SECRET WINDOW written and directed by David Koepp, from Stephen King's novella Secret Window, Secret Garden, produced by Gavin Polone, with Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello and Timothy Hutton. 99 minutes. A Columbia/TriStar production. Opens Friday (March 12). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 85. Rating: NN
Steven King's secret window , Secret Garden is one of his short stories on steroids, a hundred pages plus to get to an O. Henryish twist ending. A writer undergoing a bitter divorce is suddenly confronted by a stranger who accuses him of stealing one of his stories. The stranger begins a campaign of terminal harassment, forcing the writer into more and more extreme modes of self-defence.
A few of King's shorter works have led to good movie adaptations - Carrie, Apt Pupil, the telefilm Night Flyer - but Secret Window isn't among them. The textures are too thin, the world underpopulated. More importantly, this territory has already been thoroughly studied in George Romero's The Dark Half, the most underrated King adaptation, with Timothy Hutton as the writer confronted by an inexplicable doppelganger.
Writer-director David Koepp's got an interesting filmography that includes the screenplays for Jurassic Park and Carlito's Way and two more interesting thrillers, The Trigger Effect and Stir Of Echoes. Here, Johnny Depp plays the writer, and you can see why he took the part - he spends enormous amounts of time playing scenes alone.
A fair amount of self-absorption is built into Depp's acting style, which explains why in his movies he often seems to be playing in a different film from everyone else. He is, admittedly, more entertaining playing scenes in his own alternative universe than more ordinary actors, but when he's really good he's benefiting from a stronger context than he gets here.
What Secret Window lacks is a clear commitment to its genre. Koepp's ghost film, Stir Of Echoes, jumped right into its horror story and enjoyed it. In Secret Window, he can't seem to decide if he's making a horror movie or a character study. The twist can be seen coming a long way off, and it's one of those conceits that work much better on the page or require a director with a much stronger conception of the material, as Romero had in The Dark Half.
Not a movie I'd want to pay full price for, but I would rent the DVD in a few months to hear a director's commentary.