Secret Window

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Secret Window
Secret Window movie.jpg
Secret Window film poster
Directed by David Koepp
Produced by Gavin Polone
Ezra Swerdlow
Screenplay by David Koepp
Based on Secret Window, Secret Garden by
Stephen King
Starring Johnny Depp
John Turturro
Maria Bello
Timothy Hutton
Music by Philip Glass
Geoff Zanelli
Cinematography Fred Murphy
Editing by Jill Savitt
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates March 12, 2004
Running time 96 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget US$40,000,000
Box office $92,913,171 (worldwide)

Secret Window is a 2004 American psychological thriller film starring Johnny Depp and John Turturro. It was written and directed by David Koepp, based on the novella Secret Window, Secret Garden by Stephen King,[1] featuring a musical score by Philip Glass and Geoff Zanelli. The story appeared in King's collection Four Past Midnight. The film was released on March 12, 2004, by Columbia Pictures, and was a modest box office success despite receiving mixed reviews from critics.


Successful author Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) suffers a psychotic break when his wife has an affair with a man named Ted (Timothy Hutton). He puts off finalizing the divorce by retreating to his secluded cabin in the rural town of Tashmore Lake in upstate New York. Depressed and suffering from writer's block, Mort is one day confronted by the mysterious John Shooter (John Turturro), a Mississippi dairy farmer who accuses him of plagiarism. Shooter leaves Mort with his manuscript 'Sowing Season' which he alleges was copied. Mort dismisses Shooter as a lunatic and throws the manuscript away, but his cleaning lady digs it out of the trash and presents it back to him. With his curiosity piqued, Mort reads the story and is surprised to discover its resemblance to his own story 'Secret Window'.

During his walk the following day, Mort is again approached by Shooter. When Mort explains that his own story was published years before Shooter's existed, Shooter accosts him and gives him a three day ultimatum to provide the proof. When Mort returns home, he sees a note on his door that says, "You have 3 days. I'm not joking. No police." That night, Mort finds Chico, his Australian Cattle Dog, stabbed to death with Mort's screwdriver lodged in his neck. Mort immediately suspects Shooter and reports the incident to the arthritic Sheriff Dave Newsome (Len Cariou), who reacts with little enthusiasm.

Mort later drives to his house where his estranged wife Amy is living in order to obtain a copy of his story. He stews outside for a while as he watches her leave with her new lover Ted, recalling how he had followed Amy to the motel where he violently confronted the lovers with an unloaded gun. Later, Mort contacts Ken Karsch (Charles S. Dutton), a private investigator in New York City who assisted Mort in a previous incident identical to the current situation. Ken agrees to travel to Tashmore Lake to watch the cabin and interview Tom Greenleaf (John Dunn Hill), a man who lives in the woods and witnessed Mort and Shooter's conversation in the woods when he drove by. Later, Shooter confronts Mort again and a heated argument ensues that leaves Mort half-choked and with bruises on his wrists.

When Mort returns to his cabin, Amy calls saying their house was burned down and tearfully breaks down, asking Mort if things would have been different if he hadn't been so involved in his work and if she hadn't suffered an apparent miscarriage. Mort suffers flashbacks of when he and Amy were happily married. When a police officer tells Mort that arson is the likely cause of the fire, Mort begins to suspect that Ted hired Shooter to harass him because of their shared animosity towards each other. This is encouraged when Ted mentions that he hails from a place called Shooter's Bay.

The next morning, Mort is perplexed to find his Jeep Cherokee idling in his driveway with Pall Mall cigarette butts smoldering in the ashtray (the same brand Shooter smokes). He shows up late to the diner where he was supposed to meet with Tom Greenleaf and Ken and learns from a waitress that they never showed up at all. Driving home, Mort sees Ted filling up on gas and pulls over. He asks Ted where his 'buddy' is and demands to be left alone. Ted gives Mort his divorce papers, accusing him of dragging out the process unnecessarily. Mort refuses to sign which leads to a confrontation where Ted breaks his hand throwing a punch at Mort. Back at the cabin, Mort receives a call from Shooter requesting a private meeting in the woods. When Mort arrives, he finds Tom's truck with Tom and Ken inside - murdered. Mort faints and wakes up 3 hours later to find Shooter standing over him. Shooter says that Tom and Ken got in the way of their business and that he and Mort should speak at his home. He advises Mort to get rid of the bodies since Mort's own screwdriver is stuck in Tom's head. Mort navigates the truck off a cliff into a waterlogged quarry but loses his watch in the process.

Meanwhile, Mort's literary agent sends him a copy of the magazine with his published story via UPS and Mort picks it up at the post office. When he returns home, he opens the package in the car and sees that it's already half open and that the pages in the magazine where his story had been have been cut out. Confused and with no answers, Mort idles in his living room where Shooter's wide-rim hat is lying on the coffee table. He absentmindedly puts the hat on and begins talking to his reflection, trying to make sense of everything that had happened. His conversation grows to the point where his 'inner voice' manifests into a second version of him that begins to painfully put all the pieces together: the pages cut out of the magazine, Shooter's Bay, the bruises on his wrist that are now missing, the murders and the house fire. Mort yells at the voice to leave him alone but it says, "You are not alone". Mort comes to the horrible conclusion that Shooter is actually a figment of his imagination, conceived when he first set eyes on the hat at a flea market and brought to life by Mort's dissociative identity disorder which was brought on by the strain of his wife's infidelity and his obsession over the perfect ending for his new story. Mort, as Shooter, carried out the acts of killing Chico, Tom, Ken, and burned down his home since Mort didn't have the stomach or courage to do it himself. He vows to do what he should have started before; fix the ending.

Amy, though angered and frustrated at Mort's failure to sign the divorce papers, arrives at his cabin to see if he's all right and to hopefully finalize the divorce settlement. She finds the cabin disheveled with the word 'shooter' carved along the upstairs walls. Mort suddenly appears from behind a door and Amy is struck by fear when she sees the last carving on the door read 'shoot her'. With Shooter's hat on his head and speaking with a southern accent, Mort chases Amy out to her car and, when she fails to drive away, drags her back into the house and stabs her in the leg with a screwdriver to prevent her from escaping. She falls off the back porch and tries to appeal to Mort as Ted arrives. Hearing Amy's screams, he rushes onto the back porch where Mort ambushes him and knocks him out with a shovel before beheading him with it. Amy watches helplessly while Mort recites his new ending to 'Sowing Season' before he kills her off-screen.

Time passes and Mort appears to have recovered from his writer's block but, when he stops at the local store to pick up some items alluding to his new and vain personality, the townsfolk treat him with quiet hostility. Sheriff Dave stops by the cabin where exercise equipment takes up the living room space and ears of corn cover the kitchen countertops. He finds Mort at the top of the stairs writing at his computer and eating corn and calmly tells Mort that he doesn't have enough to convict him of Amy and Ted's disappearance now, but when the bodies are found, Mort will be put away. He advises Mort to stop shopping in town as he makes the other townsfolk uncomfortable. Mort reluctantly agrees and calmly dismisses the threat of conviction before praising the ending to his story. As Dave leaves, Mort recites the 'perfect' ending to his story as the camera reveals a secret window once obstructed by a large cabinet that looks over a secret garden of corn growing in Mort's back yard. It's suspected that Mort buried the bodies of Ted and Amy there - to fertilize the very corn that he grows and now eats.

Original: “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, her death will be a mystery…even to me.”

New: “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.”



On Rotten Tomatoes, the movie has a rating of 46% based on 157 reviews. On Metacritic, the movie has a score of 46 (mixed or average reviews) out of 100. Roger Ebert awarded it three stars out of a possible four, stating that "[Secret Window] could add up to a straight-faced thriller about things that go boo in the night, but Johnny Depp and director David Koepp ... have too much style to let that happen." He continues by noting that "[t]he story is more entertaining as it rolls along than it is when it gets to the finish line. But at least King uses his imagination right up to the end, and spares us the obligatory violent showdown that a lesser storyteller would have settled for."[2] On the other hand, Ian Nathan from Empire magazine only awarded the film 2 stars out of a possible 5, stating that "The presence of the sublime Depp will be enough to get Secret Window noticed, but even his latest set of rattling eccentricities is not enough to energise this deadbeat parlour trick."[3] It was a modest box office success, succeeding at recouping its budget of $40,000,000 with a worldwide gross of $92,000,000.


Part of the movie was filmed in the town of North Hatley, Quebec in the Eastern Townships approximately two hours south east of Montreal.[4][5] Other filming locations included Lake Massawippi, Lake Sacacomie, Lake Gale and the village of Bromont, Quebec.[6]

According to director David Koepp on the DVD commentary track, the footage of the ocean scene during Mort's restless night on the couch was extra b-roll footage taken from The Lost World: Jurassic Park. [7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Macdonald, Moira (March 12, 2004). "Depp's charisma makes 'Secret Window' worth a look". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2011-05-24. 
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 12, 2004). "Secret Window". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2011-05-24. 
  3. ^ Nathan, Ian. "Empire's Secret Window Movie Review". Empire Online. Retrieved 2011-05-24. 
  4. ^ Google News, The Stanstead Journal, September 13, 2003
  5. ^, North Hatley Travel Guide
  6. ^ The Writing Studio, The Art of Writing and Making Films - Adaptation Secret Window
  7. ^ Koep, David (Director) (Audio Commentary) (2004). "Secret Window" (DVD) (Motion Picture). Columbia Pictures. 

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