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David Koepp
Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton, Charles Dutton, Len Cariou, Joan Heney, John Dunn-Hill, Vlasta Vrana
Writing Credits:
Stephen King (novel), David Koepp

Some Windows Should Never Be Opened.

Academy Award nominee Johnny Depp (2003 Best Actor, Pirates of the Caribbean) gives his most riveting performance in this action/suspense thriller featuring a top-notch cast including John Turturro, Maria Bello, Academy Award winner Timothy Hutton (1981 Best Supporting Actor, Ordinary People) and Charles S. Dutton.

Following a bitter separation from his wife (Bello), famed mystery writer Mort Rainey (Depp) is unexpectedly confronted at his remote lake house by a dangerous stranger named John Shooter (Turturro). Claiming Rainey has plagiarized his short story, the psychotic Shooter demands justice. When Shooter's demands turn to threats - and then murder - Rainey turns to a private detective (Dutton) for help. But when nothing stops the horror from spiraling out of control, Rainey soon discovers he can't trust anyone or anything. A shocking psychological thriller from the writer of Panic Room, David Koepp.

Box Office:
$40 million.
Opening Weekend
$18.237 million on 3018 screens.
Domestic Gross
$47.781 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.40:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 6/22/2004

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director David  Koepp
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Three Behind the Scenes Featurettes
• Animated Storyboards
• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


Secret Window (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 23, 2004)

Fresh off of the success of 2002’s Spider-Man and Panic Room, writer David Koepp returned to the director’s chair for the first time in five years via 2004’s Secret Window. Based on a Steven King story, Window focuses on mystery writer Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp), whose wife Amy (Maria Bello) cheated on him and initiated a separation.

Mort takes up residency at a lakeside cabin to work but mostly seems pretty out of it with a bad case of writer’s block. Mysterious oddball John Shooter (John Turturro) bangs on the cabin door and claims that Mort stole his story. Mort denies any connection and tries to get rid of the other man, but the determined Shooter leaves his allegedly-plagiarized manuscript anyway. Mort throws it in the trash and resumes his lazy lifestyle.

Shooter’s manuscript ends up on Mort’s table when his maid mistakes it for one of Rainey’s and rescues it. Despite his better judgment, Mort reads it and discovers that it bears a strong resemblance to his own tale “Secret Window”. Mort denies he stole Shooter’s story, but he slowly starts to question this assertion, and matters complicate when we learn that Mort once “borrowed” someone else’s tale.

Shooter confronts Mort again, and Rainey tries to dispel his antagonist when we learn that Shooter penned his tale in 1997 but “Secret Window” was published a couple of years earlier. Shooter doesn’t just accept Mort’s word, though, and insists that he produce proof. To prove he’s no playing around, Shooter leaves a threatening note and kills Mort’s dog.

Despite Shooter’s insistence on “no police”, Mort immediately heads to the cops, but they don’t really seem to care about the canine murder. Mort goes to a private detective named Ken Karsch (Charles S. Dutton) to get assistance; he also helped with Rainey’s prior fan incident. Despite the bad blood between the pair, Mort goes to get a copy of the magazine in which “Secret Window” first ran from Amy, where he reacts bitterly when he sees her with her boyfriend Ted (Timothy Hutton) and doesn’t get the publication.

Matters intensify after another confrontation with Shooter, soon after which someone burns down the house they used to share. From there, the story continues its course, as we learn of intrigue and outside elements that complicate the tale, all while Shooter remains on Mort’s case.

Heavily influenced by Hitchcock, Secret Window engages us intermittently but it doesn’t live up to the levels set by the master. Echoes of Hitchcock pop up all over the place, from the title to the score. The flick tosses out more than a minor Cape Fear vibe as well; from the determined stalker to the cocky private detective, we see many reminders of that effort.

I won’t detail it so I don’t spoil things, but Window presents a big twist ending. I won’t lie - I didn’t see it coming, though I probably should have, given the weird plot holes that popped up along the way. For instance, it seemed stupid that it took Mort so long to get a copy of the magazine, and this felt like a cheesy device to prolong the story; once it appears, matters should rectify.

In the context of the film’s third act, the absence of the magazine fits better, as do other plot holes. The film tosses out clues about what will come, but obviously they remained largely hidden to me, for I really didn’t see it coming.

The twists make the conclusion both more satisfying and more frustrating. It came across as more pleasing just because so much of the prior action made so little sense; within the context of the ending, we understand the flaws better and they don’t seem so problematic. However, the frustrations emerge because the twists feel like cheats at times. The movie does build them naturally, but it occasionally does so in such obscure ways that the ultimate realities appear out of the blue.

Happily, yet another good performance from Depp helps tie this material together. He’s turned into money in the bank, as he almost always creates a quirky and idiosyncratic turn. Depp keeps his characters real and believable but he adds neat twists that allow them to emerge as intriguing personalities.

As a director, Koepp does an average job. He lacks the self-assurance of someone like David Fincher, who made the Hitchcockian material of Panic Room into something out of the ordinary. Koepp tries hard but doesn’t deliver the same level of flair and cleverness to help allow the movie to truly excel.

Ultimately, Secret Window provides some entertainment, and I give it credit for a dark ending. However, it comes across as a somewhat pedestrian Hitchcock homage. The movie works well for the most part but it doesn’t excel in any particular way.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Secret Window appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As one might expect from a brand-new flick, Window looked generally solid.

No issues with sharpness manifested themselves. The movie consistently appeared concise and well-defined, as I noticed no issues related to softness or a lack of definition. I also witnessed no jagged edges or moiré effects, though some light edge enhancement appeared occasionally. Print flaws were very minor. I saw a speck or two and that was it in this otherwise clean transfer.

As one might expect from a fairly dark thriller, Window maintained a somber palette, and the DVD replicated those tones well. The cabin setting offered some nice woodland hues, and the colors consistently looked accurate and well rendered. Blacks were also deep and firm. A few low-light shots came across as slightly dense, but those failed to create definite concerns, as shadows mostly appeared distinctive and adequately defined. Overall, Window looked solid.

Though fairly low-key, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Secret Window also seemed winning. Given the movie’s restricted scope, the soundfield mostly stayed with general ambience. Elements were appropriately placed and integrated smoothly. Occasional louder sequences brought the mix to life nicely and added some punch when necessary, mainly in the scenes that featured drama between Mort and Shooter. Surrounds stayed mostly with environmental reinforcement. Occasional examples of unique audio appeared in the rear, but the audio mainly featured information that echoed the sense of place.

Audio quality was fine. Speech seemed accurate and well-defined, with no issues related to intelligibility or edginess. Music was bright and dynamic, as the score seemed clean and dynamic. Effects also sounded concise and clear, as they lacked distortion and featured good range and accuracy. Nothing about the soundtrack of Window stood out from the crowd, but it seemed satisfying.

A mix of extras round out the Secret Window DVD. We open with an audio commentary from writer/director David Koepp, who offers a running, screen-specific discussion. A nicely lively and informative track, Koepp covers lots of material. He goes over issues connected to the adaptation of the original story and other script topics. In addition, Koepp talks about storytelling elements related to the visual components, as he goes over the various choices made to depict the action. Koepp talks virtually nonstop and seems self-deprecating and amusing, and he even points out some parts of the flick he wishes he’d improved. It’s a solid track.

After this we get four deleted scenes. Via the “Play All” option, they last a total of five minutes, 58 seconds. These include a shot of arson as well as some extended bits. Nothing substantial appears, though the elongated bit when Mort looks for Karsch seems entertaining. We can watch the first two clips with or without commentary from Koepp. He explains why he axed the pieces and offers some useful notes about the snippets.

Within the Featurettes domain, we get three programs. We find “From Book to Film” (19 minutes, five seconds), “A Look Through It” (29:39), and “Secrets Revealed” (14:00). We can also take them in via a “Play All” option that creates one long 62 minute and 44 second piece. These include the usual roster of movie snippets, behind the scenes bits, and interviews. We hear from director/writer Koepp, costume designer Odette Gadoury, and actors Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Charles S. Dutton, Timothy Hutton, and Maria Bello. They go over reasons for changing the title, issues related to the adaptation and bringing the material to the movie screen, changes made to the original work, Stephen King’s input, casting, character notes, storytelling techniques, locations and sets, costumes and the film’s visual look, and the shooting and conception of many of the flick’s scenes.

For all intents and purposes, the featurettes add up to something of an illustrated audio commentary. Despite the infusion of other participants, Koepp heavily dominates these pieces, and he often goes over topics covered in his commentary. Nonetheless, we get some good shots from the filming as well as additional insight into a few topics not mentioned in the commentary. Despite some redundant elements, the three featurettes present a nice examination of various issues connected to the film.

Animatics lets us examine the preparatory work for four segments. We see “Opening Credits” (101 seconds), “Pushing the Car Off the Cliff” (72 seconds), “Twist Revealed” (three minutes, 19 seconds) and “Into the Garden” (51 seconds). These provide basic computer animated visions of the sequences and seem fun to watch.

When the DVD opens, it presents an ad forSpider-Man 2. This also appears in the Previews area, where we find additional trailers for 13 Going on 30, Secret Window, Seinfeld, The Mothman Prophecies, The Triplets of Belleville, Hellboy, White Chicks and Kingdom Hospital.

A moderately intriguing thriller, Secret Window suffers from a mix of flaws, but it generally offers some entertainment. There’s nothing here to make it stand out as particularly stellar, though a nice lead performance from Johnny Depp elevates it somewhat. The DVD features solid picture and audio plus a good set of supplements highlighted by many insightful comments from the writer/director. Window stands as a decent rental.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4857 Stars Number of Votes: 35
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