1408 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I only viewed the Director’s Extended Cut for this article. 1408 offered an inconsistent visual experience.
Most of the concerns related to sharpness. Much of the film was able to provide adequate to good delineation, but more than a few bouts of softness interfered. These became a moderate distraction. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, but I noticed some light edge haloes. Source flaws remained absent.
In terms of colors, 1408 went with a very restricted palette. Much of the flick threw out dull brown/green hues that looked appropriately bland. A few California shots offered more vivid colors, but the majority of the flick stayed with a limited set of hues. Blacks were acceptably dark but somewhat flat, while shadows seemed decent. They came across as a little dense but not badly so. Mostly the inconsistent sharpness left this transfer as a “C+” image.
On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of 1408 provided a strong experience. With all the horror moments, we got a great sense of creepy atmosphere. Plenty of environmental bits popped up from around the spectrum, and the smattering of louder sequences like thunder or crashing waves packed a powerful punch. The material melded together in a smooth, encompassing manner that made it effective.
Audio quality also succeeded. Speech seemed natural and concise, without edginess or other flaws. The score was clear and dynamic, and effects fell into the same realm. Those elements appeared bright and full, as they exhibited solid low-end response when necessary. Overall, the soundtrack impressed.
A variety of extras spread across both discs. On DVD One, we get a featurette called John Cusack on 1408. This “webisode” lasts two minutes, 31 seconds and features Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson as they talk about the movie. It’s a promotional piece and nothing more, so you can skip it and not miss anything.
Another “webisode” called Inside Room 1408 goes for two minutes, seven seconds. It includes Cusack, Jackson, special effects supervisor Paul Corbould, workshop supervisor Jason McCameron, and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. This webisode also serves to promote the film. It tosses out a few seconds of actual info about the sets, but there’s not enough here to make it worth your while.
DVD One starts with some ads. We find promos for Planet Terror, Halloween, Death Proof and Black Sheep. The disc also features the trailer for 1408.
Over on DVD Two, we locate an audio commentary from director Mikael Hafstrom and writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karazewski. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss character, story and adaptation issues, changes made for the extended cut, sets and locations, cast and performances, music and cinematography,
Via this commentary, we get a reasonably good look at 1408. A smidgen too much praise crops up along the way, but the participants throw out enough useful material to compensate. I’d like a little more introspection about some story issues, but I think we get a lot of solid info anyway.
Five Deleted Scenes last a total of 11 minutes, 21 seconds. We find “Contacting Lily” (4:34), “Wrought with Guilt” (1:08), “’I Warned You About 1408’” (1:58), “Tilting Room and Lily Pleads at Door” (2:40) and “Arriving at the Dolphin (Director’s Cameo” (1:01). “Contacting” is just a minor extension/alteration to an existing scene, and I can’t say it really changes it or improves it in a significant way. “Guilt” also offers a minor alteration to a scene in the movie, though it’s a little more effective as it causes a little more despair in Mike. “1408” simply adds Jackson’s character to a scene already in the movie; it doesn’t change things otherwise.
“Tilting” is the most substantial new scene, and really the only one that’s not just an extension. It brings us a scare sequence in which the room tilts to keep Mike from the door. It’s more goofy than it is frightening, though. Finally, “Arriving” just provides a very quick shot of Mike on the plane to NYC – with Hafstrom seated next to him. It’s completely extraneous.
We can watch these segments with or without commentary from Hafstrom, Alexander and Karaszewski. They tell us a little about the scenes and get into editing and restructuring issues. We learn why the pieces were cut and/or moved in their placement. They give us a good examination of the appropriate issues.
Finally, The Secrets of 1408 breaks into four featurettes. These include “The Characters” (7:59), “The Director” (5:13), “The Physical Effects” (4:17) and “The Production Design” (5:23). Across these, we hear from Hafstrom, Cusack, Jackson, di Bonaventura, Corbould, McCameron, production designer Andrew Laws, and actor Mary McCormack. They examine cast and characters, Hafstrom’s work on the film, various effects, and the depiction of the room.
Some decent notes emerge from “Secrets”, but the featurettes never become particularly involving. The first two seem particularly blah, though matters improve a little as we look at the technical side of things. “Effects” and “Design” manage to produce some reasonably interesting insights into those elements. Still, the featurettes are never particularly revealing or memorable.
1408 tries to stretch a short story into a feature film with limited success. The movie starts reasonably well but gets less and less interesting as it progresses. This means it ends up as a bore. The DVD offers average picture quality but provides very good audio and a few extras. It’s a decent DVD but the flick is forgettable.