Review: Secret Window

Posted by Peter Hall - May 7th 2007 @ 7:34 pm

Directed by David Koepp, 2004
Written by David Koepp, Stephen King

Maria Bello Secret Wndow High

Secret Window stings me.  I like David Koepp.  I think he is a fine studio writer and, whether it is embarrassing to admit or not, had a huge impact on both my life and my likes.  Jurassic Park, to a kid my age, was a mind altering experience.  He only adapted the material, sure, but Koepp’s screenplay credit still gets a constant nod in my book.  His scripts wax off and on, but for the most part they do well to entertain.  Stir of Echoes, his previous horror directorial effort, also happens to be a favorite, holding up with me better than expected over the years.

Then there is the original source inspiration; Stephen "I make Peter hurt with how many damned good stories I write" King.  I haven’t read Secret Window, Secret Garden, so I can’t vouch for the original’s integrity, but it is one of King’s writer-centric stories; a niche of his whose tales I normally love.

Combine those two with the endless talent that is Johnny Depp and the project has all of the fixings for a genre treasure.  Treasure, however, it is not.  Secret Window reaches a plateau midway that it never seems to surmount. Plus, the picture arrived four decades too late to be truly memorable.

And, to further twist the knife, it could easily be dubbed a ‘psychological thriller’ – so you know what that means for its ending.

Koepp laced the film with a great cast.  Depp is perfect for the eccentric Mort Rainey; reclusive writer and possible plagiarizer.   Maria Bello is striking, as always, both emotionally and visually.  Turturro nails the accusing, intensely southern stalker portion of his character, but he is never creepy.  Thusly, neither is the rest of the movie, as it revolves around the actions, or lack of, of this decisively non-scary character.

Sensation wise, it’s a great watch.  The cinematography is vivid as well is the sound mix.  In fact it is one of the crispest genre offerings I’ve yet to catch in HD, for anyone interested in the higher pixel offerings  Stylistically, the unusual character choice and refrained pace are genuinely admirable as they are rare in a studio setting, but they simply don’t translate well across the whole running time.

Of course, the whole ‘psychological thriller’ typical ending is far too familiar for anyone who goes to the movies with any frequency.  People are crazy, we get it, but unless you delicately integrate their lunacy throughout the entirety of the movie (as is the case for the brilliant American Psycho), don’t pull an all-in-their-head in the last 15ish minutes.  It worked in Hitchcock’s Psycho and in a handful of films after, but rarely since and definitely not within the last decade.

Stories of this bend are better suited to the page than the screen.  Again, I can’t say how well King even pulled it off in the original, but in cinema the enterprise just falls flat. 

There is talent everywhere in Secret Window.  David Koepp has a great eye, King a twisted mind and Depp perfect character nuance, but the end product somehow lacks a solid cohesion of any of these elements.  It is kind of cool, kind of creepy, but only kind of an alright movie.

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  1. Brian
    May 12th, 2007 | 4:54 pm | #1

    Tell me you saw 28 Weeks Later over the weekend.

    I was blown away.

    It was probably the most exhausting movie I have ever seen.

  2. May 12th, 2007 | 4:55 pm | #2

    I did, just got back. Expect the review either very late tonight or tomorrow. In the mean time….

    Fucking BRUTAL!

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