Tag Archives: John Cusack

Saturday is Horror Day #44 – 1408, Honeymoon

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes



Mike Enslin (John Cusack) is a writer who makes a living visiting and visiting/staying at haunted locations and writing about them, usually debunking them in the process. Once upon a time, he had greater literary ambitions, but this is what currently pays the bills. To finish his latest book, he travels, albeit reluctantly, to New York City to the Dolphin Hotel, where Room 1408 is said to be a place of great evil. Mike hasn’t been back to NYC since… well, just since. But one night can’t hurt, right?



When he calls to make the reservation, he is outright refused. But after threatening legal action, and finding a law that actually requires them to rent him the room if it’s unoccupied, he shows up, only to be greeted by the manager, Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson). Olin tries to dissuade Mike, attempts to bribe him, but nothing works. Enslin insists on the room and nothing else. So that’s what he gets.


Olin gives him a dossier on the deaths that have occurred in that room, and quite a collection that is, including a number of suicides and many unknown deaths. Mike is undeterred and pries into every nook and cranny. But then things begin to happen, and he has to wonder if there isn’t some truth in the stories. The question is will he be able to make it out of this hotel alive?

1408 is based on a short story by the master of horror, Stephen King. If I read the story, it’s been too 

long ago to remember, so I can’t exactly compare the film to the story. However, thinking about this movie reminds me of something I saw in the Witcher TV series. Geralt makes a passing detrimental comment regarding Jaskier’s vocal abilities, and Jaskier insists that Geralt tell him how he really feels. Geralt says it’s like ordering a pie and finding no filling. That’s the feeling I get with 1408. Cusack and Jackson look good, and the special effects are slick and sufficiently spooky, but when you get insist, there is not substance.


There are actually a couple of endings. I only watched one. From what I read, the other is even more depressing. Honestly, there was never an explanation given for anything that happened, as if you’re meant to take it at face value and not question anything. But in my mind that is leaving out the best part of the story – the resolution. Were we meant to come away with the idea that Mike Enslin has evolved as a person since his arrival in this haunted room? That bearing witness to the suffering of others, and the knowledge of his own, has made him less smarmy and more understanding?

Do we sympathize with him because of the tragedy in his own life? And disregard the fact that nothing he goes through is explainable? Or is this just an excuse to let the special effects crew have a field day? I didn’t find the movie particularly scary, more weird. I’m sure the story is much better. I would suggest reading that instead. I’ll give this film a somewhat shaky 3.5 Stars.


Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie) are a young couple in love and on their honeymoon. They go to a remote cabin owned by Bea’s family. It’s the off season and no one else will be around. Ain’t love grand? While walking the area, they come across a restaurant. They enter the restaurant to see if it’s open, and a surly young man tells them to leave before recognizing Bea as an old friend of his. His wife appears and tries to warn them to leave but her warning is cut short by her husband in a rather forceful manner, leaving Paul more than a little confused.

Paul wakes in the middle of the night only to find Bea missing. Frantic, he searches the woods and finds her standing there. She startles at his touch, but then laughs it off as sleepwalking. Paul isn’t so sure, however. Suddenly he begins to mistrust her. It seems like she is lying about something… or everything. Wakened by a strange light in the middle of the night, he suspects Bea knows more than she is letting on. But he can’t put his finger on what that is.


Bea becomes more and more secretive… and Paul begins to wonder who she really is. At first, he thinks it’s her old friend Ben, but when he tries to confront him, Ben isn’t there and his wife Annie is also acting strangely. Can the two women’s actions be connected?


This was an interesting mix of horror and sci-fi. The best things about the film are the performances of the lead actors. I liked Harry Treadaway in Mr. Mercedes and Penny Dreadful. Rose Leslie is best known for playing Jon Snow’s Wildling girlfriend Ygritte in Game of Thrones. The atmosphere is chilling and suspenseful as two people who love each other dearly find themselves being torn apart by forces they can’t comprehend. The ending is unexpected and eerie. Definitely worth watching, I give this film 4 Stars.

Saturday is Horror Day #39 – The Raven (2012), Horror Express

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

The Raven

Baltimore is being plagued by a series of strange murders which have left the police baffled. The latest involves a mother and daughter found dead in a locked room with no exit. Detective Fields (Luke Evans) thinks the scenario sounds author. Author Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) has a reputation more for being an alcoholic than a writer, and he’s worn out his welcome in more than a few places. His girlfriend, Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve) has a disgruntled father on the police force (Brendan Gleeson), who has no use for the writer and threatens him if he should come near his daughter again.

Recognizing that the murders have been inspired by the works of Poe, Fields approaches him and enlists Poe’s reluctant aid in solving the murders. The serial killer is obviously enamored of Poe’s fiction, and has imitated such stories as Murders in the Rue Morgue. Emily’s father is giving a ball, to which Poe has pointedly not been invited, although they have secretly planned to announce their engagement that night. Fields warns the captain to cancel the ball, but to no avail. Realizing that this is just like The Masque of the Red Death, Poe sneaks inside to await the killer. But when the man dressed as Death rides into the company, it turns out he is just a diversion for the real crime – the kidnapping of Emily. Things just got real.


Hamilton reluctantly accepts Poe’s help as they race against time to rescue Emily. But the killer is adept at spreading false clues. Poe is afraid if they don’t find her, she will die. He would rather give up  his life in exchange for hers. Will that become necessary.

This is a pretty good cast, especially John Cusack as the alcoholic writer. At the beginning of the film,

the question is posed regarding the last few days of Poe’s life, before he is found on a park bench. I don’t believe this movie answers that question, at least not in my mind. As I said, good cast. I liked Luke Evans in The Alienist, and the young policeman, John Cantrell, is played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen, whom I liked in The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor. The newspaper editor is played by Kevin McNally, who played in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie as Gibbs. The story is an interesting one. Direction seemed good. And yet I thought it didn’t quite hit the mark for me. The only real passion seen is that of Poe himself, and Detective Fields.  No build-up of tension, no real excitement. The revelation of the killer is almost an anti-climax. I’m not sure if that’s a matter of editing or not, maybe better pacing? Or is it the writing itself? It was fun to see how much of Poe’s work would be referenced. I think, on the whole, the story needed to be edgier. As I listened to the music in the ending credits, I couldn’t help but think the movie could have matched that in edginess and would have had a better feel.  More depth. It was, as I said interesting, but it could have been more. I’ll give it 3.5 Stars.

Horror Express

While on an expedition in China, British anthropologist Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee) discovers an interesting specimen, a half human creature that may be millions of years old. While waiting to transport it aboard the Trans-Siberian Express, he runs into rival anthropologist Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing). They are obviously not the best of friends, and Saxton works to conceal his find from Wells. At the station, two men turn up dead, their eyes turned white. But no one has a clue as to what has happened.

Room on the train is scarce, as Saxton and Wells discover when they end up as roommates. Also on the train are Countess Irina Petrovska (Silvia Tortosa), her husband Maryan (George Rigaud) and a monk, Father Pujardov (Albert de Mendoza) who besides being rather religious seems very devoted to the Countess and resembles the mad monk Grigori Rasputin. Wells is traveling with his assistant, Miss Jones (Alice Reinhart), as well as a Russian beauty (Helga Liné). The Count and Countess are not what they appear to be, and seem intent on seducing Dr. Wells. Wells is more interested in what Saxton has brought with them, and bribes the baggage man to take a peek when no one is around. That does not turn out well for him.


The dead all have the same strange white eyes. The two professors perform an autopsy on the baggage 

 man and discover that his brain is smooth, unlike a normal brain, which has a wrinkled surface. Also, the creature Saxton has discovered and brought onto the train has disappeared! Is there a link between the murders and this thing, whatever it might be?

This film was made in 1972 and reminded me of a Spanish Hammer film. Yes, there are some things about it that are a bit hokey, such as the special effects. But there are also some things I’ve never seen in a horror film, such as the prehistoric vampire who doesn’t drink blood but sucks people’s thoughts via his glowing red eyes. 


Also, there is Cushing and Lee. They are worth watching at any time, two great horror actors that I love! Although rivals, they are forced to work together to solve these murders. Then you have an unexpected appearance by Telly Savalas as a Russian cossack policeman who is more than a little flambuoyant.  Prehistoric vampire, Trans-Siberian railroad, zombies, and Telly Savalas, along with Cushing and Lee – a recipe for fun. I enjoyed this film and will give it a solid 3.5 Stars.