[box cover]

Secret Window

Johnny Depp stars in Secret Window (2004) as Mort Rainey, a writer holed away in a secluded cabin, pathetically mourning the sordid unraveling of his marriage. However, Rainey is jolted out of his fetal ball of dejection and self-loathing when an intense, implausible hick, John Shooter (John Turturro), drops by to announce that Rainey plagiarized his 20-year-old short story, and he threatens dire consequences unless Rainey obliges to do a rewrite and restore Shooter's original ending. Rainey, already emotionally unstable, is driven from curiosity to panic — to eventually questioning his own sanity — as the elusive Shooter makes gestures of increasing intensity to underline his determination. Secret Window adds one more twig to the impenetrable thicket of movies based on Stephen King source material over the past three decades (by IMDb's account, there have been 80 King-related productions since Carrie in 1976). Although King's source novella "Secret Window, Secret Garden" was published in 1990 (in the collection Four Past Midnight), this film adaptation suffers from similarities to preceding King film projects Misery (1990) and The Dark Half (1993). While any writer as prolific as King is bound to repeat himself, suspense depends to a great extent on the unexpected, and the shelf-life on plot twists is roughly equivalent to that of unpasteurized milk. Even though A-List screenwriter David Koepp (Mission: Impossible, Panic Room, Spider Man, etc., etc.) handles the material well both in his script and as director (The Trigger Effect), he fails to wipe away the musty mildew of familiarity. With 13 years between shelf and screen, King's possibly clever (but more likely not) premise has been done before, and it isn't difficult to figure out Secret Window's secret long before Koepp plays out the plot's twists and turns. That said, Depp is good, putting in yet another interesting comic performance in middling material, and Turturro's fixated hayseed is delightfully hammy. Secret Window's best asset is Koepp's dark and comic style of expression. For the first hour, the makes for mildly fun suspense pulp, but this successful approach jars with the violent climax, the comparably straight depiction of which severely dampens the spirit (sadists may disagree). Also with Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton (who, coincidentally, starred in The Dark Half), Charles S. Dutton, and Len Cariou. Columbia TriStar's DVD release looks good with an anamorphic transfer (2.40:1), and Philip Glass fans can enjoy the composer's unusually conventional score in Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Koepp provides his take on the movie in a decent commentary track. This disc also includes four deleted scenes with optional commentary from Koepp; three featurettes ("From Book to Film," "A Look Through It," and "Secrets Revealed"), animated storyboards, and a trailer. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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