Thursday, July 22, 2010

1408: Film vs. Book.

And before I get going with this, I don't want to hear anyone start in with that "book is always better" shit, I know all about this. Hell, I agree most of the time, but there are notable exceptions to this rule (hello, Twilight?) So chill, okay?

For the first time, I think I can understand a writer's frustration with what his or her original material becomes on the big screen. King seemed to dig the film adaptation all right, and maybe he's used to this by now, but in my opinion, they completely missed the fright effect that was in the book. John Cusack was fine; he obviously knows what he's doing, and most of the effects were fine too, but it just wasn't scary enough. I say this because for me, 1408 was literally the most terrifying thing I'd ever read of King's; I was very worried about having this all come to life on the screen (nightmares) but was kind of let down by it not being scary and not being at all true to the original.

What I did not like:

The back story (wife, daughter, issues with father). I get why they did it, they needed to make this a feature length, but it was tired.

Sam Jackson as Olin. I love Samuel Jackson, just not in this.

All the scary things the hotel did to him were too physical, too obvious. (toilet paper re-folding itself, chocolate appearing on bed, images of former guests offing themselves, etc.) Nothing subtle about any of that.

I'm still on the fence about the room itself. I know The Dolphin was supposed to be an upscale establishment, but something about the room itself was almost too Martha Stewart for me. Enslin's reaction to the room upon entering matched my own, "this is it? Woooo! Where's all the scary shit?"

The ending did not do it for me, not even a little.

What I liked:

John Cusack pulling off a one-man show. He had to act plenty crazy for most of this, and he did a great job. The scene where he's freaking out at the mini-bar? Probably my favorite. What a spaz! He had some great one-liners, which I didn't expect.

Speaking of mini-bar: a tiny Olin appearing inside it to berate him during all of this? "Is the room exceeding your expectations?" "YOU KNOW GOD DAMNED WELL IT IS!" Nice! I giggled.

Some of those images of the dead people coming at him were actually scary and jarring. That old dried up corpse, chasing him through the vents, and the way the feet were swinging and swaying and flopping all over the place? What was that, kabuki cage match in a vent? That was funny. Sometimes you need a little comedy in a scary film ("Please God Let it be Ding-dongs," and Dwayne Duke kissing Mother Bates' corpse, etc.).

The attempt to reach the next window only to discover all the other rooms have vanished. Bricks in the windows, map on the door shows only 1408. I dug that a lot.

The little trick of not really being out of the room, and how the post office just rips itself open to reveal that he's really still in 1408. So the room has a bit of a sense of humor? Cool.

The last bit on the telephone with the "operator?" Clock setting itself up for another hour of good times while the chick on the phone asks if Enslin would like to take advantage of the express checkout? (Noose drops sharply from above and follows him from room to room!) Then the whole "EIGHT! THIS IS EIGHT! FIVE, THIS IS FIVE! ALL YOUR FRIENDS ARE DEAD!" That was true to the original and that shit freaked me out. The phone melting afterwards was a nice touch, too.

What I liked about the book and wished they had included in the film:

The subtlety of it all, scary things CAN be subtle. In the book, he comments into his recorder about how something reminded him of his brother, and then adds, "My brother was actually eaten by wolves one winter on the Connecticut Turnpike." (this is not true.) They tried to be clever or true with this in the film by showing it in some creepy scrawl on the file of stuff he was carrying, but because nothing was ever addressed in regard to this brother, it meant very little. They did the same with "Burn Yourself Alive" written on the wall (the methods of burning and the consequent endings actually were quite different between the two).

The tilting of the doors and the sea-sickness it caused in Enslin just by looking at them. Then the way all the framed art changes inside the room once things begin to go awry. Fruit into severed head. Madonna holding baby grows fangs, etc.

"fuming oranges" and "it feels like skin, like old dead skin" little thoughts like this.

A lot of attention was given to the orange look and feel of the room, the light, one of the hanging pictures was of fruit, the coverlet of the bed which tinted everything else, etc. Proximity to fire? To evil? I don't know but it added something gross, for sure. The film room was too pretty or something, like I said before.

"He tried not to touch the coverlet, either, but the tips of his fingers brushed it  and he moaned. It was soft in some terrible wrong way. . . Nevertheless, he picked the menu up. It was in French, and although it had been years since he had taken the language, one of the breakfast items appeared to be birds roasted in shit. That at least sounds like something the French might eat, he thought, and uttered a wild, distracted laugh.
He closed his eyes and opened them.
The menu was in Russian.
He closed his eyes and opened them.
The menu was in Italian.
Closed his eyes, opened them.
There was no menu."

Why cut that from the film or avoid it altogether? That would have been great!

"'I have to get out of here,' he whispered, and blundered back into the sitting room.  He became aware that his shoes had begun to make odd smooching sounds, as if the floor beneath them were growing soft."


". . .  he could feel no fresh air against his face. It was as though the room were swallowing it. He could still hear horns on Fifth, but they were now very distant. Did he still hear the saxophone? If so, the room had stolen its sweetness and melody and left only an atonal reedy drone, like the wind blowing across a hole in a dead man's neck or a pop bottle filled with severed fingers or--
Stop it, he tried to say, but he could no longer speak."

This just really got to me, both times I read it. Very, very creepy. It was a great little story, and I think the word little is key. It was too short to be a great film, but I think they made it into an okay film.

Book wins, easy. But I did have to fight back a few images of the crazy vent-crawler when trying to get to sleep. . .


Donald said...

You always speak so highly of this story (which, to be honest, I hardly even remember), I think I'm going to have to read it again. Honestly, by the time Everything's Eventual came out, I had started to think Stephen King had jumped the shark a little bit. He has since come back a little bit (Under the Dome was way too long, but quite good, as were his last few Dark Tower novels), so I lacked interest in that collection. But I did read that one and remember liking it. But I'll give it another look.

And read the Dark Tower already!

Anna said...


i love the man, all flaws considered. but remember, just as he (perhaps) overwrites, I MYSELF over-talk, so we are kindred spirits, him and me.

goose bumps. and it's so short, he just gets right down to business. i love it so much. Everything's eventual is hands down my favorite thing of his fiction.