NOTE: This spoiler was sent in by William who says..."This is a pretty damn fine movie. One of the best horror films in recent years. It stars John Cusack who I personally feel is a highly underrated actor so that is a plus too! It may not have a multitude of thrills and scares like alot of horror movies do, but the film is really more about a creepy and unsettling atmosphere and story. Very memorable and I would highly advise you consider seeing it before reading the spoiler. You've been warned!"
The movie opens with a strong rainstorm on a road. We see a car approaching us. The car stops by a local lodge. A man gets out and runs in soaking wet. This man is Mike Enslin (John Cusack). He walks up to the front desk and starts talking to the elderly couple who run the establishment. They tell him how they’ve been expecting him. It is explained quickly through their conversation that Mike is a author of cheesy horror tour guide books. He travels from place to place, staying at supposedly "haunted" places and then writing summaries of them for his books. As he talks with the couple they try and tell him all about the history of the lodge and how a servant of the house once hanged herself and the female head of the house lost all five of her children to tuberculosis in the bed Mike will be staying in. Mike however, seems totally perfunctory about these stories. He seems to be very apathetic to the history of the place and clearly feels he knows as much as he needs to. He just wants to stay in the room so he can study it once again like he has done so many other times. Later we see Mike in the attic room that is claimed to be haunted but it seems totally mundane and harmless. As time passes Mike walks around and checks the place out. He even breaks out of equipment which he uses to test for the presence of supernatural forces. It is all to no avail though. The room is a regular room and Mike falls asleep.
The next morning Mike wakes up and promptly leaves, He heads to a book signing he is scheduled to attend in a small book store. When he arrives he sees a stand setup but no one is there to greet him and there doesn’t seem to be anyone there lined up to see him. Mike heads to the counter and tells the man there he is here for his book event. The man at first seems totally oblivious to what Mike is talking about. Mike shows him a pamphlet with his picture on it from the store announcing the event. Then the store guy seems to recall. The clerk at the counter announces the event over the loudspeaker of the store to the sparse number of patrons. However, most seem to show little or no interest. Next, we see Mike talking about his various books at the "event", which is attended by 4 or 5 people. He talks of his various derivative books like "The 10 Scariest Mansions" and "The 10 Scariest Lighthouses". One of the attendees asks him if his experiences have lead him to believe in ghosts. Mike says all this stuff is fantasy and that nothing in all of his travels has ever been out of the ordinary and would lead to believe in such things as much as he might like to. He sarcastically tells one of the people if he really wants to see a ghost he should head to the "Haunted Mansion" in Orlando. As he signs the various horror guide books for the handful in attendance. A young girl walks up to him and places a book before him called "The Long Road Home" that he wrote. Mike is astounded that the girl has a copy of this book. It is clear this is not one of his horror books. The girl says her name is Anna and she tells him how she was genuinely touched and moved by the book and how it seemed to authentic. Especially the part about the relationship between the father and son. She asks him if it really happened. Mike says no. However, his expression clearly indicates that is not quite true. He seems flattered by her words, but clearly he doesn’t want to linger on this point. When she asks him if he is ever going to write another book like it, Mike says that period is over now.
After the book event Mike heads back to his home base in Los Angeles. While there he goes for some surfing down by the beach. As Mike is surfing he surfaces from the water and sees a plane flying over his head. The plane has a message banner attached to it. As Mike tries to read it he gets distracted and fails to see the huge wave that is headed for him. The wave sends Mike reeling and he eventually washes up on the beach chocking water with a guy asking him if he is alright. Later Mike goes to the post office to pick up his mail. We then see him at a local diner opening up his mail. Most of them are advertisements for more "supposedly" haunted locations that the owners want Mike to visit and write about. One these is a post card that catches Mike’s eye. It is a postcard from the Dolphin Hotel in New York. On the back of the postcard is a single warning message: "DON’T ENTER 1408!". Mike examines the room number and writes "=13" on the card realizing this is what the sum of the numbers is. "Clever" he comments.
Next Mike phones his New York publishing office and speaks to his publisher Sam Farrell (Tony Shalhoub). He tells him he plans on making the Room 1408 of the Dolphin the final location for his newest touring book. Sam tells him it sounds like a really cool possibility, but asks Mike if he really wants to come back to New York after "all that happened". Mike says he is over "that" now, but its clear that Mike is still deeply affected by something that occurred there. Mike then sets out researching newspaper clippings of the incidents that have transpired with the former occupants of the Dolphin’s infamous room. He finds one article in particular of the first victim of the room. A wealthy businessman who inexplicably jumped from the window of the room while staying there just 1 week after the hotel opened. Mike then calls the hotel itself and tells them he would like to make a reservation. They say fine, but then Mike says he wants room 1408 and they immediately reply that it is unavailable. Mike says he never gave a date. He keeps persisting them in asking when it will be made available, but they keep saying it wont and eventually hang up on him. Mike thinks this is some sort of ploy. He speaks to Farrell again and he tells Mike that physically they cannot prevent Mike from renting the room according to the law. If it is available as a hotel they must rent any available room to him according to official operational New York guidelines. Mike says this is great and tells them to go ahead and make the reservation. Farrell asks Mike if he is sure about this given the room’s incredibly sordid and wicked history. Mike says he isn’t concerned and prepares to head for the Dolphin.
Next we see Mike arriving at the Dolphin Hotel. It isn’t at all the sort of creepy and macabre establishment he expects and that most of the places he visits try to be. It looks like a regular hotel. He enters the lobby and finds it quite busy. He approaches the counter and speaks to the woman there. Mike tells her who he is and that he is here to check into Room 1408. However, as soon as she enters his information on the computer an alert comes up to immediately notify the manager before letting Mike Enslin check in. She tells him to wait a moment. While he is waiting a hotel lobby bellboy walks over and asks Mike is he can take his bag. Mike says no and the worker politely walks on. Shortly thereafter Mike meets the manager of the hotel Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson). Gerald asks Mike if he can please accompany him back to his office and says he needs to discuss the matter of Mike staying in Room 1408. Mike agree to this and the two head off.
Inside Gerald Olin’s office, Gerald tries to tell Mike about why he must not stay in Room 1408. He first offers Mike a bottle of some expensive Bourbon on the house as a friendly gesture, which Mike takes. He then goes through the room’s gruesome and hideous history and how dozens of people have killed themselves inside the room in all sorts of shocking manners. However, as he says all this Mike interrupts him and starts continuing what Gerald was saying about the entire grizzly history of the room. Gerald smiles and says "I see you’ve done your homework well". However, he tells Mike he doesn’t know the whole story. That in addition to all the suicides there have been over 20 "natural" deaths in the room of various circumstances like strokes, heart attacks, and people who appeared to have literally appeared to have panicked to death. Mike seems startled by this news but remains largely stoic about all of it. He tells Gerald that by staying in 1408 he will write a nice piece of it in his next book and increase the hotels occupancy by 50%. Gerald tells him the hotel usually runs at 90% capacity and doesn’t need Mike to promulgate the hotel in one of his books. Gerald tells Mike that the hotel doesn’t seek any kind of attention to 1408. That it only fears the room claiming more victims. He continues that no one has ever stayed in room 1408 and lived and in fact no one has lasted more than an hour. He pulls out of a folder of case files of the room’s myriad of victims and tells Mike that in all 56 people have died in there. Gerald says this isn’t out publicity or anything else, he just doesn’t want to see anyone else die in there. He offers to let Mike see the folder along with staying in Room 1404 which has the same layout if he will just agree not to stay in 1408. Mike says no. Gerald becomes aggravated and throws Mike the folder and says "Here! Just look at it!". Mike examines the folder and peruses the photos of its many unfortunate former occupants as Gerald recounts their stories. In particular one of a man who was found stitching his own body parts together. Mike is clearly perturbed by this, but still insists on going to 1408. When Gerald asks Mike why he is so adamant about staying in Room 1408 despite all the grizzly stories he has told him Mike responds that he has stayed in countless places over the years where slaughters have occurred and he remains unscathed. Gerald finally relents and takes Mike to get the key for 1408. It is a regular old style brass key. Mike asks why and Gerald tells him that no electronic cards will work with the room for some reason. Mike jokes and says "What the phantoms don’t like modern innovations?". Gerald tells him he never said anything about a phantom or a ghost or any such thing. He leans in towards Mike and says "Its an evil fucking room!".
We next see Mike and Gerald on the elevator up to the 14th floor. Mike inquires about how the room is maintained being as haunted as it is. Gerald tells him that once a month he and the hotel staff go up to the room in a special visit. To change the bulbs and sheets among other things. He says they always go in groups and the door remains open at all times. He tells Mike they treat the room like it’s a biological hazard zone. However, he says once they were cleaning up 1408 and a maid wandered into the bathroom and the door of it closed on her. Gerald says the maid was only in there for less than a minute. Mike says "Let me guess she died?". Gerald says "No, she went blind!". He says she poked her own eyes out from sheer madness laughing as they pulled her out. Mike is clearly distressed by all Gerald has told him but when the elevator stops Mike gets off. Gerald says this is as far as he goes and gives Mike one final warning to please not go to 1408. Mike just continues on and the elevator door closes. Mike moves down the hallway of the 14th floor. At first it seems normal with a maid passing by and a few hotel guests entering rooms. However, something seems eerily unsettling. Mike continue to 1408 and opens the door with the key. Initially he finds the experience totally anti-climactic. The room looks totally banal and mundane. Just like any regular modern hotel room. He walks in and shuts the door.
Initially Mike starts to get used to his surroundings. He checks out the room, but there doesn’t seem to be anything unusual. It has all the usual amenities of a typical hotel room including a copy of The Bible. Mike lays down on the bed and proceeds to make sardonically mocking comments into a voice recorder he brought with him about how much a joke it is that people speak with such fear of this room. As time passes by Mike gets up goes to the two windows of 1408 to look out. As Mike looks out the window he suddenly hears some weird noise of movement behind him. As Mike turns around he suddenly sees two chocolates laid on his pillow from out of nowhere. He goes into the bathroom and sees the toilet paper has been replaced Mike laughs and thinks this is some ruse by the hotel staff to try and scare him. He says "Lovely! I have the ghost who does turn down service in here.". Mike thinks whoever put did the changes must still be in the room, but despite looking everywhere he cannot find anyone. A serious of bizarre but trivial events start occurring afterward. Noises, flashes, and other weird happenings seem to be going on. However, nothing that cannot be easily explained. Then the heat in the room starts getting out of control. Mike is convinced this is all the doing of the hotel staff to make him leave the room. Mike calls the hotel operator to complain. He demands they send someone to fix it. The operator agrees. Mike seems surprised with how easily she complies with his demands given the fact he think the hotel staff is trying to antagonize him. After a little bit a mechanic arrives at the door. Mike tries to open the door but it is stuck. After pulling on it with great force it finally opens sending Mike to the floor. He sees the mechanic at the door and tells him to come in and fix the thermostat, but the man refuses saying there is no way he is entering 1408. Mike asks how he is supposed to fix the temperature. The guy tells him he can talk him through it and just has Mike tap on a switch in the box. The cooling comes back on. Mike thanks him, but by the time he turns around to look at him he is already gone and the door closed.
Mike goes back to relaxing in the room, but the strange occurrences from before start to intensify. The clock in the room he notices has even begun a countdown from 60 minutes. Initially this doesn’t bother Mike much but as the events continue he becomes more and more terrified. Eventually Mike cuts his hand after a scare in the mirror. He starts to panic and phones the front desk again. The woman operator he spoke to earlier picks up again. Mike is livid about what has been happening, but the operator is different now. Ruse and almost mocking. Telling Mike to calm down and not speak to her in such a harsh tone of voice. She tells Mike she will put the manage on, but Mike waits and the manager never comes.
Mike hangs up the phone and grabs his stuff and then makes a run for the door. However, the door is now locked and no matter how many times Mike pulls and bangs on it, it will not open. Mike goes back over to the bed and sees a specter of an old man (who looks like the same man who was the first one to commit suicide in the room) emerge from the wall the ghostly specter goes over towards the window and jumps out. Then another female ghostly specter appears and jumps out of the other window. Mike goes over to the window and looks out. Across the street he can see a man sitting in a building through a window on the other side of the street. Mike tries to signal and scream to the man. The man across the street gets up and takes a look at Mike. Mike keeps signaling to him and sees the man across the street signaling back, but eventually he realizes this person across the street is just mimicking his own actions. Mike cannot understand what is going on. He takes the lamp he has been holding in his hand trying to signal the other man and holds it up to his face. When he does so the man across the street does the same and Mike sees the man across the street is actually him. He then sees a figure with a knife approaching the mirror version of him across the street from behind. Mike turns around and is attacked by the same hideous figure who eventually vanishes. Mike picks up the lamp and tries to throw it out the window towards the ground to try and get the attention of the people and cars he can see passing below, but as he drops it the lamp just vanishes. Mike tries to go back towards the door, but it still wont open. He now looks over at the lampshade of the lamp he just dropped out the window. It still has light coming out of it despite there being no lamp.
Mike is now convinced he must be hallucinating. He looks over at the bottle of Bourbon that Gerald gave him and one of the chocolates left on his bed that he ate. He realizes these could’ve been used to drug him. Suddenly the TV in his room turns on. A old scene from his life come on the TV. He sees himself playing with his wife Lily Enslin (Mary McCormack) and their daughter Katie (Jasmine Jessica Anthony). As Mike watches this old memory he comes visibly morose and distraught. He puts his hand up to the TV, but the scene vanishes. Mike hears more of the commotion from the next room over he had heard earlier. He hears a baby crying, he knocks on the wall and asks the woman he assumes must be with the baby to help him, but no one responds. Instead the baby’s crying gets progressively louder and louder, until it becomes absolutely deafening. Mike falls to the floor and throws a chair at the wall and the noise finally dissipates. Mike now realizes he must escape.
He goes back over to the window. All the while Mike has been saying comments into a voice recorder he brought with him to document his stay in 1408. He makes one comment into the voice recorder as he prepares to go out the window that if something were to happen to him he would want anyone who found the recorder to know it was because he slipped and fell and it was an accident. It was not that the room drove him to kill himself. Mike goes out of the window and gets on the ledge. He figures he can make his way across to the window of the next room over. However, as Mike keeps going further and further away he wonders how much further it must be. Mike then looks down the ledge but he cannot see any other windows. It is as if the room somehow can morph the reality not only inside, but outside it as well. Mike realizes he cannot go further and makes his way back to the window he came from, but as he tries to go back in the ghost of the woman who jumped before startles him. She then jumps again and as Mike watches her fall she vanishes before hitting the ground.
When Mike finally gets back inside he continues having delusional scares. He also sees another scene from his past. This time, part of the room next to him turns into a hospital room and we see Mike consoling his wife Lilly about the current status of their daughter’s health. He tells her everything will be alright. Sitting next to them in a hospital bed is Katie who can hear what they are saying and is clearly concerned. Next the walls start to bleed. Mike tries to calm himself by saying that this must all be a nightmare, but he wonders why he cannot wake up. He tries to shock himself out of his dream by looking out of the window, as he does the room’s elevation seems to rise dramatically and Mike falls back in sheer fright. Eventually this all culminates in the room becoming like a whirlwind becoming overwhelming with paranormal activity. When Mike finally recovers from this disorienting event he finds the room around has physically changed appearance. The windows are now covered over in a white preventing him from looking out. The entire room is now bathed in a powerful and ominous white light. The room’s wallpaper has changed to one of white flowers and everything else seems to have been modified in a peculiar way. The temperature has also dropped dramatically.
Mike then sees that another one of the sections of the room has become another scene from his past. He sees an old man sitting in a chair in what looks like a mental home. This time Mike walks up to the man and talks to him. The man complains about why he is here. Mike realizes this man is his father. His father smiles and tells Mike that soon Mike will be driven insane like him. Mike now realizes he must try and contact someone on the outside. Previously he had tried his cell phone, but he could not get a signal. Now he tries the wireless connection on his laptop. By some miracle he is able to get through. He manages to get a video signal through to his wife Lilly. Lilly is astounded to see Mike and wants to know why after all this time he has finally contacted her. Mike tells her he cannot explain. What is going on, but she must help him. He begs her to send the police to where he is. He tells her he is in New York at the Dolphin Hotel. Lilly is surprised he is back in New York which is also where she is. She keeps asking Mike why he hasn’t been in communication in so long but Mike just tells her to please send the police to where he is. She seems baffled as to why, but Mike begs her to just do it. Suddenly the sprinkler system cuts on and short circuits Mike’s laptop breaking their conversation. Mike is furious and doesn’t even know if his wife got the message. Mike looks back over at the clock to see it is still ticking down Mike realizes again he must try to escape.
He goes over to the room’s door. He sees a floor plan of the 14th floor on it. Mike had previously seen a air duct above the room. He hopes he can crawl through the ducts to get out. Mike manages to climb up and get into the ducts. As he begins moving through the air ducts he can see more scenes from his life as he passes the air ducts of the rooms below, including one of his wife tending to his daughter as a baby. Mike keeps trying to go on, but suddenly he finds himself pursued by a grotesque looking old man. The old man starts crawling after Mike and keeps grabbing on to him. Finally Mike kicks the old man’s face shattering it. Mike finally falls back down the air duct to Room 1408. He finds the temperature has dropped yet again and the room is now completely covered in snow. Mike walks back over to the floor plan and sees it has now changed. It only shows 1408 and nothing but blackness around it. Mike looks through the keyhole and sees just a wall.
Mike tries to burn the various articles in the room to try and keep warm. As he does he witnesses more scenes from his past. He sees a scene of his sick daughter back in the hospital with his wife. They are trying to tell Katie that everything will be alright and that she doesn’t have to worry about dying. Mike tries his best to keep her spirits up, but it is obvious he has real doubts and fears. Finally we see Mike and Lilly in their home bereaved and commiserating over their daughter’s death. Mike is angry at his wife for his feeling that she "Filled Katie’s head with fantasies of a heaven, instead of willing her to fight!". He clearly has lost all his faith and is consumed with despair. Mike then sees a vision in the wall. It is Gerald Olin back in his office.. Gerald begins talking to Mike. Mike is furious at him but Gerald says he gave Mike every chance to pass on staying in 1408. He tells Mike that he should not have been so skeptical and doubtful of paranormal activity and ghosts in his books and appearances all those years. He says there is a reason why people believe in this sort of thing. For the glimmer of hope that there really is something beyond death. Mike tries to reach for Gerald to hit hin, but he just finds himself punching a wall.
Mike is finally ready to give up when he hears his wife on his laptop again contacting him. He runs over to it and tells her if she sent the police to 1408. His wife says the police are in 1408 and it is empty. Mike now realizes the full power of 1408. The room has now transported him into some kind of separate dimension from the reality he has in. Mike tries to tell his wife he is done for and that he is going to die. His wife says Mike is crazy and that she is going to come down there to him. Mike then pleads with her not to do this, but suddenly he realizes she is not hearing him. Then Mike sees a new window on his laptop open up. This time the video image is of him. The new image of Mike begins talking to his wife telling her to come down to 1408 and please join him. Mike begins screaming to the video of his wife on the laptop but to no avail. She can only hear the words of the impostor on the laptop. After she logs off the false Mike looks directly at the real Mike and smiles and then winks. Mike now realizes its not just his life in peril. He screams in utter rage. The room’s paranormal activity reaches its pinnacle. The entire room starts "coming alive" even the pictures on the wall. One of the pictures, a scene of a ship in a violent storm begins pouring water into the room. Soon the entire room is gone and Mike is trapped underwater. Above him though he sees a light being emitted from the surface. As Mike swims towards it he comes up and realizes he is no longer in 1408. He is back on the beach from the beginning of the film. He looks up and sees the plane from earlier flying overhead and this time he can read the message on it it says to get great life insurance call XXX-1408. Mike eventually finds himself back on the beach from before where he washed up.
Mike then comes to in a hospital in LA. He sees his wife Lilly sitting next to him. He asks her if he is in NY, but she tells him he is in LA and that he never went to NY. He explains to his wife that had a vivid dream of going to NY and staying in Room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel. His wife says she has never heard of it. We then see the two of them in a restaurant and his wife is telling Mike how the dream must’ve been a metaphor he concocted based on the events of his life. Mike seems composed, but he suddenly sees a waitress who looks exactly like the suicidal ghost from 1408. Mike becomes flustered, but then he looks back over and sees it is not that woman. Mike’s wife then suggest he write about the experience. We then see Mike researching the same stories from before of the victims of 1408 but this time they are different and the victims are unrelated and didn't die in 1408. We then see Mike writing about the experience of 1408 on his computer and how it was a hellish dream he built in his mind. Finally Mike brings his completed manuscript of the 1408 story to the post office to mail it to the NY office, but as he gets to the counter he suddenly notices the man at the counter is not the usual guy, It is the bellboy he met earlier at the Dolphin, Mike turns around and sees some guys working on the wall behind him, but they too are workers from the Dolphin hotel. Suddenly they all begin tearing down the walls of the post office and behind them emerges Room 1408. Mike now realizes the nightmare is going to begin again anew.
Mike is back in 1408, but he cannot believe it. He keeps telling himself "I WAS OUT!". Mike looks back at the clock. It is still ticking down. Eventually Mike’s daughter appears before him. Mike doesn’t believe this is the real Katie. She asks him "Don’t you love me anymore?" Mike falls to his knees and grabs Katie in his arms. He tells Katie he loves her and they will be together forever. However, suddenly Mike feels Katie go limp. He looks at Katie only to find her slumped dead in his arms. Mike begins to weep uncontrollably and falls to the floor. "You can’t take her from me twice" he explains. The body of his daughter crumbles before him into dust. The room begins to shake and flash tremendously. Mike watches the last few moments of the hour pass on the clock.
When it is over Mike arises back in Room 1408. The clock has reset and has begun ticking back down from 60 minutes. We see Mike sitting at a chair answering a ringing phone. He picks it up and asks "Why don’t you just kill me?". We then hear the same annoying and rude woman hotel operator from before "because all our guests enjoy free will sir!". She tells him "You can either repeat this hour over and over forever or you can take advantage of our express checkout!". Mike then looks over to see a noose dangling above the bed. The operator then says "Your wife will be here soon and I will be sure to send her right up. Just remember there is no escape!". Mike tells the operator that the room will not have her. He then says that if he is going down then he is going to be sure that Room 1408 joins him. Mike picks up the bottle of Bourbon from before which is now full again and puts a string into it. He lights the string turning it into a Molotov Cocktail and then throws it at the wall. The room begins to erupt in flames. Some ways away we see Mike’s wife Lilly in a cab near The Dolphin. She asks what is going on at the hotel as something is clearly awry. She jumps out of the cab and runs to the hotel and sees the fire. Guests are storming out of the hotel and into the streets. Lilly runs up to the fireman and begs them to help her husband. Meanwhile we see Mike back in 1408 smiling and laughing knowing he has beat the room even if this means his death. He crawls under a table as the room is engulfed in flames around him. Mike thinks this is it, but then the fireman break through the door and pull him out. Outside the room in the hallway Mike tells them not to go in there because its cursed. They just ignore him figuring he is delirious from the trauma. As the fireman drag him out we see Gerald back in his office saying "Well done Mr. Enslin.".
Later Mike awakens again in a hospital to find Lilly again at his side. Mike explains to her what happened and how he knows that all he has written about all these years and dismissed is actually real. His wife seems skeptical and believes Mike may be delusional from the experience of all that happened. Eventually we see Mike and Lilly back together in their home. Mike is going through his old things in boxes. Lilly finds Mike’s stuff he brought back with him from the Dolphin Hotel. Lilly says they should just throw it out since it stinks and it brings back bad memories". Mike grabs them and says no telling her that "bad memories are not to be forgotten, they are meant to be lived with". Lilly now realizes Mike is ready to move beyond his daughter’s death, though she is still doubtful of the 1408 haunting. In the things, Mike finds the recorder he had with him in 1408 that he occasionally used to comment on the events in the room. Mike realizes he had the recorder on longer than he thought. He fast forwards to the end of the tape. Mike hears the part where is talking to his daughter as Lilly listens too. Suddenly they both hear Katie on the tape. Mike and Lilly are both bewildered as they realize 1408 is very real.
John Cusack goes into room 1408 where people never last more than 1 hour before killing themselves. Weird noises occur, he sees his dead daughter, etc.. There are a bunch of false endings, where you think he is out of the room, one where he thinks its a dream, but at the end... he finally gets out of the room by lighting it on fire with a Molotov cocktail and attempting to burn the hotel down. Firemen rescue him and he goes home with his ex wife.
At the very very end, he plays his microcassette recording, and hears his dead daughters voice from the room. His wife hears it too, so we know he isn't hallucinating again.