Secret Window (2004) Review

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Twisted King

Secret Window (2004): 5 out of 10: is a psychological thriller film directed by David Koepp, released in 2004. It is based on the novella “Secret Window, Secret Garden” by Stephen King. The film stars Johnny Depp in the lead role, alongside Maria Bello, John Turturro, and Timothy Hutton. Set in rural upstate New York, the film explores themes of obsession, identity, and the blurred lines between reality and fiction.

The story revolves around Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp), a successful mystery writer who is dealing with a recent divorce and a severe case of writer’s block. He retreats to his secluded lakeside cabin to work on his next novel, but his solitude is interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious stranger named John Shooter (John Turturro).

Shooter accuses Rainey of plagiarism, claiming that his latest story is a blatant copy of Shooter’s own work. Despite Rainey’s denial, Shooter becomes increasingly aggressive, threatening Rainey’s life and those around him. As Rainey delves deeper into the accusations, he uncovers unsettling truths about Shooter and himself, leading to a shocking revelation.

I will not critique Johnny Depp. He is fine in this movie. And I certainly do not want the great wrath of woman, of various ages, down upon my head. Johnny Depp is a thespian God. He can do no wrong. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory never existed… (God, he was awful in that.) Depp’s performance is the most entertaining thing is Secret Window. In fact, with the exception of a wonderfully drawn Timothy Hutton in a supporting role, it is the only entertaining thing in the movie. The small cast is rounded out by Maria Bello (Who that plays Depp’s, cuckolding, bitchy, soon to be ex-wife) and the usually dependable John Turturro who is a disaster.

This is a Stephen King adaption about a writer going over the edge. (If you saw The Dark Half which also starred Timothy Hutton, this will definitely feel like familiar ground). The plot is a familiar train wreck. Depp is a writer going through a nasty divorce and suffering from writer’s block. There is a knock at the door and Turturro is at the door. With a southern drawl and an Amish tailor, Turturro claims that Depp stole his story and has to make it right.

Ah plagiarism, that old plot twist standby which many a great horror novel is based on. (Or maybe not). Turtorro’s character quickly becomes a nasty bit of work as he kills Depp’s beloved dog with a screwdriver. (This isn’t really a plot spoiler. This is a Steven King adaptation. There are no kids in it to kill and the beloved dog might as well have been dressed in a metaphorical red shirt from the first scene.) This is where the movie officially lost me. Turturro is about as threatening as a Joe Pesci romantic comedy and if his character (named Shooter) killed one of my family members the next time he entered my property, he would be renamed shot.

But the movie cannot let Depp kill Shooter… cause of a super secret plot twist so lame and so obvious that it’s no wonder plagiarism was at the forefront of the writer’s mind. To add insult to injury, the movie actually feels it needs to drop hints at this shocking plot twist, apparently under the assumption a portion of the audience sniffs glue for a living and didn’t figure it out within 10 minutes of the opening credits.

The only genuine surprise in the entire film is the strange Children of the Corn references (Turtorro’s character seems to be clearly channeling Malachi and the last scene is torn right from that mid-eighties classic.) Perhaps the film is meant to be homage to the fine Children of the Corn series… No greater faint praise could I imagine damning with.

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