Secret Window

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Secret Window
Secret Window movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Koepp
Produced byGavin Polone
Ezra Swerdlow
Screenplay byDavid Koepp
Based onSecret Window, Secret Garden by
Stephen King
StarringJohnny Depp
John Turturro
Maria Bello
Timothy Hutton
Music byPhilip Glass
Geoff Zanelli
CinematographyFred Murphy
Edited byJill Savitt
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • March 12, 2004 (2004-03-12)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$40 million
Box office$92.9 million

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; it was a moderate box office success and received mixed reviews from critics.


Author Mort Rainey catches his wife Amy having an affair with another man, Ted, and threatens both of them with an empty revolver. Depressed and suffering from writer's block, Mort delays finalizing the divorce and retreats to his cabin at Tashmore Lake in upstate New York. A drawling Mississippian calling himself John Shooter arrives at the cabin and accuses Mort of plagiarizing his short story "Sowing Season". Upon reading Shooter's manuscript, Mort discovers it is virtually identical to his own story, "Secret Window", except for the ending.

The following day, Mort goes on a walk and finds Shooter waiting for him; as they argue, Mort tells Shooter that he published his story two years before Shooter says he had his own printed, and so Shooter has no claim of plagiarism against Mort. Shooter angrily demands proof, and warns Mort against going to the police. That night, Mort finds his dog Chico murdered outside the cabin, with a note from Shooter giving him three days to find proof. The next morning, Mort goes to see Sheriff Dave Newsome in the nearby town, but Newsome does not seem especially interested.

Mort drives to his house in Riverdale to retrieve a copy of the magazine in which his story was published, but leaves when he sees Amy and Ted. He contacts private investigator Ken Karsch for help. Ken agrees to travel to Tashmore Lake to watch the cabin and talk to Tom Greenleaf, a resident who might have seen Shooter talking to Mort. Shooter visits Mort at the cabin and demands Mort revise the ending of "Secret Window" to Shooter's version, where the protagonist kills his wife. Mort tries to fight him, but the Deep South dairy farmer swiftly overpowers the writer and leaves.

Amy calls Mort, saying their house was burned down. Mort travels to Riverdale and the two are questioned by a police officer. Ken calls Mort and says Tom Greenleaf denied seeing Mort. Ken suspects Tom was threatened by Shooter. They agree to confront Shooter together and arrange a meeting with Tom at a local diner.

The next morning, Mort oversleeps. Arriving at the diner, he learns that Ken and Tom didn't show up. Seeing Ted at a gas station, Mort approaches him and Ted demands Mort sign the divorce papers. Convinced that Shooter is in Ted's employ, Mort refuses, taunts Ted and leaves. Shooter calls Mort to a meeting place; when he arrives, Mort finds Ken and Tom dead inside Tom's truck and faints. When he wakes up, Shooter says that "they tried to interfere in our business." Mort says he has obtained the magazine as proof, and Shooter agrees to meet at Mort's cabin. He leaves, warning he has tied Mort to the two dead men "in more ways than you know." Mort runs Tom's truck off a steep drop into a water-filled stone quarry, covering up the two murders.

Amy calls Mort, reminiscing about a miscarriage she had suffered during their marriage in hopes that she can convince him to sign the divorce papers, but Mort refuses once again, causing her to drive to his cabin to try and convince him in person. Afterwards, Mort picks up the magazine sent by his literary agent. He finds the package already opened and the pages containing the story cut out. Back at his cabin, Mort sees Shooter's hat. Mort puts on the hat and begins speaking to himself, trying to make sense of the events. Mort realizes that Shooter is just a figment of his imagination, a character of his own creation brought to life through Mort's undetected dissociative identity disorder, adopted to carry out malevolent tasks like killing Chico, Tom, and Ken, as well as burning down his former house.

When Amy arrives at the cabin, she finds it in disorder, with the word "SHOOTER" carved repeatedly on the walls. Mort appears behind her and Amy realizes that the name represents Mort's desire to "SHOOT HER". Mort, speaking with Shooter's accent and wearing his hat, chases Amy and stabs her in the ankle. Concerned about Amy's safety, Ted arrives and is ambushed by Mort, who hits him in the face with a shovel. Amy watches helplessly as Mort beheads Ted with the shovel. Mort recites the ending of "Sowing Season" as he kills Amy as well.

Mort recovers from writer's block and experiences a mood improvement. Sheriff Newsome later stops by the cabin to warn Mort that he is the prime suspect in Amy and Ted's disappearances, that he will be caught sooner or later, and that he is no longer welcome in town. Mort dismisses the threat and the Sheriff leaves. In Mort's room there is a secret window that overlooks a secret garden. It is implied that the bodies are buried in the garden, which is now a cornfield, and the police will find them sooner or later.



On Rotten Tomatoes, Secret Window has a rating of 46% based on 162 reviews. On Metacritic, the film 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] 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 million with a worldwide gross of $92 million.


Part of Secret Window 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. ^ WorldWeb.com, North Hatley Travel Guide
  6. ^ The Writing Studio, The Art of Writing and Making Films - Adaptation Secret Window Archived 2013-09-25 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Koep, David (Director) (Audio Commentary) (2004). "Secret Window" (DVD)|format= requires |url= (help) (Motion Picture). Columbia Pictures.

External links[edit]