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The 1408 Debate: Plot Spoilers


True to horror flick form, 1408 (Based on a short story of the same name, in the book “Everything’s Eventual was written by the king of horror himself, Stephen King.” opens with Mike Enslin (John Cusack) driving through rain slicked streets. He enters one of the small town haunts, to spend the night and debunk rumors of paranormal experiences. This is how he makes his living. He does not believe in ghosts. Not since the death of his young daughter who died of a terminal disease.

A few weeks later, Enslin sorts through his mail and a postcard slips from between the other envelopes. It is the picture of the infamous “Dolphin Hotel”. The card reads: “Don’t stay in 1408.” He immediately calls the hotel and asks to book room 1408.
“That room is not available, sir” Though he never specified a date. The call is disconnected. He goes through the run around of logistics and legalities but finally steps into the elegance of the Dolphin entrance. Upon checking in, the computer issues a warning to alert the manager. Enter Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) No one has ever made it longer than an hour, he says. There have been 56 deaths in that room, he says. 15 minutes of bribery and scare tactics don’t dissuade him from wanting to stay in that room. He issues a final word of warning, “once you enter 1408, you can never leave”. Reluctantly, he rides up in the elevator with Enslin, but does not enter the floor. 56 deaths in that room, he reminds Enslin. He finds the room, 1+4+0+8 = 13. Looking around the room, he quips to his tape recorder that the scariest thing in there is the severely outdated floral wallpaper. He doesn’t need to wait long before there are a few occurrences that could have possibly been choreographed. He waivers for only a second before resuming his night of heavy drinking, chalking it up to some fast acting hotel employees. Looking like he’s about to fall asleep the clock radio flips on at full blast. He turns it off, and notices that the clock no longer shows the time, but has become the time he has left. 60:00. No one lasts more than an hour. He’s a little unnerved by this point and sits in the sill of the window over looking a busy NY street. He turns back to face the room when the heavy wood window crushes his hand. He’s come to his senses, calls the front desk, and is connected to a prerecording of nonsensical ramblings. He makes notes to his tape recorder then plays it back. It’s his voice, but not his words. The bible that he casually flipped through shortly after arriving, is now full of blank pages. He tries anything and everything he can think of to get out of this room including the air vent in the ceiling and his laptop that calls his estranged wife, Lily. He tells her to call 911. She thinks he is crazy. She tries to calm him down when another Mike appears on the screen. “Why don’t you just come down here and we can talk.” No! the real Mike yells, to no avail. The sights, sounds, and the suffering only increase. Getting more personal, he walks into the bathroom (which is now a meat locker) and talks to his father. Soon after, he sees his dead daughter. He doesn’t trust this vision and backs away. “Don’t you love me anymore daddy?” She’s walking across broken glass, blood running from between his toes. He reaches for her and holds her. “Of course I love you.” She begs her daddy to take her away so she can be with mommy and daddy forever. He is sobbing and squeezing his daughter until he feels her body go limp. “Not again, you can’t take her from me twice” he screams. He body turns to stone and crumbles in his hands. He is ready to break. The hour is up and everything is back to normal. For a minute. Then the clock starts over, counting back from 60:00. The phone rings and the familiar voice from the other end asks him if he would like to relive the hour over and over, or if he would like to use the “express checkout”. He turns around and sees a noose in the middle of the room. He walks slowly towards it, then notices the bottle of liquor. Grabbing it in one hand and some paper in the other, he puts the two together and starts them on fire. He takes a seat, smokes his last cigarette and watches it burn. They switch to a shot of Olin, leaning back in his chair with his hands behind his head as he says “well done, Enslin” Back to the room, just before it explodes, fire fighters rescue him and he wakes up in the hospital with Lily beside him. She tells him that there was a fire in the hotel caused by faulty wiring, and he would be okay. The next and final scene, the two are moving in together. His burned and partially melted tape recorder is on the top of a box to be thrown out. He grabs it, rewinds it and hits play. The wife hears the conversation between her husband and daughter and drops the boxes in her hands. Make gives a weak smile. Fade to black.

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So what happened? Is Mike out of the room or is Lily in? I think he got out. I believe when Samuel L. Jackson (SLJ from this point on) said “well done, Enslin” he was congratulating him for beating the devil at his own game. Like an admiration or a respect for Mike. “Devil Went Down to Georgia” anyone? Or, did Lily make her way to Mike, enter the room and became condemned herself? I think if this was the case, they would have shown her opening the door to 1408 to make sure people knew what was going on, adding more to the chill factor. I don’t believe they would be able to live in peace, moving back in together … then again, who knows how long that lasts?

Who was SLJ? From what I can tell, there are 3 main thoughts. He was just the hotel manager he played. I don’t believe this, because of the “well done” comment. Almost like he was in on it. The place is going up in flames and he’s at his desk, kicking back with a smile. Another thought is he was God. He lured Mike to the room where he could realize his fears and learn to let go. I personally think that God could find a gentler way of getting his point across. I say Jackson was the Devil. I think he sent to postcard to get Enslin to come down. Then made it more and more difficult to actually get up to the room, making it all the more intriguing. There is also the movie poster which depicts ½ of Enslins’ face divided by the room key the other ½ of the key is Olins. A picture of light and dark. Good and evil. The spiritual struggle.

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Who sent the postcard? Those who believe SJ was just a hotel manager think that the room itself was evil and / or a representation of selfishness, that’s where the card came from.

“Burn Me Alive” is scratched into the wall, where did it come from? Some think SLJ as the hotel manager did it, which I think is nearly impossible since he wont enter the room.

Some think that the trapped Spirits, in a conjoined effort wrote it on the wall as a clue on how to destroy the room. I kind of think it was a trick or a challenge. Knowing Mike couldn’t get out himself, it was just another means of “express checkout”. Who says the room is dead? God, the Devil or Evil entities created it in the first place, why not a second?

What’s the deal with the tape recorder at the end? The explanation I like best is that it survived to prove to Lily that Mike had endured what he had. He had connected with Katie. If they were both trapped in the room, it could have been a more subtle form of torture. If from God, to prove to the couple there was life after death.

I think I’ve covered the main topics, though there are dozens more theories about many other things … why did the firefighters find him when the police didn’t? Did SLJ give him the alcohol intentionally because he wanted him to start the room on fire? What’s with the surfing scenes? Was it all a big hallucination? All I have to say is see the movie for yourself to decide.

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For me, 1408 was much more then just entertainment. It was very spiritual. Was God testing him? Was there a God? Why didn’t he help him in his hour of need? It was almost life changing. I saw the 11:00pm showing on opening night. By the time I got home and into bed, I was terrified. I kept all the lights on and my eyes open checking every corner, getting up repeatedly to check the closets. I started thinking of my own hallucinations I had when I was in a more experimental stage in life. My husband finally sat up and asked me what I was afraid of. I question I hadn’t thought to ask myself. “I don’t know” I said lamely. I laid down, (but kept the lights on) and contemplated. Was I really afraid of ghosts? What is a ghost? Can they really hurt me? I don’t know, but I knew somewhere that it wasn’t the ghosts I was afraid of. It was of all the unfinished business I had. I have made so many mistakes. Need to make so many amends. I have a daughter to raise and I don’t want to die before she can see that I am a good person. I want a chance to be the mother I WANT to be. The one who doesn’t yell when all the crayons are broken and scattered all over the house. Who calmly looks for her keys without cussing because someone had been playing with them and couldn’t remember where she put them (in a box of “Captain Crunch” thank you sweet tooth) No one knows how much time is left. You have to make the most of it. Sounds corny, I know. It took a horror movie for me to see what happiness lies in life, you need only look.