When I was watching 1408, I was taking notes for my fellow Movie Binger Todd Serencha's biennial Summer Movie Comparison Chart, and about halfway through, I noticed that it seemed as though the film was created with this year's categories in mind. (Well, except for the "pony blow job" thing, but hey, it's PG-13.) It's extremely doubtful that any beverage will advance the plot of any other movie this year more (or more often) than John Cusack's $800 bottle of scotch, or that any "ingenious torture method" will top watching the guy who played Lloyd Dobler get beaten up by an "evil fucking room."
As a consequence of fitting so well with Todd's chart, the film is at once banal, formulaic, and totally weird. 1408 is an adaptation of a short story by Stephen King, and its plot stays within his usual comfort zone. It's essentially a self-aware take on the "haunted hotel" horror story, with Cusack cast as a failed fiction writer who has found success writing guides that review inns and hotels that suck in curious customers with invented ghost stories. Cusack's character is a world-weary cynic, and he's skeptical of the room's powers even when it's kicking his ass in spectacularly strange and deadpan ways. (I'm rather partial to the sequence in which the room becomes an icy wasteland.) The story isn't exactly profound, but it's certainly not dumb, and the movie's dark wit and admirable production values keep it from becoming a drab one-man-show. It's a bit hard to get too worked up about 1408 unless you're a John Cusack superfan, but it's a solid picture and its presence in theatres presents an intelligent and tasteful alternative to the fetishized torture and degradation of Hostel Part II and Captivity.