March, 2004: Secret Window

Few authors have had as much success as Stephen King when it comes to movie adaptations of his works– granted, the results seem to vary pretty greatly. On the one hand, you have classics such as Misery, Carrie, Stand By Me, and The Shining. On the other, things look a little more grim: Dreamcatcher, The Lawnmower Man, and so on. Secret Window happens to sit smack-dab in the center in the “mediocrity” zone. With a pitiful twist, some questionable characterization, and overall average performances, this film falls well short of greatness.

Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) is a world famous writer, a la Stephen King, that retreats to his summer cabin, deep in the woods, after he finds his wife in bed with another man. On this retreat, he plans to drink a bunch of Mountain Dew, eat a ton of Doritos, and work on his portfolio– by the way, he really does drink Mountain Dew and eat Doritos. Shortly after settling in, a mysterious Mississippi-drifter, with a distinct, Southern draw, by the name of Shooter (John Turturro) confronts Mort about a short-story called The Secret Window. Shooter claims that Mort “stole his story” and that he needs to write his ending into the book or face the consequences. Through a mix of horrible displays of revenge and viciousness– think dead dogs and screwdrivers– and mind-games, we learn that Shooter and Mort may have more in common than just a short-story by the same name.

While the synopsis above sounds thrilling, there are many issues that keep it from being so. For one, like most things Hollywood, a half-hearted love story is shoehorned in, soaking up as much oxygen as possible and prolonging what could be a quick rise in action to a suspenseful climax. Look, I know what you’re thinking: “But Mort’s wife needs to be involved so that it can end the way it does, and so that Mort has a reason to go insane.” While that may be true, it doesn’t mean that his ex-wife is a compelling character; in fact, her new boyfriend, Ted, is much more interesting and complex. It’s clear what he wants and what he’ll do to get it.

In addition to the poor story elements, there are also some unintentionally comedic moments that, while hilarious, weren’t intended to be that way. For the sake of spoilers, I’ll just say that braces and corn are involved, as well as a moment that you’re absolutely sure will end with a gunshot and, instead, ends with a head being lopped off with a shovel.

Matt: Don't watch
Gabe: Don't watch

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