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Secret Window (2004)

Secret Window, Secret Garden

Some windows should never be opened.

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 96 minutes

UK Certificate: 12a

Story-scribbler Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp, leaving the Keith Richard impressions at home this time) doesn’t have his problems to seek. The missus (Maria Bello) has dumped him for an obnoxious sod who calls himself “Ted” (Timothy Hutton), he’s suffering from a nasty case of writer’s block, he doesn’t seem to own a single bottle of shampoo, and his only friend in the world appears to be Jack Daniels. Oh, and there’s a mad Mississippi dairy farmer (an on-form John Turturro) apparently trying to kill him.

Plausibility clearly isn’t one of the predominant driving forces behind ‘Secret Window’. When Turturro’s character John Shooter first turns up on Mort’s doorstep to accuse him of plagiarising a story written a decade earlier, basic questions like “what story?”, “who are you?” and “what in the name of sweet Daisy the cow are you talking about?” seem to slip our protagonist’s mind. In fact, normal human reactions to various situations appear to have little bearing on any of this movie – so it’s a good job it has enough things going for it in other departments to make such a key flaw almost excusable.

Helmsman David Koepp, generally better known for his writing than his directing (Jurassic Park, Panic Room and Spider-Man all feature on his CV), injects his film with some terrific instances of genuine tension, delivers his shocks well and handles the requisite climactic twist with all the proficiency of an old hand (just as long as you haven’t already figured it out, in which case you’ll be feeling too smug to care). The performances, too, never stray from the solid, even upon the several moments where some serious suspension of disbelief becomes a necessity on the viewer’s part.

‘Secret Window’ is yet ANOTHER big screen spin on a Stephen King tale, and yet ANOTHER one in which the main character is a struggling writer (remember ‘Misery’ and The Shining?). It’s fair to say this one isn’t in any danger of living up to either of those two films – but, thankfully, it’s far from disastrous either. If you REALLY want to see an example of King-gone-wrong, just check out the horrendous mess that was last year’s Dreamcatcher instead.

It's Got: Cruelty to animals. Well, one animal anyway.

It Needs: Someone to call the RSPCA.


Far-fetched stuff, and you may well see the twist coming a mile off – but it’s a guilty pleasure.