'Secret Window' has been criticized due to the end twist; a kind of 'surprise' which became predictable for one reason and one reason only...it's overdone. I checked the 'spoiler' box but I'll still warn you...MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD: Ever since Hitchcock launched the terrifying arrow named 'psycho' at the public, our understandable fascination for one of the strangest of diseases has dimmed down; time and time again it served as an easy way out of a complicated mystery much to the intelligent viewer's frustration.
Nevertheless, the Stephen King novella 'secret window, secret garden' (published in 1990) came before the second wave of twist endings, unchained by the release of 'Fight Club', 'The Sixth Sense' and 'The Usual Suspects' in the nineties, it's unfortunate but true that since then not many have blown our heads back like those.
Luckily for Secret Window, and for us, the movie relies mostly on the wonderful quirkiness of Depp and the atmosphere; the mood is set right from the start with a great opening scene and an impressive tracking shot accompanied by a tenebrous score, at the end of the shot we're introduced to our Byronic hero, popular horror novelist Mort Rainey. His life's caught in a tailspin; suffering through a divorce from a woman he still loves and tortured by the subsequent writer's block, caused by the loss of his muse. He isolates himself in a lake cabin, killing most of his time napping and exchanging wits with his cataract-stricken dog. In the midst of his anguish, a deranged man, John Shooter comes knocking, spewing accusations of plagiarism. This man is determined that Mort make amends to satisfy his cruel soul, backing up his demands with threats to kill and a warning not to go to the police...
...I liked how the story continued, Shooter's actions begin to make less and less sense. He's promised a magazine by a deadline he sets, only to harass Mort before that time, which anything but motivates Mort into giving in to Shooter's demands...namely changing the ending. 'Mine's perfect...it's the ONLY ending' Shooter said in the form of John Turturro, the accent with which he says the words and the way he almost seems to stare through Mort (those icy looks, the eyes never blinking; the stare of a psychopath). We can conclude from the context that Shooter's ending's radically different from Mort's own, oh yes...Mort Rainey did, when he penned down the ending for 'secret window', in fact write his last happy ending...
Here's Shooter's version: "I know I can do it," Todd Downey said, helping himself to another ear of corn from the steaming bowl. "I'm sure that in time, every bit of her will be gone and her death will be a mystery... even to me."
And so it shall be, fiction becomes truth. By the way, the similarities between Mort's short story and the events of the plot are fun to observe on a re-watch(so's the relevance of the lines typed at the end of the tracking shot right after the title appeared on screen in blood red).
What kept 'Secret Window' afloat as the plot unwinds into the predictable last couple of scenes (double murder) (I'm not talking about the very last scenes, the bookends are fantastic), is a sense of inevitable doom that chokes (and fascinates the darker minded ones among you) the viewers. No miraculous rescue, no escape. Mort is (meaning dead and death in French) a powerful representation of the grim reaper, portrayed with grandeur by a Depp clearly having a lot of fun. Notice the cracking of his jaw, a very discomposing nervous tick, it disconcerted me. Also the braces somehow make Depp seems as dangerous as Jaws, how'd they do that?! He's at the top of his game, his facial reactions are marvelous (you can watch the whole movie muted and still be entertained), this movie's worth the price of admission or rental for the acting alone.
My only regret is the lack of more wonderfully dark voice-overs...in the spirit of:'This is not my beautiful wife. This is not my beautiful house. Anymore' or the opening lines 'Turn around. Turn around. Turn the car around and get the hell out of here. Right now. Don't go back. Do not go back there.'
Inner dialog of tortured characters can be so fascinating when done right and they obviously know how to, they chose not to put too much in. As far as I'm concerned, that's the only thing I'd done different had I directed it.
For me 'Secret Window''s (almost) perfect just the way it is, no attempt at a masterpiece but an unpretentious, fun thriller.
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