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1408: Because Horror is Better Without the Stupid

I can’t watch horror flicks. 75% of them are gory and the other 25% are lame and cliché. However, one of the biggest reasons I’m not into horror is because I can’t watch that much stupid in such a condensed space without turning into a mouth breather myself.

“Don’t go in there!” “Look behind you!” “He’s the killer, can’t you tell?” “What, you tripped? Get up! Don’t lay there and gawk, GET UP!” A movie isn’t scary to me if it depends on Bat-credit-card levels of stupidity.

Then, I saw 1408.

Based on a short story by Stephen King, 1408 stars John Cusack as Mike Eslin, a man who stays in “haunted” places and writes about them, but doesn’t believe a lick of it. Then, he hears rumors of a hotel room in which no one has survived even one hour. Ignoring the warnings of the hotel owner, played by Samuel “Tired-Of-These-Mo-Fo-Ghosts-In-My-Mo-Fo-Hotel” Jackson, Eslin stays in the haunted room and…well, that turns out to be the worst decision of his life.

However, not once does the film resort to stupidity to get its character into a bad situation.

The audience knows the spooky stuff is real because it was in the horror section on Netflix, but the world of the movie reflects real life. Ghosts? Come on. Besides, Eslin has seen dozens of “haunted” hotels with no evidence to paranormal shenanigans.

Room 1408 doesn’t even look haunted, in fact it looks downright cozy. All the lights work and so does the phone, so he at least appears safe, unlike that dumb floozy walking backwards into a torture chamber where the lights don’t work.

To me, a movie becomes scary when I, the viewer, can no longer think of a way out of the situation.

Okay, trapped in a room. What do I do? Call someone!
The phone won’t connect.
Throw something out the window to get attention.
The object vanishes before it hits the ground.
Uh, walk on the outside ledge to the next room!
The next window vanishes.
Okay…ooh! Shout and get the attention of the guy across the street!
It’s you across the street.
Oh, no…

The room can flood, freeze, turn the windows into bricks, whatever it takes to make sure you never escape…except through the Reaper’s coach.

When someone fails to use logic, that’s not scary because I’m imagining ways I would get out. I, the viewer, have separated myself from the character(s) and lost my suspension of disbelief.

When logic doesn’t work, that’s when I get goosebumps. Now I know that I, too, would be screwed, and I connect with the people on screen, rooting for them, and therefore myself.

Real fear is being out of control. It’s not sleeping in a haunted house because your car broke down, running from the killer into a room full of chainsaws, or falling down because you forgot how to walk.

It’s corrupt law enforcers with guns. It’s indifferent politicians. It’s businessmen who care about bottom lines, not human suffering.

1408 is more than just a haunted room. It’s a perfect representation of everything we fear:

Helplessness.

About Michael Blaylock (34 Articles)
I'm a writer and a Christian who believes in art, freedom, and love. And I swear I'm not a hippie just because I wrote that.
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