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Secret Window Review

By Shawn McKenzie 03/25/2004

I wasnít sure I was in the mood to see another thriller after the awful Twisted, but I took solace in the fact that Secret Window was based off a Stephen King novella and it starred one of my favorite actors, Johnny Depp.  Fortunately, it turned out to be not too bad.


Mort Rainey (Depp) is a writer living in a cabin outside of a town called Tashmore Lake.  He moved there after he caught his wife, Amy (Maria Bello), cheating on him with another man named Ted Milner (Timothy Hutton) at Irvís Lakeside Motel.  Six months later, he is a mess.  He has writerís block because he canít get his approaching divorce out of his mind.  He wastes away his days and nights drinking, eating junk food, and sleeping all the time in his bathrobe on the couch.  One day, a stranger from Mississippi named John Shooter (John Turturro) shows up at his cabin accusing Mort of stealing one of his stories.  He claims that Mortís short story, Secret Window, is a direct rip-off of his story, Sowing Season.  Mort says he didnít rip it off, and his proof is that he wrote it in 1994 and had it published in Ellery Queen Magazine in 1995, which is two years before the year that Shooter claimed that he wrote his story.  Shooter doesnít believe that the magazine publication exists, so he gives Mort three days to show him a copy, or fulfill his request to change the ending of the story and get it republished.  The problem is that it is still in his old house in Riverdale that he shared with Amy.  While still considering talking to his soon-to-be ex-wife (he hasnít signed the divorce papers yet), Shooter starts doing things to prove how serious he is about his request.  He kills Mortís dog Chico with a screwdriver and burns down his old house.  Since Shooter has gotten dangerous, Mort tries to get help from local Sheriff Dave Newsome (Len Cariou), but he isnít much help.  Mort instead hires New York detective Ken Karsch (Charles S. Dutton) to protect him, with his rate being $500 a day.  Mort had hired him before with a past stalker, and needs his help again.  Despite Kenís involvement, Shooter keeps showing up, making Mort more and more paranoid.  If he would just get off his butt and get the story, he could get Shooter out of his life, but laziness or ego keeps stopping him.


One thing that I have noticed is that most people were not aware that this was a Stephen King movie.  The reason why is that he traded the rights to this film in order to get the rights to the TV show ďKingdom HospitalĒ (based off a mini-series called ďThe KingdomĒ created by Danish director Lars von Trier.)  That is why you donít see a mention of him in the advertisements, and even his credit onscreen flashes by quickly.  The story was called Secret Window, Secret Garden, and it was in the 1990 collection of short stories called Four Past Midnight (which also contained The Langoliers, the inspiration for a 1995 ABC mini-series.)  I even heard a person in the theater that I was seeing the movie gasp at Kingís credit.


It feels like a King work, though slightly altered for the better by its director/screenwriter David Koepp.  King stuff is in there, like Shooterís Amish-type look.  Koepp brings to the plate a story that is a little easier to follow without immediately giving away the ending.  I hadnít read the story, so I honestly didnít see the ending coming (though I should have, since it ends the way a King story would have.)


Depp brings his great mix of intensity and quirkiness to the plate, and Turturro has never been creepier.  Everyone else in the movie is okay, though this wasnít exactly a showcase for their acting.  I would have loved more of Dutton in the movie.

Secret Window certainly made up for Twisted in the thriller department.  Iím not sure how King fans will take it, but movie fans will like it, especially if they like Depp.

Thanks to Century Theatres for letting me see this film.  Visit them at www.centurytheatres.com to find the location near you.

Get the Stephen King collection of stories containing the story "Secret Window, Secret Garden":

Buy this book at

Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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