RELEASED: 2004, Cert.12
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 96 mins
DIRECTOR/SCREENPLAY WRITER: David Koepp
PRODUCERS: Gavid Polone & Ezra Swerdlow
MUSIC: Philip Glass
Johnny Depp as Mort Rainey
John Turturro as John Shooter
Charles S Dutton as Private Investigator Ken Karsch
Maria Bello as Amy
Timothy Hutton as Ted Milner
Len Cariou as Sheriff Newsome
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Based on one of a collection of four Stephen King stories published together in a single book called Four Past Midnight, Secret Window tells the story of successful writer Mort Rainey, who is going through a messy divorce. Mort has moved away from the home he shared with his almost ex-wife and lives with his dog in a wooden house by a lake, suffering through gritted teeth the mumblings of his annoying cleaning lady who calls and 'does' a couple of times a week.
Although Mort knows he should be writing, he is finding it difficult to concentrate and spends much of his time sleeping on the sofa, his appearance becoming more and more dishevelled, together with not eating properly - his diet largely consists of Doritos!
One day, a very strange, creepy man turns up at Mort's house. The man has a strong deep-south accent and introduces himself as John Shooter, from Mississippi. John insists, in a threateningly quiet way, that Mort has plagiarised one of his stories, ignoring all assertations and verbal proof to the contrary from Mort. Not accepting Mort's explanations, John continues his campaign of harassment whilst Mort seeks out a copy of a magazine in which his own story had been published some years earlier in order to give physical proof to the sinister John Shooter, thus hoping to get the man off his back....but, it doesn't turn out to be as straightforward as Mort anticipates.
That sets the very basic scene, and to discover more, you must watch it for yourself.
Firstly, I must say that possibly due to living in a box up inside of my head for quite a few years, I have never until now seen Johnny Depp in anything, despite having heard quite a lot about him....so this was an experience for me in the sense of watching the performance of a widely respected actor as a new entity. Secondly, once the first part of the film got underway, I realised that quite a few years ago I'd actually read the Stephen King story which Secret Window is based on, yet was able to remember little or nothing about it. I recognised one or two fleeting points, but no more, rendering it such that 99% of the storyline came across to me as a complete surprise.
Right from the beginning, the scene in Secret Garden is set perfectly....a lonely cabin-style house in a rural setting by a lake, a frustrated author suffering from writer's block and a sinister visitor who is pointing a creepy finger of accusation.
I really loved Johnny Depp's acting to the point where I felt he was almost portraying a part of my own personality; that I believe stems from his characterisation skills, more than any kind of distinct similarity between writer Mort Rainey and myself. Depp drew me right into Mort's world, in that I was wholeheartedly empathising with his enforced apathy (enforced due to having lots on his mind), his need to sleep almost constantly, his occasional strangely disjointed, somewhat disturbing dreams and desire to shut himself away from a world which has become too painful and pressurised to actively participate in. Due to Depp's acting skill, Mort Rainey presents as a totally believable character who is quite endearing in a strange sort of way.
It is difficult for me to accurately pour too much praise upon John Turturro's delivery of the sinister John Shooter or the other four sub-main characters of Amy, Mort's estranged wife, Ted Milner who is Amy's new lover, Private Investigator Ken Karsch who Mort employs to assist him in dealing with the harassment from John Shooter and Newsome, the local small-town sheriff, as despite these individuals being essential to the storyline, it appears to me that the acting skill required to play these parts would have been minimal.
As the film rolled along, my interest was held perfectly, plus I was very surprised by the totally unexpected and clever twist. However, once the twist part got underway, I became somewhat confused as to what exactly was going on, more in the greyer areas rather than what was happening up front. I would like to have seen this part of the film put across with more clarity, as at that point I began not to lose interest exactly, but to lose the plot. Once the twist had been exposed, I also found the remainder of the film very predictable and so long as expressed clearly, I'd have preferred the twist to have been saved with it being moved closer to the end.
For me, the build-up to Secret Window is far better than what follows. A delicious atmosphere of mystery gradually accelerates, then certain unexpected things happen far too quickly, which whirled my mind around and slammed it into the wall rather than carried me upwards on a tidal wave of suspense towards the end. This left me feeling unfulfilled and unsatisfied as the closing credits rolled...OK there were no unanswered questions or hanging loose threads, but I had the sensation that the first half or so of the film was like being on a slowly accelerating white-knuckle fairground ride, yet when it spun into full force, instead of holding on tight and being rolled over, under, sideways, upwards, downwards, I was simply flung out of my seat and toppled head first onto the ground.
It is possible that a second viewing of Secret Window may unravel a little of the confusion I felt surrounding the film's twist and it is something I'd seriously consider watching again, even if only for Johnny Depp's highly commendable performance.
The psychological thriller aspect is high, being very well put across and definitely gripping in a semi laid-back way, enhanced at certain points by the music of composer Philip Glass - I ought to say that the musical score is far less complex than much of Glass' other work - yet here and there it was a little overstated.
This is a film which I feel would appeal to fans of the psychological thriller genre, although if you have read and remembered the Stephen King story it is based upon (bear in mind that I did read and forgot most of it), you will then already be aware of what the twist and the ending is. However, I do believe that for anybody who already knows the end through having read the story, Secret Window could still be worth hunting down and watching for two reasons - the first being Johnny Depp's superb portrayal of stressed-out writer Mort Rainey, and the second to see how closely the movie sticks to the written story.
Brief summary : Not brilliant, but by no means terrible. Quite good!
At the time of writing, Secret Window can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £2.97 to £8.97
Used: from £2.49 to £8.99
Collectible: One copy only @ £5.99
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Secret Window is a taut thriller about a writer called Mort Rainey (played by Johnny Depp). He wrote a story called Secret Window which was published in a magazine early in his career. Mort, having split up with his wife, has moved to a deserted house to try to sort out his life when he is visited by a stranger calling himself John Shooter. John says that the story Secret Window was in fact his story and he accuses Mort of stealing it and changing the ending and gives him an ultimatum to sort it out and admit it was his story or things would turn nasty.
I thought this film was really good, it was psychologically scary in parts and it had lots of twists and turns to it which kept you wondering what was going to happen right through the film. It is an adaptation of a Stephen King story and I thought this one really worked. I have found some of his adaptations are not as good as the book but this film was full of suspense and very unpredictable.
Johnny Depp was really good as the mystery writer. He was sometimes funny and cute like you would expect him to be and very weird as you also would expect him to be but there was also a dark side to him which was good to see.
John Turturro who played John Shooter was really sinister and you could practically see the
nastiness dripping off him. He made the character evil in person. The way he spoke with the lazy drawl as if he was just having a normal conversation but with lots of threats to it as well.
Maria Bello played Mort's estranged wife Amy and Timothy Hutton played her new boyfriend who she wanted to marry if Mort would only say yes to a divorce. Timothy Hutton was in another Stephen King film, the Dark Half and I think he suits well to this kind of story as he has that dark feel to him where you can't tell whether there is something lurking underneath or not.
Also in the film were Charles S Dutton who played Ken Karsch and Len Cariou who played Sheriff Dave Newsome.
The film was directed by David Koepp and it is rated a 12a in the UK. It runs for 106 minutes.
Also on the dvd
David Koepp's commentary
Four Deleted Scenes
Featurettes, "From Book To Film", "A Look Through it" and "Secrets Revealed"
The bonus material is worth watching, I liked the deleted scenes, one of them is really funny with Johnny Depp treading in dogs poo, you have to see it.
Mort is a successful writer with many published books, he thinks he is happily married but discovers his wife is having an affair so he moves into their country cottage and things start to go wrong for him. Mort gets a visit from a guy called Shooter who claims Mort has stolen his work and he wants Mort to prove he originally wrote his book first. Mort says this can be done but soon things start to go wrong and everywhere he turns things are happening ad he is soon loosing any chance of being able to prove his is the original writer.
Mort is shocked when Shooter takes things further and kills his dog and threatens his wife if Mort cannot give him proof within 3 days that he wrote his book first. With time against him Mort has to think fast and try to get help to bring Shooter to justice but can this be done and just where has Shooter come from?
This really is not the usual film I would watch as it is a thriller and they do tend to scare me as I am incredibly soft with scary films but as this stars Johnny Deep then it just had to be watched. I really was surprised by the film and thoroughly enjoyed it and so too did hubby. About half way through the film we both though we had worked it all out but then a little twist came and it blew out theory out of the water. I would like to say though I did eventually work it all out but I was cleaver how the twists threw us both. The storyline was very good and kept me interested throughout.
Johnny Depp played the lead role of Mort and he was excellent. I though he came across as a very charming man and the start of the film who was suffering due to his wife affair but as the film moved on we got to see other sides to his character and personality and he did start to change. I though he handled the whole storyline very well and managed to put on a very convincing performance. For some reason he can act so many emotions just with his eyes and these always have me transfixed and I find they can kind of help to tell the story and show what he is thinking. I did enjoy the way he handled his ex wife and her new chaps appearance in the film and how he showed pure hatred for the lover, the addition of both of the characters to the storyline gave it some depth and did throw in a good twist which me and hubby were both thrown by.
There are a few good supporting actors and actresses in the film and we enjoyed each and every one of them. They all managed to bring something different to the storyline.
The film was set in the countryside on America and I think that the forests and tree which surrounded his house is what helped to make the film more scary as things always seem worse in the woods at night! Loved the shots we got of the countryside and the old town which he lived by. The special effects in the film were very good and all fitted in very well. They all looked convincing and some of the bloodied scenes did make me have to look away as they looked that good. This is a suspense thriller film and at times I did jump with some of the things which happened but I have to say apart from the odd time I was able to manage the whole film without getting scared or wanting to turn it off which is saying something for me as I am a massive wimp!
The DVD which we have does have some bonus features which include:-
4 Deleted Scenes
From Book To Film Featurettes
A Look Through It Featurettes
Secrets Revealed Featurettes
As neither me or hubby are fans of bonus features we have not watched these so I am not able to make comment on them.
The running time of this film is 1 hour and 32 minutes and I found this to be a good length with the story moving at a good steady pace from start to finish. The certificate is a 12 and I do agree with this as there are some scenes of bloody violence. The DVD is available for just under £4 from Amazon which I feel is a bargain price.
This film is getting the full 5 stars from both me and hubby and not just because Depp was fantastic but also as it has a great storyline which did have a few good twists in. This is definitely one for all fans of Johnny Depp.
Although I would say I was biased as I am a huge Johnny Depp fan I can safely say "The Secret Window" is definitely a film to watch. If you're a person that enjoys; horror, mystery and thrills I would highly advise buying this film as it combines all of the above into one. I have watched this film on countless occasions and not once have I felt bored or felt id seen it too many times.
Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp), a writer, is distraught after finding his wife in bed with another man, however he soon realises that his wife leaving him is the least of his worries and the cause of many more problems ahead. From the moment when John shooter (John Turturro) bangs on Mort's front door insisting Mort has stolen and published one of his stories we soon discover that Shooter means business and will not stop until his story is the one that's been published. Shooter has given Mort the quest of finding the original copy of the story to prove he wrote it first however Shooter throws many disasters at him along the way.
My favourite thing about this film is the unexpected twist at the end and the surprises that fill the whole movie. You never know what will happen next and the shock at the end leaves you astounded when the truth is revealed.
The directing done by David Koepp is done to an excellent standard and with the film being based on the skilful writing of Stephen King you know it's a well worthy watch.
The well thought out soundtrack adds to the thrilling suspense that comes hand in hand with this film.
My one criticism I have with this film is that it is rated a PG-13. I however would advise this to increase to a 15, due to violence/ terror, sexual content and language.
Overall I believe this is a well made film with an amazing plot that makes it worth a watch. I would highly recommended someone buying it who wants a bit of suspense and horror however doesn't want to go to bed with nightmares.
This is a film based upon the novella Secret Window, Secret Garden written by Steven King. It is a psychological thriller.
The Plot centres on Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) who is a writer currently in seclusion. The film opens with a scene in which Mort arrives a motel and confronts his wife Amy and lover Ted, who have rented a room. The story then fast forwards to 6 months later, when we see Mort at a lodge type property next to a lake. He is struggling to write and also to come to terms with his failed marriage. His only companion is his dog Chico. The story picks up pace when a gentleman called John Shooter (John Turturro) arrives at his property and accuses Mort of plagiarism. He arrives with a manuscript and gives it to Mort, and states that he wrote this story years before Mort published his. Shooter is creepy with his deep southern accent and you immediately pick up on the underlying menace that is to follow. Shooter appears to be the kind of nutcase that you might have seen before in Misery.
This sets the scene for Mort being pursued to admit to having wronged Shooter and Mort involves a detective in an effort to protect himself. Interspersed with the unfolding drama is the issued of divorce papers that Mort refuses to sign. Detailing any more of the plot will just give too much away, but suffice to say that the plot ending is quite clever in my opinion.
This film was only given a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 46%, which I just have to disagree with. Maybe it is my bias for Johnny Depp, but the story kept me gripped until the end and the dialogue between Mort and his dog or Mort and Ted and Amy, made me laugh and also kept me engrossed in the film.
One thing about the film that surprised me was the certificate - it is certificate 12. The film does contain quite a bit of menace, blood and violence and my 12 year old daughter was hiding behind me half the time. I say I'm surprised because Misery is certificate 18 and I do find the films quite similar in many ways. So if you have children of this age, you may want to watch it first, although my daughter did seem to enjoy being scared.
You have empathy for the main character Mort and feel sorry that not only is he going through this divorce, but that he now has to deal with a lunatic. John Turturro is fanastic as the controlled, cold psychopath. The way his delivers his lines in a southern drawl, makes him quite chilling.
Johnny Depp is outstanding as tortured writer, who is on the point of losing his mind. I loved all the smart remarks he made and so the film is a nice mixture of suspense, but not all horror.
The plot of the film is the main star and I advise you to pay attention if you want to have any idea as to working out the ending. When the twist unveils itself, it is one of those moments when you slap your head and immediately get it too. Of course, the ending is slightly hard to swallow, but that doesn't matter because by that time you are still looking back at the film, seeing all the clues afresh.
The soundtrack does the job of maintaining suspense, but other than that I would not say that it is memorable at all. The location is simply beautiful and it is easy to imagine the setting as a place a struggling writer would retreat to.
I like the writing of Steven King and consider him he master of this genre. The screen play was written and directed by David Koepp, who also wrote Panic Room among others. Koepp I think is also good at keeping it simple, yet maintaining the suspense throughout.
For anyone who has avoided this film because they associate King with horror, I would say give this a try, as it is really more of a thriller.
Amy: You were always gone.
Mort: I worked from home, Amy.
Mort: [to Amy on the phone] It's a beautiful house. I like it. Hell, I love it. That's why I bought it
This film is available from Amazon for only £3.88 and it is worth adding to your collection, rather than renting in my opinion.
Based on a novel by Stephen King. I saw this at the cinema a while back and it came on television, so I thought, well, I liked it enough the first time, why not see it again?
Mort Rainey's happy home is torn apart when he discovers that his partner has been having an affair with another man. She leaves him for the other man, although she does keep in touch, much to his dismay. Worn out by his loss, he stops taking care of himself and struggles to do anything, irritated by the cleaner scurrying around his house.. He talks to himself, and the pet dog, left behind by his ex-wife.
His solitary life is then disturbed by a weird tall man wearing a hat, who appears at his door to declare "You stole ma stowry!" A manuscript is left at the door, which he subsequently bins. At first, he tries to ignore this event, but it plays on his mind until he decides to check an old story he wrote.. only to find that the story not only provokes memories of his ex-wife, but is exactly the same as the man's story. The evidence suggests plagiarism, but Mort is certain the story is his and may even be able to prove it.
However, from this point on, strange and terrifying events occur that make him suspect he is being stalked and may be in serious danger. With the help of a private detective (since the police do not take him too seriously), he sets out to investigate who the stranger is claiming to own his story, where he came from and what he wants.
The story is much like a mystery thriller, where with the help of the detective, Mort needs to prove that the stalker has been threatening him and find a way to stop him before he begins to hurt the ones he loves - for example, his ex.
There is a strange scene where Mort appears to be having a nightmare and 'wakes in a dream' to find himself on his sofa, suspended over the edge of a cliff. This scene looks very realistic and in the cinema was especially effective as it really shocks you - although to be honest seeing it on t.v. again, either because I knew what to expect or because it was less powerful without surround sound and a huge screen, it simply looked weird without the wow.
The graphics generally are good and as the house Mort lives in is quite far out, there is a sinister sense of danger in the gorgeous scenery. The house is huge, but quite empty again, making it all the more eerie.
Johnny Depp, for me, is always a reason alone to watch a film. No matter what kind of character he plays, he plays it well. In this film he is a true dumpee with no exaggerations or miraculous recovery. A bit strange really, given what he means to about 90% of women alive on this planet. He is funny, in a kind of sarcastic, ironic way. When his character becomes more afraid, he also becomes more silly and his lame attempts to defend himself have some amusing consequences, which prevent this story from becoming a total drag.
Unfortunately, partly because this is a film all about Mort, the other characters, except the stranger to an extent, play very minor roles and none really stand out or excel in any way. For me, the film was worth it, but to like this film, you really must like Johnny Depp, quite a bit. Otherwise the film is plain, a bit dull and lacking in any interesting relationships or conflicts.
The stranger has a very distinctive 'Deep South' accent, which seems to add to the mystery of his character, making him quite intimidating yet curious. He is the only other interesting person in this film in my opinion, and is somewhat threatening though mostly I found him funny.
The animal bit (This bit may be a spoiler)
There is a particular scene I found upsetting and disturbing. The pet dog is found brutally attacked. I would probably protest against the use of such a scene because there are plenty of better ways to scare or horrify an audience and generally I find scenes of animal cruelty just tasteless and upsetting. However, I have to admit that when I first watched the film I was stunned, it certainly made the film more scary and the intended impact did occur. It also emphasises the fact this stranger is totally ruthless, has no regard for the law or morals and is dangerous. At the same time, the almost indifferent response of the police is frustrating and makes us sympathise all the more with Mort.
This film is a 12, which I guess is fair because most young people are going to see the mild levels of violence shown in this film elsewhere anyway - but more sensitive children may be affected by the pet attack or the general psychological-thriller effect - although in my opinion this was not a particularly powerful thriller...
This film was really nothing special and given the general quality of recent films released I expected more - especially because it is based on a Stephen King novel. I have not read the novel, although probably I should have done to be able to comment more on this film, but the impression I have had from most Stephen King novels made into films is that they leave the viewer feeling disturbed and with a memorable experience for a while after the film. With this film, that simply was not the case and the only reason I enjoyed it at all was Johnny Depp's star role. Would I recommend this film? It has been on television, so, it is likely to come on again. Otherwise you could borrow it on DVD, but personally I would not exactly recommend you rush out to buy it, unless you're a big JD fan, in which case that is reason enough to buy anything with him in!
Secret Window, a movie made in 2004, is a suspense thriller based on part of Stephen King's Four Past Midnight collection which has been described as 'four spellbinding tales of evil, that burn your imagination.' That maybe true but on the other hand I always think his novels are overrated and I am not always sure whether adaptations of King's novels work on celluloid but looking at the ingredients in this movie then I would say it had a good chance. We have two top actors, Johnny Depp and John Turturro, a screenplay based on the works of King, a soundtrack written by minimilast composer Philip Glass and some striking cinematography by Fred Murphy. Does this formula work? Let's take a look..........
It is the story of a successful author Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp), who knows that although he should be at his computer writing another book, or at least walking his dog along the sparkling lake outside the dingy cabin, he is sleeping on his favourite sofa for up to 16 hours a day. He is in the midst of a painful divorce and everything about the break-up has turned messy and unpleasant. It has sapped his energy and siphoned away his creativity, leaving him with a monumental case of writer's block that renders him incapable of ever stringing a simple sentence together.
Then, when it seems as if things can't possibly get any worse, a psychotic stranger named John Shooter (John Torturro) shows up at his doorstep, accuses Rainey of plagiarising his story and demands satisfaction. Despite Rainey's efforts to placate him, Shooter becomes increasingly insistent and hostile, intimating a twisted sort of justice that could include cold blooded murder.
Forced into a mind-bending game of cat and mouse, Rainey discovers that he has more cunning and gritty determination than he ever imagined. But in the end, he realises that the elusive Shooter may know him better than he knows himself.
I like the idea of this movie - a guy in the house going crazy. Even though there are some outdoor scenes, the story really is about Mort Rainey's living space. It's about somebody who's in a really bad place in his life where he is just spending way too much time alone at home. I have always been interested in confinement and paranoia themes. Having bad things happen in your living space can be scary and unsettling.
Anyone who is creative will have some kind of imagination. Mort Rainer is a guy who has one best friend and that is his imagination. He sometimes is plagued by too much thought - and this becomes his enemy also. He has an overload of information in his head and is definitely a recluse. He is uncomfortable around people and just wants to be left alone. Unfortunately, he can't leave himself alone because of the torment inside his head.
I think on the whole, Koepp has done a fine job of capturing Mort's twisted mind. The screenplay is well written. The dialogue is real and not forced, with an interesting train of thought quality to it. I felt that the situations were true and I was emotionally involved with Mort's dilemma. I was shocked by the ingenious plot twist because I din't see it coming which for a viewer is very satisfying.
I really loved the opening scenes. The first shot after the opening credits is an elaborate one. It begins with a view across a lake to a rustic cabiin. Then the camera moves smoothly in to the shore, and across the grounds, and in through a window of the cabin, and it regards various rooms before closing in on a large mirror that reflects a man asleep on a couch. Fred Murphy, the cinematographer prepared for the production of this film by watching several suspense films, including Polanski's Rosemary's Baby ad The Tenant and also John Boorman's Deliverance.
Taking a cue from the latter film, Murphy opted to shoot Secret Window in the wide screen 35 format which is an interesting choice for a movie that, on some levels, is about confined spaces and the intimate, inner workings of the protagonists mind. Using wide screen allows the movie maker to add more to the background. It also opens up things more, so the movie doesn't feel claustrophobic. There were several scenes at the lake near Mort's cabin where the wide screen enabled Murphy to take advantage of the scenery.
A recurrent theme of reflections is employed. Like I have already mentioned the film is much about a guy alone in the house which is very interior but at the same time the film is opened up by multiple reflections. It really is a mirror movie because it is about looking at yourself and seeing things you may not like - mirrors are a major element, particularly the large one over Mort's fireplace. A mirror also makes the set look bigger, and provides some very interesting shots.
Depp gives an excellent performance as Mort Rainer. He draws you into the room and into his mind. What really is a straightforward role, Depp brings a musing eccentricity to it. At times, I felt myself smiling and I'm not sure whether it was at the dialogue or his whacky persona.
Torturro plays Shooter and he is one of those actors that always becomes the part, he creates a fully realised, credible person which is important in this role. He is a chameleon and audiences can't always quite work him out which is great for this role - a man who shows up out of nowhere and has an intangible, mysterious quality about him.
As for the soundtrack, I like Philip Glass but I can see how some people could find it hum drum. Personally I think the music works fine.
True to the book - not really. Some of the scenes have been tweaked around with and the ending is different. Also there is a lot more humour in the film.
So Does this Formula Work?
Personally, I have to say yes. David Koppe (Jurassic Park and Panic Room) although not the most inspiring of directors, I believe at least understands suspense and horror although this film is more suspense than horror. There is a creepy feel to the movie all the way through but also a sense of humour if sometimes I felt the humour was in the wrong place. Depp and Torturro are both brilliant. Depp is particulary good at conveying Mort's resentment over his spouse's infidelity as well as his inabilty to differentiate real life from his imagination.Torturro's performance as the villian is excellent although I do think he could have been given more dialogue. Apart from the performances I really enjoyed the cinematography and think the visuals are striking especially the opening and nightmare scene. Overall I think this a very good suspense film and will mark it 8 out of 10.
Mort Rainey is a successful writer living in an isolated lake house, and going through a hard patch after separating from his wife after finding her cheating on him. A strange man comes to his door calling himself Shooter, and insisting that Mort stole one of his story ideas from him changing only the ending. Mort's story was published in a magazine two years before Shooter claims to have wrote it, but as Mort struggles to find evidence to prove this Shooter becomes more and more persistent and violent, proving he means business.
Mort Rainey is played by Johnny Depp who is without a doubt my favourite actor. Believe it or not this is not because I go weak at the knees every time he's on screen, whilst Depp clearly isn't ugly I never seemed to get the Depp infatuation many women have been plagued with. The reason for my love for Depp is that of all the films I've seen him in (quick count tallies up at around 15 although there are possibly more that I can't remember) there has only been one that I didn't like (The Astronauts Wife) and a large proportion of his films have been some of my absolute favourites (Benny & Joon, Don Juan De Marco, Edward Scissorhands, Donnie Brasco) and all the others (excluding The Astronauts Wife) have been hugely enjoyable. Also the diversity of his roles in the films he has done is huge, and no matter what kind of character he is playing, he always seems to get it just spot on. His role here as Mort Rainey, is played perfectly with Depp even managing to make himself look quite ugly, which shows how far he can stretch to meet a role ;) Seriously though, his portrayal of this isolated, lonely, and troubled writer is spot on throughout the film and he delivers nothing short of a perfect performance throughout as always. John Turturro (Mr Deeds) delivers a good performance as Shooter, getting the creepy odd stalker part spot on. All the supporting cast deliver fine performances, but this film is essentially a one man show, with Depp shining above and beyond the rest of the cast. Mort Rainey's character is well developed and the film works well in helping us to see things from his point view, and experience and go through what he is going through, with the plot developing and unfolding in front of not only our eyes but his too, it feels like us and Depp are all experiencing it all at the same time.
Despite being a Depp fan, this hadn't been high up on my "must see" list, as for some reason it didn't really stand out to me as anything that would be too spectacular. However, one night with nothing to watch, raiding the fellas brothers DVD collection I came across that. Being that Depp only seems to agree to be in great films (again with the exception of The Astronauts Wife, I think I've made that point clear) I decided that the odds were that it was bound to be at the very least good.
Realising it was an adaptation from a Steven King story really didn't make me too sure either way as to whether I would enjoy it. For me, Steven King adaptations are quite a mixed bag; whilst Stand By Me, Misery and Shawshank Redemption were all excellent films, I felt The Shining was one of the most over rated piece of rubbish I've ever seen.
Now I find it very hard to explain exactly what it was that made me not enjoy this movie as fully as I should, without saying too much and possibly ruining it for anyone else which is something that I definitely wouldn't want to do, so my explanation may be somewhat vague.
Whilst the story for the Secret Window was actually a good story, and Depp and co executed it perfectly, for me unfortunately it had one fatal flaw. I'm not one of those people who like to say "I knew what was going to happen from the first five minutes", as if it is something to brag about, but unfortunately for me I did here. The problem was for me the film had a very similar concept to many other films I had seen before this, and due to this reason, it was glaringly obvious as to how the film was going to unfold. Whilst, if I had seen this before the other films, I probably would have loved it, unfortunately, without trying to, I inadvertently spoilt my enjoyment of this film, and found it all very predictable.
For me I don't like to even read a review of a film before I watch it, as even something small that is said, that when read isn't directly a spoiler, can end up stuck in your mind and suddenly slotting in with what's happening on screen and giving you an "ahh that's what they meant" feeling, which wouldn't happen perhaps when taking films at face value. I think here it is much too easy for this film to be spoiled, all it takes is one little thing clicking into place and the rest of the following hour or so could be a complete wash out. It is perhaps not quite as clever as it wants to be. I would also recommend before watching this the last thing you do is go onto the imdb page for it, as even the plot keywords completely spoil the film.
Whilst this film was released after the others I had seen that had been almost identical in concept to it, the book of course will have been written before these other films, perhaps unintentionally tying in a little with the plot of Mort Rainey and Shooter's battle as to who wrote what first. So it's not essentially copying ideas that other films had first, but it does feel that way. This had already been done to death, so it kind of feels like although this may have been a nice idea once upon a time, there was no need for it to be rehashed my adapting this story. If it was going to be done, it needed to be better executed so that it wasn't glaringly obvious from the outset how the plot was going to develop. There are films that despite the commonalities between themselves and other films, are executed well enough to still take the viewer exactly where it wants us to go, and lead us along its path exactly as desired, leading to a perfect film, whereas with this one unfortunately it's all to easy to take that easy shortcut to the predictable ending five minutes into the film, and without a spectacular ending, you can't have a spectacular film.
All in all I don't want to seem to down on this film, it was ultimately me that ruined this for myself, but it didn't take a lot for it too happen, and I feel the film definitely could have prevented me from being able to predict the entire plot within the opening five minutes. Everything was much too obvious, too convenient, a bit too much like my boyfriend suddenly out of the blue taking me in every phone shop we past generally enquiring "what do you think of this phone? Which do you like best?" as if just making conversation, when clearly he was planning to "surprise" me with one for Christmas. You get my point?
It's unfortunate for me, as this could have been amazing. The acting was great, and the concept of the film and plot were great too, but it all relied too much on something that it couldn't quite deliver, and therefore it fell short for me. If you go into this having not seen or read this story a thousand times before, and essentially not having read anything, even perhaps this review, then it would be possible to love it. Unfortunately for most people I don't think it will deliver, and there are better options of this style of film out there, although clearly I'm not going to suggest which, as that would put you in my position.
All in all it was a good film, it had the right pace, the right cast, and was entertaining throughout but this film wasn't aiming for something it couldn't quite achieve, and left me feeling quite disappointed as to what it could have been.
Flicking through the sky movies channels last night we came across the film Secret Window just about to start. I got excited immediately as I had seen the adverts for this when it came out and I knew it was based upon a Stephen King book called Secret Window, Secret Garden. I am a fan of Stephen King but havent read all of his books yet and this was one of them, so I was really eager to watch this as I had no preconceptions of the story or obviously knew what would or should happen in the film.
Mort Rainey is a published author, whos currently living alone in a remote cabin in the woods. Going through a divorce, after finding his wife, Amy, with another man has left him feeling angry and fairly desolate when it comes to his relationship, and this in turn is delaying him from signing the divorce papers.
Out of the blue, a strange man turns up on his doorstep, accusing Mort of plagiarising his story. John Shooter, is a country hick dairy farmer, who when you first look at him, apart from the scary hat, looks pretty pathetic and not very intimidating. Even his words to Mort about how he will sort things out, just the two of them, are menacing but not really instilling the fear factor. That is, until he stabs a screwdriver through Morts dog, pinning him to the table on the porch.
Shooter goes on to tell Mort that he wants him to change the ending of the story Mort had published, back to the original ending that he claims to have written. If Mort refuses to do this, Shooter has proved he will take action, by killing the dog, but who will be next? Rainey having had the story published in a magazine in 1995 and Shooters admission that he wrote his in 1997 seems to prove that Mort is the genuine owner and creator of the story but he needs the evidence to prove to Shooter or things are going to get nasty. Mort needs to get the magazine his story was published in, to prove this fact, but every attempt to get it seems to end in disaster.
His on-going problem with, the now scary, Shooter is coupled with his on going problem of trying to adjust to the fact that his wife wants to be with another man and not him. He is drinking again and generally seems to be on a self destructive path, however Amy always seems to want to help him, after all she spent 10 years of her life with him.
Will Mort get the proof he needs to get rid of Shooter? Who will suffer under the cruel hands of Shooter? How does it all end????
##CAST & CHARACTERS##
Johnny Depp plays Mort Rainey and not being a massive fan of Depp I was pleased and surprised at the performance. When ever I mention or hear of Depps name people seem to swoon and say what a gorgeous man he is. I dont see that. I mean hes not ugly but not a god either. When actors are universally classed as gorgeous men or women I think sometimes they can use that title to help them through films, always being cast in good looking roles. This was not the case with Mort Raineys character, as he was cast as a guy who was going through a rough time. He has separated from his wife and does not need to impress anyone in his day-to-day life. He lounges around in a disgusting dressing gown most of the time at home and sleeps on the settee all day, swigging beer and trying not to smoke when he wakes up. His house is not exactly the cleanest, even with the help of the cleaning lady and his personal hygiene from what I saw leaves a lot to be desired. I dont think it bothered Depp at all being cast as a lay about, who walks round with his hair sticking up all over the place and blood shot eyes, and maybe due to the fact that he didnt have to worry about looking good, he performed the character brilliantly. I have always thought of him as being a bit of a whacky person after seeing him in Edward Scissorhands back in the early 90s so this character fitted him to a tee.
Maria Bello plays Amy Rainey, Morts estranged wife. I was racking my brains through the film to think where I had seen her before and on checking after she was in ER and Assault on Precinct 13, both of which I love. Her character in Secret Window is a caring woman, who has moved on about 90% in her separation from Mort. She does still have feelings for him and this isnt helping the situation. She never tells him she wants to come back but I think there is a hint in there when she talks about how he shut her out when they were together, giving the impression that they would have still been together if he had been more attentive. She is clearly wanting to move on from the relationship without hurting him too much in the process, and in the end this spurs her on to visit him and sort out the divorce.
John Turturro plays John Shooter, the mad dairy farmer, accusing Rainey of plagiarism. He is excellent in this role actually. Although my description of him in the plot outline made him seem pathetic he is really so much more than this. Whilst he didnt make me shiver with anticipation of what he might do at the first introduction, once he screw drivered the dog I knew he meant business and for some reason every time you see him after that he seems more and more menacing. I think for someone who doesnt look like your average killer, to make you feel fear and trepidation about what he will do next is really brilliant acting and the hat he wears just adds to his scary appearance.
The other supporting characters were good although I felt the Sheriff played by Len Cariou could have been so much better. He was really played down to be a real idiot of a law enforcement figure, right up until the last scene when he came round in my estimations. Maybe this was the way it was intended but it didnt really seem to fit with me during the film. However this did not spoil my enjoyment, as the character is relatively minor in the scheme of things.
##THINGS YOU MIGHT LIKE TO KNOW##
It was directed by David Koepp, who also directed Stir of Echoes, with Kevin Bacon. The two films seem to have a similar feeling about them, not in the story but about the mystery and suspense about what will actually happen. I think he did a superb job in getting the right amount of vulnerability out of Johnny Depp without making him a total wuss, and the suspense and tension in some of the scenes was fantastic. Interestingly enough he also wrote the screen play adapted from Kings original book.
Rated PG-13, as some of the scenes are quite violent, however they never leave you feeling this is a horror film. It is definitely in the thriller category for me and it never made feel like I was going to have nightmares.
You can buy this on Amazon for £6.97 or cheaper on the market place and I have read that the DVD has some great extras so it may be worth it for that.
In a way I am glad that I had not read the book, as I didnt guess the actually ending until it happened, and it was a shock to me. Usually you get an inkling as to what will happen before hand but for one reason or another I just got so engrossed in the actual story scene by scene, that I just forgot to try and conclude it for myself. This is unusual in a film for me and shows how every scene is relevant to the story and keeps you watching it for the part you are watching and not thinking ahead at all.
I am going to get the book now so I can read it to see how much was changed for the film, but this will remain one of my favourite films watched this year so far.
Thanks for reading.
A writer is accused for plagiarism by a strange man, who then starts haunting him for justice.