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Published: Thursday, 10/18/2007

Alternative ending for '1408' is the one the film deserved

BY ALLAN WALTON
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

One of the cooler aspects of DVD extras is the chance to rethink a director's decisions. Generally (very generally) speaking, their editing instincts are reconfirmed.

Not so with 1408, the terrific summer film adaptation of a Stephen King tale that not only performed at the box office but earned its fair share of critical acclaim, thanks in large part to the acting chops of John Cusack.

This story of a haunted room at New York's Dolphin Hotel - no one who sleeps there comes out alive - plays against the backdrop of author Mike Enslin's (Cusack) caustic, emotionally tormented personality, the result of his daughter's death and subsequent separation from his wife.

In the theatrical release, Swedish director Mikael Hafstrom chooses the "safe" ending the one designed to grant the audience as much peace as the plot will allow. It worked reasonably well.

But the alternate ending on the director's cut two-disc special edition of 1408 (Genius; $32.95) works better. For starters, it's less tidy and a whole lot more thought-provoking. For another, it includes a real jolt in what was otherwise a surprisingly tame horror picture (mostly to good effect).

That's as much as I'll reveal here. The other extras are interesting, including a commentary track, interviews with the cast, deleted scenes, and more.

As Enslin points out in the film, the numbers in 1408 add up to 13. If you buy this for what in itself is a fine film only to discover a set of extras to, um, die for, you might just consider it your lucky number.

I enjoyed 28 Days Later, a stylish chiller that introduced us to the "rage virus" and those fast-moving zombies who killed Brits indiscriminately.

In 28 Weeks Later, also stylish, the virus is under control, thanks to the occupying American military, and Londoners are slowly repopulating the city. But as you would expect, something soon goes awry, and a modern-day London blitzkrieg unfolds in terrifying fashion.

The sequel plays out in part as metaphor for faceless terrorism and is as entertaining as blood and gore can be. Robert Carlyle is particularly effective as a man locked in emotional tumult - coping with guilt over the loss of his wife while caught up in the joy of a reunification with his children.

So, let's make this quick: If you haven't seen the movie, get the DVD.

If you HAVE seen the movie but have high expectations for the DVD extras, stash your cash. You get a measly two deleted scenes (with commentary, at least), an overall commentary track that is less than insightful, a mostly lame "making of" feature (although we do learn that the filmmakers considered a subplot based on rescuing the prime minister and the queen), and a few other odds and ends.

Nothing, really, to make you feel good about your gift to 20th Century Fox ($29.99).

More likely, you'll find yourself staring wistfully at the new Springsteen CD, pockets empty, muttering something about "29 Bucks Later."

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Allan Walton is the assistant managing editor for multimedia at the Post-Gazette.

Contact him at:

awalton@post-gazette.com



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