FearTASTIC Vault O’FUN #44
Director(s): Mikael Håfström
Writer(s): Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander, Larry Karazewski, Stephen King (short story)
Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson
I have never been one to be claustrophobic. The fear of tight, enclosed spaces was something that never really bothered me; in fact, when this FearTastic host went to his very first Great Horror Campout (what the hell is that? CLICK HERE), I ended up getting buried with my friends under ground and the first thing that came into mind was that I finally had the chance to rest my calves/knees for a bit since I spent most of the night crawling and climbing over obstacles. To add more frivolity, I also decided to sing while trapped in a coffin with my pals. I find it odd however, that movies that are set in one location always gives me a sense of anxiety that follows me throughout the entire film.
SO many great horror flicks are set in one location; it’s a tried and true tactic that forces the audience to feel trapped with the characters from the movie trying to escape their grisly fates. Whether your trapped in a house from a killer dog like in Cujo or in a big mall keeping the zombies at bay like in Dawn of the Dead; you end up putting yourself in the situation of the characters and within the movie or directly afterwards you begin to strategize how you would fare in such a situation. First off, that’s a great sign that you were thoroughly entertained and second, these kinds of movies give the audience a chance to feel like they are in the movie themselves. It preys on the fact that closed spaces forces people to make rash decisions based on survival and thus very relatable to anyone watching. I always find myself sweating a bit more the more enclosed a space is in a horror flick and the scares / gore are just a cherry on top for the kind of entertainment only horror can provide. The suffocation factor of a tight space is always effective in accentuating the scariness of whatever macabre figure is lurking around the corner.
One of the best modern examples of anxiety ridden claustrophobia is 1408 which elevates this concept by setting the entire flick in one ridiculously SPOOKY hotel room. First, let’s take a minute and appreciate that John Cusack plays a skeptical writer that goes around debunking haunted locations throughout the country. When I think of smug ghost chaser, the Cusack is the only logical choice. The fun doesn’t stop as of course, Samuel L. Jackson is cast as the hotel manager trying to convince Cusack to stay away from the room, which is a cherry on top that you get in the very beginning of the flick. Once the star – power is established however, this flick kicks in full gear for some paranormal fun. The room itself was the site of over 50 deaths and the creepiness starts small and clever but gradually builds up to an all out storm of scares! I like how this movie takes elements that have been done before because let’s face it folks, ghost flicks are in the same boat as any other macabre figure in the sense that it’s all been done before but what makes this movie great is its ability to have every creepy thing done within a limited number of square footage in ONE room. You see the same settings over and over again but since the room is evil, you see it in different settings. The room itself is a character in the sense that it slowly tortures its victims to madness and you realize that the feeling of being trapped is the least of your concerns when you have a room that tries to drive you insane.
One of the best features of this movie is how many times Cusack THINKS he found a way out, only to have the room pull the rug from underneath and the series of disappointments begin to build and with every disappointing block is one step closer to going ape shit. The different kinds of ways the room tortures our main character is quite entertaining to the point where you don’t even mind that there aren’t any direct kills at the moment but the room itself displays its past kills like trophies in order to taunt its victim. Cusack’s character however goes through a transformation that accumulates into him having to face his own demons and the ending leaves you with a creepy feeling that dances in your head before you go to bed which is the worst / best / worst kind of feeling that a horror flick can give you in the dark nothingness of night.
Although I found myself sweating throughout the movie because it becomes pretty clear pretty quick that there’s no escape from room 1408, I had such a great time rooting for the main character (possibly because it’s Cusack and Cusack is THE MAN)! This flicks successfully sucked me in to thinking I was in the room right there with him and also felt the same sort of frustration after every failed attempt of escape. This movie is as entertaining as it is creepy and I recommend it to anyone who wants to enjoy some legitimate creepeiness…preferably in small spaces.
Life is FAR more interesting when we take interest in things that scare us.