Stephen King’s 1408- A Review

10/21/2008

Stephen King’s 1408 (Contains Spoilers)

Stephen King’s short story, titled 1408- later adapted by Director Mikael Hafstram as a film in 2007- is not only a story of psychological atrophy but also a story of faith. The film touches on this slightly less than King’s short story, however, lends itself to audiences as more of a horror film than psychological thriller. The film seems to have received just as much clout as King’s short story; however, the two pieces differ in significant ways. Character involvement, the Climax and the ending of the short story are three of the variations made between the short story and film.

There are three fairly significant differences between the film and short story, one of which is character involvement. In the film, Mike Enslin is portrayed as a skeptic across various verticals of life, yet the audience is taught to forgive this close-mindedness. Mikael Hafstram directs the film in such a way that the audience learns of Enslin’s tragic back-story. Obviously not long before his return to New York, (Enlin’s lawyer asks concerning “Are you sure you’re ready to come back?) Enslin loses his only daughter, Katie to sever health issues. As a result of their loss, Enslin can no longer look at his wife without seeing Katie and uproots to Boston to start a new life sans emotion and faith. Hafstram tugs at the audience’s heartstring such a way that we hope for the best outcome possible in Mike Enslin’s favor.

Mike’s tragic back-story about the death of his young daughter, and separation from his wife allow audiences to develop a strong rapport with Mike’s character. In the film, however, because we do not develop a strong affinity for Mike and his hardships, readers feel less connected to him and therefore care less about the outcome of Mike’s trials in room 1408.
The short story offers little connection to Mike’s character and dedicates significant time to the fore-story and after-effects of room 1408. I believe these variations, however, are not negative aspects; Hafstram and King are merely reaching different goals in different ways.

Along with variation in character involvement, the story doesn’t focus as much on the climax as the movie does. Less time is spent dwelling on the actual horrors of the room than in the movie. This could be that King’s goal differs from that of a film director’s.

It is possible that King intended for the story to affect the reader’s perception of reality and faith in their own lives, whereas Haftsram may have been more focused on being portrayed as a psychological thriller as well as a horror film. The special effects used in the film: frozen room of doom, warping Karen Carpenter’s vocals, and intricate set designs get the audience visually involved in the mental chaos Mike Enslin experiences.

The main difference between Stephen King’s original version of 1408 and that of the 2007 film rendition is very obviously the different endings. The end of the story written by King has a damaged feel. The reader can see how much damage the room has ultimately caused Enslin.

In addition to problems with his blood-pressure, severe burns and enflamed prostates, Enslin sleeps every night with the lights on, has given up writing, had all the phones removed from his home and has consistent nightmares.
In the meantime, though, he sleeps with the lights on in his bedroom, so he will know at once where he is when he wakes the from the bad dreams. He has had all the phones taken out of the house and when the sun goes down, he pulls every shade and blind and drape in the house. He sits like a man in a darkroom until his watch tells him the light- even then last fading glow along the horizon-must be gone. (King 24)
This quote shows a man who has been affected greatly and who has faith that there is something greater than he; a man with a newfound faith.

In an attempt to cater to the likes of Hollywood moviegoers however, Hafstram twists the ending more positively. At the end of the film, Enslin is seen sitting at his computer while his wife unpacks boxes. Far from the chaos and mental destruction seen at the end of the short story, Enslin and his wife listen to a recording of their late daughter’s voice in their pristine and inviting home while Enslin narrates that he will soon be publishing a new book. Although it is common for pieces of writing to be adapted as a film, most films do not accurately portray the story as the writer intended. I believe that although the short story and film are different in many ways, the film does a good job (if not a better job) representing the mental turmoil Enslin experiences.