The film follows Mike Enslin, an author who investigates allegedly haunted houses and rents the titular room 1408 at a New York City hotel. Though skeptical of the paranormal, he is soon trapped in the room where he experiences bizarre events. Reviews were mostly positive and the film was also a financial success.
Mike Enslin (John Cusack) is a cynical, skeptical author who is estranged from his wife Lily after the death of their daughter Katie (Jasmine Jessica Anthony). Mike writes unsuccessful books evaluating supernatural events in which he has no belief. After his latest book, he receives an anonymous postcard depicting The Dolphin, a hotel on Lexington Avenue in New York City bearing the message, "Don't enter 1408." Viewing this as a challenge, Mike forces the hotel to allow him to book the room, referencing a law that any hotel room in New York can be requested as long as it meets safety standards.
The hotel manager, Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) explains to Mike that in the last 95 years anyone who has stayed in Room 1408 for longer than an hour ends up dead--latest count is 56 bodies. The horrors began with a wealthy businessman named Kevin O'Malley, who inexplicably committed suicide in the room when the hotel opened. Mike, who appears unmoved by the story, insists on staying in the room. Olin replies that it is not haunted; it is "an evil room".
Once inside the room, Mike describes on his mini-cassette recorder the room's boring appearance and its unimpressive lack of supernatural behavior. During his examination, the clock radio starts playing "We've Only Just Begun", a hit song by The Carpenters. Mike assumes that Olin is pulling a prank to scare him. At 8:07, the song plays again and the clock's digital display changes to a countdown starting from "60:00". The window slams down and breaks his hand. He begins to see hallucinations and ghosts of the room's past victims, and visions of his own dead family members, including his father and Katie. Mike tries to leave, but in vain: the brass room key is sucked into the lock and the doorknob falls off; climbing through the air ducts prompts an attack from the corpse of O'Malley; and his attempt to escape to an adjacent room by walking along the outside window ledge reveals the windows of the other rooms have disappeared.
Mike uses his laptop to contact Lily (Mary McCormack), pleading with her to call the police, but the sprinkler system short circuits his laptop. The room temperature drops to subzero when the laptop suddenly begins to work again, and Lily tells him the police have entered 1408, but the room is empty. A doppelgänger of Mike appears in a video chat window and urges Lily to come to the hotel herself; it gives Mike a sly wink. The room shakes violently and Mike breaks a picture of a ship in a storm. Water pours from the broken picture, flooding the room. He surfaces on a beach and relives a surfing accident seen earlier in the film. His life continues from this point, and he reconciles with Lily.
Assuming his experience in 1408 was just a nightmare, Lily encourages him to write a book about it. When visiting the post office to send the manuscript to his publisher, he recognizes members of a construction crew as the Dolphin Hotel staff. They demolish the post office walls, revealing Mike is still trapped in the rubble of 1408. Katie's ghost confronts Mike, and after some reluctance he embraces her but she dies and crumbles to dust. When the countdown ends, the room is suddenly restored to normal, and the clock radio resets itself to 60:00.
The "hotel operator" calls Mike. When Mike asks why he hasn't just been killed already, she informs him that guests enjoy free will, and as such he can relive the past hour over and over again, or use their "express checkout system". A hangman's noose appears and Mike has a vision of himself hanged, but he refuses to give in. Deciding to quit being scared, Mike improvises a Molotov cocktail from a bottle of cognac given to him by Olin, and sets the room on fire. The fire alarm sounds, the hotel is evacuated, and Lily is prevented from entering. After smoking a cigarette, Mike breaks a window, causing a backdraft. Mike then lies down upon the floor and laughs in victory upon destroying the room. As the fireman drag him out, Olin, in his office, says "Well done Mr. Enslin".
Mike survives, and he and Lily are seen back together in their home, although she is unsure of the supernatural events he has explained to her. Lily finds Mike's possessions that were rescued from 1408 and suggests disposing of them because they are ruined by smoke. Mike takes them, saying, "Bad memories are not to be forgotten, they are meant to be lived with." Lily now realizes Mike is ready to move on from his daughter's death. Suddenly they hear Katie's voice on the mini-cassette recorder, confirming his account.
In addition to the ending that appears in the theatrical release version, three other endings were shot. The incentive for filming three alternate endings was based on the director's belief that King's intention, in his original short story, was to leave the conclusion ambiguous. None of the four endings match the ending of King's original short story.
Director Mikael Håfström said that the ending for 1408 was reshot because test audiences felt that the original ending was too much of a "downer". This first alternate ending was used in the theatrical release. The original discarded ending had Mike dying in the fire, but happy to see the room destroyed. During Mike's funeral, Olin approaches Lily and Sam. He unsuccessfully attempts to give her a box of Mike's possessions, including the tape recorder. Olin claims that the room was successfully destroyed and that it will no longer hurt anyone else. He later listens to the recording in his car, and becomes visibly upset when he hears Katie's voice on the tape. He looks in the car mirror and sees a vision of Enslin's burnt corpse in the back seat, then he sees a father and daughter hold hands as they walk away. Olin places the tape recorder back in the box and drives off. The final scene is of the gutted room, where an apparition of Mike looks out the window while smoking a cigarette. He hears his daughter calling his name, and he disappears as he walks toward her. A door is heard closing and the scene fades to black.
This ending is the default ending on the Blu-ray release and two-disc collector's edition. Canadian networks Space and The Movie Network, and U.S. network FX broadcast this version of the film, but Space broadcast the theatrical ending on July 23, 2012. This ending is also used on the U.K. and Australian DVDs, and the U.S. iTunes, Netflix and Amazon Prime versions of the film.
Another ending uses elements from both the theatrical ending and the discarded original ending. Mike dies in the fire; afterwards Olin remarks, "Well done, Enslin. Well done." Instead of the funeral scene, the sounds of a funeral are dubbed over establishing shots of Los Angeles. Lily and Sam sort through Mike's effects in Lily's new home. Sam says, "Well, at least he went out in a blaze." Lily gives him a look of disapproval. Sam returns to his New York office, sorts through his mail, and discovers the manuscript that Mike wrote about Room 1408, written after Mike thought he had awakened from a dream. As Sam reads the story, audio from Mike's experiences in the room is heard. In a final scene, Sam's office doors slam shut and Mike's father's voice says, "As I was, you are. As I am, you will be."
In a third alternate ending, Mike survives and moves to Los Angeles with Lily. When he plays the tape of Katie's voice from 1408, Lily hears it and looks shocked. Mike stares at Lily strangely. This is the ending shown on the Australian streaming service Presto and on Netflix in Japan. Netflix in the Netherlands used to show this ending, however Netflix changed it to the ending used in the theatrical release.John Cusack as Mike Enslin
Samuel L. Jackson as Gerald Olin
Mary McCormack as Lily Enslin
Tony Shalhoub as Sam Farrell
Len Cariou as Mike's father
Jasmine Jessica Anthony as Katie Enslin
Isiah Whitlock Jr. as Hotel Engineer
Kim Thomson as Hotel Desk Clerk
Benny Urquidez as Claw Hammer Maniac
Andrew-Lee Potts as Mailbox Guy
Jules de Jongh as the Female Front-Desk Voice on the Phone (Uncredited)
In November 2003 and 2004, Dimension Films optioned the rights to the 1999 short story "1408" by Stephen King. The studio hired screenwriter Matt Greenberg to adapt the story into a screenplay. In October 2005, Mikael Håfström was hired to direct 1408, with the screenplay being rewritten by screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. In March 2006, actor John Cusack was cast to star in the film, joined by actor Samuel L. Jackson the following April. In July, actress Kate Walsh was cast to star opposite Cusack as the protagonist's ex-wife, but she was forced to exit in August due to scheduling conflicts with her role on Grey's Anatomy. She was replaced by actress Mary McCormack. According to Cusack, the Roosevelt Hotel in New York was used for some of the exterior shots of the Dolphin. The lobby scenes were filmed at the Reform Club in London.
On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 79% based on 170 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads "Relying on psychological tension rather than overt violence and gore, 1408 is a genuinely creepy thriller with a strong lead performance by John Cusack." On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 64 out of 100, based on 27 reviews.
James Berardinelli awarded the film three stars out of four, praising it as "the best horror film of the year". He offered significant praise for Cusack's performance as Mike Enslin, writing that "this is John Cusack's movie to carry, and he has no problem taking it where it needs to go". He found the film to be a refreshing experience, believing it "reminds us what it's like to be scared in a theater rather than overwhelmed by buckets of blood and gore". Many critics believed the film to be far superior to other adaptations of Stephen King novels and stories. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote a very positive review, describing the film as "one of the good Stephen King adaptations, one that maintains its author's sly sense of humor and satiric view of human nature". He ultimately believed the film to be a "more genuinely scary movie than most horror films".
Several critics, however, found the film to be underwhelming. Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe wrote a mixed review, describing the film as "a lot of consonants and no vowels". He went on to compare the film unfavorably to The Shining, a similar King adaptation, believing 1408 lacked that film's "lunging horror and dramatic architecture". Although he believed the film "conjures a wonderful anticipatory mood of dread in the first 30 minutes", he ultimately believed the film "then blows it to stylish smithereens". Rob Salem of the Toronto Star awarded the film two stars out of four, believing it to be a predictable, "hit and miss" production. Like Morris, Salem wrote that "Even as haunted hotel King movies go, 1408 is certainly no Shining. Not even the TV-movie version."
In its opening weekend, the film opened in second place at the box office, grossing US$20.6 million in 2,678 theaters. 1408 had a production budget of US$25 million. The film went on to gross US$132 million, of which US$71.9 million was from Canada and the United States.
The DVD was released on October 2, 2007 by Genius Products with a standard 1-Disc Edition (widescreen or fullscreen), and a 2-Disc Collector's Edition that contains both versions of the ending and an unrated edition of the film which restored 6 more minutes of the film.