A review of “Secret Window” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: PG-13 for language, violence and intensity

Run Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes



Riding high on the success of Pirates of the Caribbean, Johnny Depp segues into this Stephen King-based thriller with killer aplomb.

Depp is Morton Rainey, a quasi-successful novelist who’s agonizing over a painful divorce and licking his wounds at his rustic upstate New York cabin.  With writer’s block perpetually at his side, Rainey spends his days talking to his dog and staring at a blank computer screen.

Until a dark and mysterious stranger appears at his door, insisting that Rainey stole his story.  John Shooter (John Turturro) claims to have written the short story “Secret Window” in 1997; identical to a story Rainey published in a mystery magazine several years prior to that.

Prove it, says Shooter; you have three days to produce before I put the screws to you.  In the meantime this seemingly psychotic stalker means business, putting a hand tool through Rainey’s poor pooch and wreaking bloody havoc on the periphery of Rainey’s limited existence.

Subtle subplots are the sum of a smarter whole.  The local sheriff (Len Cariou) who prefers needlepointing his arthritis away to solving crimes.  The semi-sympathetic ex (Maria Bello) who’s sleeping with her home-wrecking beau and is anxious to move on.  And the omnipresent fear of the unknown

Based on the Stephen King novella “Secret Window, Secret Garden”, Window employs King’s unique blend of apprehension and wry humor.  Depp is sheer poetry as the sardonically aggrieved author; it’s a unique pleasure to enjoy such a fine performance in a skillfully twisted narrative. 

David Koepp’s script is taut, as is his canny direction.  Supporting performances – particularly Turturro’s menacing turn – are brave and commanding, and Philip Glass’ moody score sharpens every nerve ending. Bravo for the revival of the smart thriller.