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SECRET WINDOW (2004)
Rated PG13 for violence, terror, sexual content and language.
Genre: Psychological suspense, thriller, drama, horror.
Directed by: David Koepp.
Writing Credits: Stephen King (novel) and David Koepp (screenplay).
After author Mort Rainey unveils his wife's hidden affair he snaps, or does he? Retreating to the darkness of the remote woods, Mort slowly slips into a depressive state that renders him on the brink of psychosis. What's more, a furious Southerner named Shooter is more than perturbed with an accusation that Mort has plagiarized his story, only worsening Mort's paranoia and cynicism of the human race. In typical psychological thriller fashion, "Secret Window" takes you on twists and turns through the warped mind and life of the tormented writer suffering from more than a writer's block.
It started way back when Mort devised the ultimate character: lowly, destitute, a little bit redneck and a lot more vicious. Casting away the manifested character until the appropriate time, Mort continues his career as a writer, a career that, with its ups and downs, can wreak havoc on one's personal life. In this case, Mort's sudden bout with depression after a bad professional year escalates into a worse year for personal reasons, i.e. his wife's newly discovered affair, has Mort climbing into the arms of Jack Daniels and a blind dog for solace.
Whisking off to the quiet woods in a remote cabin, Mort sets about starting a new life and a new novel. But despite his 'efforts', the story just won't come, and Mort continues to drink and sleep his way through the days. That is, until a particularly unconventional man by the name of Shooter berates Mort with accusations of plagiarizing a story Mort knows has already been published in his own name.
Attempting to prove to the surly Southerner that the story is, in fact, his, Mort sets out to recover magazines with the original publication date. Meanwhile, Shooter is getting a 'bang' out of tormenting Mort with his tactless antics and violent threats, including the death of his only companion, his beloved dog.
After Mort hires a P.I. he hopes that the extra security and professional investigation will render Shooter behind bars so Mort can once again crawl back into the peaceful seclusion of his cabin. All the while, however, Mort's ex-wife's new lover seems to find equal pleasure in antagonizing Mort into sporadic outbursts of anger and violence. With the divorce coming to a close, Mort refuses to sign the papers as he finds himself paralyzed by the fear of total solitude, an environment that may be working against Mort more than he is willing to admit.
Meanwhile people are showing up dead, including his recently hired P.I. and a few local townsfolk. What's more, Mort's old house has suddenly gone up in flames, burying every memory he had of his life with his ex-wife.
As Shooter closes in on Mort and his three-day deadline to produce a valid manuscript, Mort slowly slips into a state of uncontrollable panic; one that has him writing "Shoot-her" all over his walls, and taking a sudden liking to, corn?
With a suspenseful climax, and an ending akin to they 'M. Night Shamylan twist', "Secret Window" is a heart-pounding suspense thriller that keeps you watching from start to finish. The film doesn't contain many special effects; they simply aren't necessary as most of the film is based around character development. Johnny Depp delivers a stellar performance as a tormented and yet slightly kooky writer who can't hold his grip on reality. In fact, his portrayal of Mort Rainey is only further evidence towards Depp's versatility as an actor, and his uncanny ability to pen the unconventional roles with a flair only he could muster so effortlessly. After watching the film you couldn't possibly imagine any other actor giving a justified performance in contrast.
The gore is spared, save for a few scenes, and rather, the film focuses on the intense myriad of emotions that can suck both character and audience into the pitfalls and torments of the film. Although short, the plot is concise and complete, and quite enjoyable. It's not going to win any Oscars, but it is worth the watch.
Mort Rainey, played by Johnny Depp, is the tortured writer attending to the turmoil of personal and professional life crises.
Amy Rainey, played by Maria Bello, is the disloyal wife whose secret affair tears apart her marriage to Mort, or did it?
Ted Milner, played by Timothy Hutton, is the arrogant lover who's eagerness to strip Mort's ex-wife out of his life only provokes Mort to a deeper state of anger.
John Shooter, played by John Torturo, is the lowly Southerner with an accent as fierce as his temper, who accuses Mort of lifting his story.