Retro Film Review | Secret Window

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Some windows should never be opened.

Secret Window (2004)

Director: David Koepp

Starring: Johnny Depp, Maria Bello, John Turturro, Timothy Hutton

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Release Date: April 30th 2004

Certificate: 12A

Escaping to a remote lakehouse while his divorce is finalised, successful author Mort Rainey (Depp) is not only struggling with writer’s block but also a menacing stranger accusing him of plagiarism and flashbacks to finding his wife in bed with another man.

I remember going to see this film back when it came out and enjoying it as a mystery thriller with a good twist, since then my love of cinema has grown and that is why when I spotted it being sold for £1, I decided it was time to take another look and see if I still think its good or did I only enjoy it because of my tastes at the time.

On second viewing and viewing The Birds not long back, the first thing I noticed was just how many nods David Koepp gave to Alfred Hitchcock, the opening scene of Mort discovering his wife cheating felt especially Hitchcockian, this is nothing to be ashamed of after all hs is the master of suspense.

Adapted from the Stephen King short story Secret Window Secret Garden in his book Four Past Midnight,  the film came out long after the success of Pirates of the Caribean and actually had its release date brought forwards to cash in on the success of Depp as Captain Jack and Depp certainly plays up to this with shared character traits and mannerisms between Sparrow and Rainey certainly visible throughout, this added a somewhat comic side to the film that I had missed the first time watching and is just one of the odd choices that Koepp made when directing the film.

I’m not saying that these odd choices were bad ones, but some of them such as Rainey passing out after seeing a squirrel or the dream sequences certainly throw the audience a curveball and the film then takes a bit of time to get back on track, which when coupled with a second act that’s mostly occupied with Rainey’s divorce rather than the claustrophobic and tense events at the lake house, the suspense and mystery that the first act creates is almost lost.

Luckily for the viewer, the third act returns the film to its roots and thus provides more of an enjoyable ending, one that gives us quite a satisfying though on second viewing a somewhat telegraphed twist and provides a deeply intriguing ending.

All of which means I can’t help but wonder what the film would have been like if it hadn’t devoted so much time to events away from the lake and instead had really pushed the building tension between Rainey and John Shooter (Turturro), or looked further into Rainey’s worsening mental health.

Johnny Depp in Secret Window (2004)

After watching the film for the second time, I’m pleased that I gave it a second viewing, while it does spend a bit too much time dwelling on the divorce and the tension rises and falls too much for my liking, the small nods to Hitchcock are really fun for film geeks like myself and some of the shots are interesting, to say the least, plus the film does eventually find its feet again and finishes strongly.

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If you liked: 1408, Stir of Echoes, Dreamcatcher

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