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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.5%
Worth A Look: 31.25%
Pretty Bad: 9.82%
Total Crap: 9.82%

6 reviews, 76 user ratings

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Secret Window
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Another lackluster King adaptation. Depp makes it worth a rental."
3 stars

As a thriller, David Koepp's 'Secret Window' is more interesting than thrilling.

The story it adapts -- Stephen King's "Secret Window, Secret Garden," from his Four Past Midnight collection -- dealt in psychological suspense with a whiff of the supernatural; Koepp dispenses with the supernatural. King writes what he knows, and what he knows best is writers. Mort Rainey is one of many conflicted and/or haunted scribes in the King portfolio, a successful pulpist whose marriage has gone south and who wakes up one morning in his cabin on the lake to find himself accused of plagiarism. A man in black, John Shooter, claims that Mort stole his story "Secret Window," though it was first published in 1995 and Shooter says he wrote it in 1997. One would think this fact would settle the argument. But men in black, in King's fiction, don't give up that easily.

Since few people would care overmuch about a story concerning a writer who didn't steal a story, Shooter is turned into a grinning psycho who isn't above dispatching innocent bystanders or household pets with the nearest screwdriver. As played by John Turturro, Shooter has a gentle, insinuating drawl (he's from Mississippi), and though we don't actually see him do anything terribly brutal, Turturro gives him a knife-edge aura of threat, which has served the actor well since he beat a penguin to death in Five Corners. Shooter works well as a nagging doubt in the writer's mind, either real or imaginary.

Right at the beginning, Mort walks into a hotel room and confronts his wife Amy in bed with another man. That's about as much animation as we see from Johnny Depp for most of the movie. He plays Mort as a slightly dazed eccentric grateful for writer's hours -- he gets to take naps and eat Doritos instead of working on his new story, which seems to be influenced by Amy's infidelity. But then "Secret Window," written in the early days of his relationship with Amy, is also about a cuckold -- this one driven to murder. Once again, Depp slouches into a piece of mainstream entertainment and takes every opportunity to amuse himself. Mort's shambling depression, in Depp's hands, becomes a witty portrait of dissolution.

Which is not to say Secret Window is worth much more than the price of a rental. Writer/director David Koepp, a screenwriter-for-hire who has directed two interesting but flawed thrillers (The Trigger Effect and Stir of Echoes), starts things off at a brisk clip, and the scenes between Depp and Maria Bello (as his estranged wife) and Timothy Hutton (as her clownish new beau) are well-drawn character comedy. (Mort cringes at the sound of his wife's voice the way a vampire flinches at a cross.) But there's too much stale horror crappiness, like a black character (Charles S. Dutton) who's so obviously in the movie just to be killed that he might as well be called Dick Hallorann, and various misfortunes involving corpse disposal, and scenes with Johnny Depp investigating strange noises at night while holding a flashlight or a poker, which even he can't redeem.

As for the Twist at the End, all it did for me was make me crave some corn on the cob (that'll make sense if you ever see it). Secret Window at least spares us King's long-winded post-game exposition, which reads like a serious challenger to Psycho's throne in the category of Unnecessarily Explicit Explanations of Someone's Neurosis. This writer-director does have serious things on his mind -- his Trigger Effect offered some note-perfect episodes of tension emerging entirely out of the characters' demons. But Koepp isn't accomplished enough to pull much ambiguity or allegory out of horror-fantasy, it appears.

'Secret Window' feels like the work of one of King's writer protagonists, Paul Sheldon of 'Misery,' who was famous for romantic pulp but yearned to write something more meaningful. No one's forcing Koepp to make pulp. No one's forcing King, either.

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originally posted: 01/02/07 07:48:37
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User Comments

9/18/15 lautreamont standard fare; worth watching for depp's take on solitude 4 stars
8/08/10 Paulie Walnuts Thought it was decent. I didn't guess the ending right till the end. 4 stars
5/13/09 Namrata The movie was predictable,even boring in some parts. But Johnny Depp was outstanding. 3 stars
12/01/08 Roz For once I was rooting for the bad guy! A good weekend flick 4 stars
11/26/08 Shaun Wallner Depp is a great actor. 5 stars
7/11/07 fools♫gold Not a bad watch. 3 stars
3/09/07 cokehead awesome movie, one of the better stephen king movies. 5 stars
2/25/07 William Goss Predictable, tedious; Depp's better than it deserves. 3 stars
12/28/06 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 4 stars
10/17/06 samantha fleming it is sooo good johnny is so hot in it 5 stars
7/20/06 R.W.Welch Sort of twist on The Shining but doesn't deliver the same level of suspense. 3 stars
1/02/06 cody a ok movie with great perf. by johhny depp, decent story with twists, confusing at times 3 stars
12/19/05 Bree Not necessarily scary, but hilarious. Timothy Hutton was underused. 5 stars
11/23/05 Sully Guessed the ending 20 minutes in....this flick is a total piece of shit 1 stars
11/13/05 Quigley could have been more suspenseful and scarier with less sappy dialogue, but depp saves it 4 stars
10/31/05 missjie86 Johnny Depp's character slept through most of the movie...and so did I. 2 stars
9/03/05 tatum Depp outshines the average material 4 stars
8/23/05 sbpat21 pretty good, the music is great 4 stars
2/19/05 J King is write on target! 4 stars
2/14/05 Angela Saunders Twisty and entertaining! 4 stars
2/12/05 Ig Liked the book better, but still entertaining 4 stars
2/09/05 nannette ryan I read the book and found it to be much better then the movie 3 stars
2/02/05 BobbysRedQueen I LOve Johnny Depp but the movie was silly 3 stars
2/02/05 Casey Becher I LOVED this movie! I was completely surprised by the ending! 5 stars
1/30/05 axe I sure wouldn't give 2 hours to a book this lame 2 stars
1/29/05 Lisa Clarizio Top notch Stephen King movie adaptations 4 stars
1/25/05 Phil M. Aficionado Only Depp could get this film up to average; otherwise, hokey and goofy 3 stars
1/22/05 Tjalda L. Schiel Johnny Depp, awesome. Movie, terrible. 3 stars
1/17/05 Roy Smith Again In never want to read how predictable the ending to the Village was evert again after this 3 stars
12/23/04 goat farmer starts out well then takes a wrong turn and - wipeout! 3 stars
12/21/04 Vince Koepp is fortunate he managed to get Depp on board 4 stars
11/11/04 beauty is nice not bad, not great, a watchable average 3 stars
10/15/04 victor absoloutly with outta doubt this is a great movie 5 stars
9/08/04 JeffK Watchable 3 stars
8/28/04 capitalbliss Thank goodness Johnny Depp was in this film because he really made it watchable! 3 stars
8/23/04 Heather I thought it was awesome. I loved it 5 stars
8/10/04 Samuel Just okay. 3 stars
8/05/04 Chris movie had my attention but the ending was pretty disappointing. i have mixed feelings. 3 stars
8/05/04 KR Good atmosphere, but anyone shocked by the ending didn't see Fight Club/A Beautiful Mind 3 stars
7/30/04 leon trotsky Yeh, Johnny Depp rocks. The movie was predictable and not terribly well-written. Blah. 2 stars
7/24/04 terrance Oh my god i sat thru two hours of hell in that movie theater 1 stars
7/23/04 Jannet Kwan This is a movie with a twisted ending so get ready for the shocker! 4 stars
7/20/04 the man a crazy, but a must see... i loved the ending.. 5 stars
7/14/04 Joe Bayes I ignored the obvious solution 'cause it was lame. Guess lameness doesn't bother Mr. King. 1 stars
7/06/04 JV *SPOILER* Can you say... Fight Club?? 4 stars
7/03/04 jcjs slow but nice, no flapping roof shingles like shown in the previews, i hate drags 4 stars
7/03/04 J This movies is WACK!!! *** out of 4 4 stars
6/26/04 Alex Depp saves this otherwise average movie 4 stars
6/22/04 S.F worth a watch. 4 stars
5/26/04 Gretchen Ross I liked this film up until the ending. it was so bad it made the whole movie awful. 1 stars
5/12/04 Marcia Lartz Slick-appearing thriller until it falls apart when multiple Johnny Depps appear on screen. 2 stars
5/06/04 M what the fuk was that??? BORINGGGGG 1 stars
4/28/04 Chaske Faulk awesome thriller 5 stars
4/13/04 Boris Not bad. The last act was disappointing, though 3 stars
4/11/04 john bale Tuturro & Depp play it well in this King Thriller, versatile camera and music help the mood 4 stars
4/02/04 movieboy Really good never would have suspected the ending 5 stars
4/02/04 Obi Wan I felt cheated...Depp is Hit or Miss, no getting past it! 3 stars
3/27/04 Mazz Freaky twist, great thrills, Depp is awesome and Turturro is frightening. 5 stars
3/26/04 Vikki Fox a good thriller 5 stars
3/26/04 Amy Creative movie with a shocking twist (well, if you haven't read the book at least!). 5 stars
3/24/04 Kev Terribly predictable movie with Depp as it's saving grace. 3 stars
3/23/04 Agent Sands The ending is a surprise, but once it's there, we know how it'll wrap up. Nice & scary. 4 stars
3/23/04 Bruce K. Very disappointing with a lousy ending. Everything didn't make sense. 2 stars
3/23/04 DrDanny Turturro and Dutton are also quite good here, but overall Depp is the reason to see it. 3 stars
3/21/04 alex not an average thriller, but I liked it. not a cliche ending 4 stars
3/21/04 McBain Not terrifying, but still entertaining enough for the price. Depp great as always. 4 stars
3/21/04 Jiz Nice "surprise," only 500 other movies that use it. Depp = whole movie = good enough. 4 stars
3/20/04 basilsmom depp is amaziing, carries the pic all by himself 4 stars
3/19/04 Cary Gordon Depp helps keep this film together, but much of the plot is so telegraphed throughout. 3 stars
3/19/04 Teresa Williams Love Stephen King. Had my doubts about casting of Depp, but was pleasantly surprised! 4 stars
3/17/04 jasmine entertaining == if johnny depp is in it, go see it 4 stars
3/14/04 Ray Depp sure kowns how to make a movie entertaiment 4 stars
3/14/04 Carole M Johnny is awesome and carries this intriguing thriller. Interesting camera work and setting 4 stars
3/14/04 johnnydepplover this movie rocks... hotness 5 stars
3/13/04 michaelb14 actually a darker ending than the SK novella, pretty good 4 stars
3/13/04 James Kustes A mish-mash of Stephen King's past work, with Depp as the saving grace 3 stars
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  12-Mar-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 22-Jun-2004



Directed by
  David Koepp

Written by
  David Koepp

  Johnny Depp
  John Turturro
  Maria Bello
  Charles S. Dutton
  Timothy Hutton
  Len Cariou

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