliefs. His constant quest to disprove the existence of spirits and haunted houses is tied into the loss he experienced. The most powerful scene in the film is where he returns to the room and encounters the vision/spirit of his daughter Katie. I thought that Cusack poured it all out and did a convincing job in that scene. Having kids is not a prerequisite to appreciating how someone might feel under those circumstances but it offers a deeper perspective. He spends the bulk of the film by himself reacting to the elements provided by the room and he pulls it off quite well. His experiences in the room cause him to come face to face with several internal issues. This does help him to open up once he gets “out”. The room was just too cool in its slow build up and eventual physical and emotional torment of its victims. There are a few really decent jump scares and impressive effects that truly enhanced the film’s horror theme.
The ending shown in theaters is not the one contained on this Director’s cut although there are two alternate endings (one of which is the theatrical ending) included in the bonus features. I wasn’t crazy about this one but it is very different from the theatrical version. The ending is not critical to the enjoyment of the movie. As you know I am a ‘feel good’ movie guy even with film’s like this. Having said that I think that for me the theatrical ending best represents what I would have liked to have happened to Mike in the end. However I did appreciate alternate ending # 2 as well. I don’t want to expound too much on any of them but will leave the ending up to a matter of viewer preference.
This film contains thematic material, including disturbing sequences of violence and terror, frightening images and language. Not for younger viewers.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
1408 comes to Blu-ray Disc featuring 1080p VC-1 encoded video that has an average bitrate of 28 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio that has an average bitrate of 3.2 mbps.
This video presentation was quite good and consistent with what I saw when I saw it theatrically. The film intentionally uses a limited color palette that gives it a reserved look that kept pace with the director’s vision based upon the different settings featured in the story. Green (like a bluish green) is used quite a bit and can be seen in the lobby of the Dolphin Hotel, the post office, book store and restaurant where Mike has breakfast. There is filtering applied that adds a golden hue over scenes like those shot in the lobby, Mike’s apartment, Olin’s office and to a lesser degree in room 1408. This did affect the appearance of colors and skin tones in those scenes as they had a de-saturated and flatter quality. There are several sequences that are shot outdoors that don’t use the filtering and exhibit deeper color penetration with warmer tones and livelier complexions. Some examples would be the sequences at the beach, outside the Dolphin Hotel the night Mike arrives, and outside of Mike’s apartment. The nighttime shots outside of the Hotel and the street below the window of room 1408 exhibited solid depth of field and visible detail in shadows and dark areas. Blacks were noise free with good dynamic range and contrast. Images were cleanly rendered with good visible detail on the surfaces of objects, clothing and physical characteristics of the cast. When Mike returns to room 1408 I was able to clearly make out the texture of the charred remains on the surfaces of the walls and cabinetry within the room. The wide angle shot of the exterior brick wall of the hotel when Mike is outside of the window on the ledge were clearly defined with solid structure. Grain was intact, in fine layers and appeared well preserved.
*Amendment* During my initial viewing I failed to notice the presence of jaggie type artifacts (aliasing) around text and objects that have straight/diagonal lines. While it doesn't directly effect resolution its effects are visibly distracting. This has been relfected in the video rating score.*
I am happy to see TWC supplying lossless audio on their Blu-ray disc releases. The lossy Dolby Digital track was set as the default which meant having to access the audio setup to select the high resolution TrueHD track. This is a well designed audio mix that plays well to the film’s thematic events. It uses the surround channels to elicit reaction to sounds coming from differing vantage points based on the camera’s view (meaning the subject onscreen) which works really well. Jump scares were exacerbated by the clear articulation and well placed spatial cues contained in the soundtrack. Active sequences such as the splitting and crashing of the walls and ceiling during the height of the room’s onslaught sounded dynamic and forceful. Low frequency effects provided bass that was substantial and on occasion room shaking. There were instances where I felt that deeper bass emphasis would have been appropriate and others where I was surprised that it was used. Voices were clear and maintained a stable presence within the front channel balance so that no matter how busy the scene dialogue was intelligible. This sound mix capably handled the complex sound design associated with this soundtrack which helped build the suspense and frightening moments that add to the experience.
The bonus supplements are essentially the same ones contained on the 2 disc Collector’s Edition DVD release from last year. There are some additional features offered though. There is an audio commentary track with Director Mikael Hafstrom and Writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, 5 short segments that look at the film’s characters (Cusack and Jackson), background on the Director, effects, and production design elements. There are several 2 minute webisode features that give a brief glimpse and overview of the film, deleted scenes, alternate endings and the theatrical trailer. The bonus content is offered in high definition although looking at the video quality would lead one to believe it was standard definition only. The best features are the Secrets of 1408 and inclusion of the two alternate endings.
- Feature audio commentary track
- (HD)2 Alternate ending sequences
- (HD) 5 Deleted scenes with optional commentary
- (HD) The secrets of 1408: The characters, Director, Physical effects, and Production design
- (HD) John Cusack on 1408: Webisode – The star of the story
- (HD)Inside room 1408: A Webisode – A glimpse of the horror
- (HD) Theatrical trailer
1408 is a solid thriller that delivers enough twists and turns to make it interesting. John Cusack is tasked with carrying a large portion of the film on his own and I think he did a commendable job. I found this film to be better after watching it a second time. For those that have seen it once and may not have been impressed you may want to consider giving it another spin. What better way than this excellent high definition audio/video transfer on Blu-ray Disc?
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