Hardly an artist with a forceful point of view, writer-director David Koepp works surface wonders with technology to emphasize the psychic split of Secret Window‘s lead character Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp). The film’s opening shot is a doozy—Koepp’s camera travels up to Rainey’s lonely cabin-in-the-woods and enters a second-floor window before passing through a full-length mirror and settling effortlessly on our protagonist. An auspicious and awesome visualization to be sure, but there’s little feeling beyond the mechanical thrill. Indeed, Secret Window‘s plot machinations ultimately overwhelm its sporadic visual inventiveness. Lacking an artist’s obsession with his medium, Koepp goes through the hack-like motions, performing his directorial tasks neither with high-end brio nor low-end boredom, stuck in a frustrating middle-zone of unfulfilled promise. Yet it’s easy to see why Koepp the writer was attracted to the film’s inspirational source, namely Stephen King’s novella “Secret Window, Secret Garden.” A meta-examination of a writer’s solitary existence, the King tale streamlines several of the author’s fascinations into a creepy chamber piece, the emphasis placed more squarely on psychological horror as opposed to King’s characteristically sanguine raison d’être. Koepp adds his own layer of critique to the adaptation by emphasizing Rainey’s need to come up with the perfect ending, and credit must be given to the writer-director for following through on this theme, bravely altering King’s original ending from Psycho-explanatory to Hollywood-atypical. Unfortunate, then, that the bulk of Secret Window is best summed up by another of the film’s thematic constants—a primary character’s pathological taste for corn.
- David Koepp
- David Koepp
- Johnny Depp, Maria Bello, Kyle Allatt, Len Cariou, Charles Dutton, Gillian Ferrabee, Timothy Hutton, Richard Jutras, Ving Rhames, John Turturro
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