Hotels and ghosts go together like gin and vermouthâor Red Bull and vodka (but I digress). So it was with delighted glee tempered by a dose of cold fear that I viewed the summer scare flick 1408 (get it? add up the numbers) this past weekend. Based on a Stephen King novella, the movie recounts the tale of washed-up writer Mike Enslin (an engaging John Cusack) who has found a niche writing campy guides to reputedly haunted hotels: âœI rate it seven skullsâ. Cynical and haunted, himself, by an earlier tragedy, he receives an anonymous postcard from the stately Dolphin Hotel in New York City, inviting him to stay in any of its stunning roomsâexcept one:Â room 1408. Right. Cue the oboes.
When Enslin calls the hotel to make his reservation for 1408, he is politely but firmly refused. Threatening legal action, he gets his wish, but not before the hotel's debonair GM (Samuel L. Jackson, at his icy, charming best) pleads with him to stay awayâgoing so far as to ply him with his best, most expensive whiskey and offers to upgrade to the property's premier suite. He references the room's past legacy of death and despair, of the evil that lurks above, that âœno one lasts more than an hour.â Oh, just give the guy the key already.
Preying on our deepest fears of boogeymen and ghosts of past hotel guests done in by all kinds of nastyÂ ends (wasn't that what King's other hotel flick, The Shining, was all about?) the movie is a rollercoaster ride of fear, dread and hair-raising special effects. It's also on target with wickedly funny references to banal hotel art, annoying front desk workers, uncontrollable HVAC units, malfunctioning clock radios (with The Carpenters' âœWe've Only Just Begunâ repeatedly playing on volume 10, this MUST be hell on earth) and those perfectly folded toilet paper ends.
Hotels are smart to play up their darker pasts, to a point. I recently stayed at an historic hotel in Kansas City where the GM regaled me with tales of a guest who was shot and killed by a disgruntled partner. Allegedly, the ghost of the deceased has made its presence known on several occasions to employees and guests alike. That was not what I wanted to hear as the GM escorted me to the vast andÂ isolated Presidential Suite on the top floor of the old hotel where I was the sole guest that evening, with a massive darkened ballroom and creepy mirrored walls amplifying the effect. Suffice to stay, every light and the TV remained on that long, dark night.
Do you think your hotel is haunted or have you ever worked in one?Â Do you promote your ethereal guests to their earthly counterparts? If so, please share! Who doesn't love a good ghost story?