Stephen King's fantastic little novella "Secret Window, Secret Garden" was actually a pre-cursor to the better known (but, in my opinion, inferior) "The Dark Half". Both stories dealt with the solitary world of the writer, and the dangers of the imagination, but, of the two tales, The Dark Half would surface first, relegating Secret Window to an inauspicious spot in the otherwise lackluster "Four Past Midnight" collection. Now, thanks to Panic Room scribe, David Koepp, Secret Window gets it's chance to show how it stacks up to King's other tortured writer tale.
Meet Mort Rainey (Depp). Six months after discovering his wife in a motel room tryst, Mort has gone off into seclusion at his rural vacation home where he spends much of his time curled up on the couch in a depressed slumber. When a strange southern man named John Shooter (Turturro) comes knocking at Mort's door, he suddenly finds himself accused of stealing the man's story. Mort dismisses Shooter as another obsessive fan, but when he reads Shooter's story he sees that it is virtually identical to his own short story Secret Window. As Shooter's intimidation tactics grow more...well...intimidating, Mort finds himself questioning not only whether or not he stole Shooter's story, but his own sanity.
Koepp does a remarkable job of adapting King's story, but it almost adapts itself seeing as how the original tale's shorter length is well suited for the screen. Not much is missing from King's tale, and, save for a few tweaks in the ending, it's a very faithful adaptation indeed.
The cast is fantastic, with Depp turning in yet another in a long line of fine performances as the addled Rainey. He is one of those rare performers whose work is so subtle it seems effortless, but knowing what I know about Depp's acting style, literally everything from Rainey's facial tics to his post-grunge wardrobe are all things Depp meticulously worked on when slipping into the character. The results are completely believable, sympathetic, and tragic.
Turturro seems to have jumped into the film straight out of his role in O' Brother Where Art Thou? as his Shooter is something of a stereotypical hayseed. However, that is precisely what the character is supposed to be, and Turturro keeps the role from veering off into parody. The supporting cast of Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton, and Charles S. Dutton are an uncharacteristically strong bunch, especially for a "little" psychological horror tale, and really round things out nicely.
The DVD from Columbia/Tri-Star features a full-length commentary by Koepp, a trio of featurettes, deleted scenes (with optional commentary) and more.
Secret Window is one of the better horror flicks of the past few years. It's a very "personal" sort of psychological horror film that I think plays better on the small screen than in theaters, which may have attributed to its rather modest box-office. It's a PG-13 film, but it has a smattering of gore and some solid scares, and an excellent performance from Depp. Definitely worth checking out!