Stephen King's novels have rarely translated that well to the screen. Although there have been some terrific efforts - "Shawshank Redemption", "Hearts in Atlantis", among others - any future efforts would have a lot to live up to after Laurence Kasdan's horrendous adaptation of "Dreamcatcher". Thankfully, director David Koepp, along with a fine cast, has made "Secret Window" considerably more enjoyable, if not entirely satisfying.
Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) is an author who, in order to try and get some creative inspiration (and to get over the recent divorce from his wife, Amy, played by Maria Bello) sequesters himself in a cabin in the woods. Early on, John Shooter (John Turturro) arrives at Rainey's doorstep, claiming that Rainey stole one of his stories. While he goes away at first, he eventually begins returning more often, making larger threats against Rainey.
While the author returns to the life of his ex-wife (who is now with a new boyfriend, played by Timothy Hutton) to seek proof that his story was written first, he also seeks out the assistance of a bodyguard and the local sheriff. Koepp uses the isolated setting of the cabin to good, if not overdone, effect, too. Cinematographer Fred Murphy's compositions are interesting, if the images look slightly soft on the DVD. The other technical highlight is the score by Philip Glass, which is wonderfully moody.
The film's twists and turns are fairly easy to predict, but the dialogue is well-written and effective, with two terrific lead performances to assist it along. Tuturro, previously known for his work in Coen Brothers movie, takes a similar character and flips it into a nightmarish vision. His John Shooter is easily one of the creepiest, most unhinged characters in film in recent memory. Depp's performance is certainly more understated than his work in "Pirates of the Caribbean", but no less intense or enjoyable. Supporting performances are also first-rate.
The ending works, but doesn't exactly sit well. Up until that point, "Secret Window" is a thriller that works without upping the volume very much - subdued and largely pretty quiet, Koepp's film nevertheless remains a tense, enjoyable ride.
VIDEO: "Secret Window" is presented by Columbia/Tristar in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a pretty good transfer, but it really never reaches a higher level. Sharpness and detail are merely satisfactory; the picture has a touch of softness to it that becomes more noticable in some shots and in night/low-light scenes.
Aside from the inconsistent softness, there wasn't much else amatter with the image quality. Edge enhancement did not appear, but some minor compression artifacts were spotted on a couple of occasions. The print appeared to be in excellent shape, with no specks, marks or other debris.
The film's naturalistic color palette was presented superbly, with nice saturation and no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is fine enough, but really doesn't add a great deal to the experience. Sound effects are well-recorded and clean, but the film's audio misses an opportunity, as it doesn't use the surrounds very much, when the rear speakers could provide more in the way of background ambience. The surrounds do kick in at times, but their use isn't particularly noteworthy, aside from one effects sequence late in the film. Dialogue remained very clear and clean throughout, with fine presence in the mix.
EXTRAS: A commentary from screenwriter/director David Koepp is provided. Koepp offers a likable, enjoyable track that feels honest and stays informative. The director provides a lot of insight into the characters (as well as the changes that were made when Koepp adapted King's novella), the process of shooting and problems that occured along the way, such as a dog actor whose poor eyesight caused some problems in certain scenes.
Aside from Koepp's informative commentary, we're offered "A Look Through It", "From Book To Film" and "Secrets Revealed", three featurettes that can be played separately or pieced together to form a longer 62-minute piece. I was a little letdown to find that the opening chunk of the first piece is considerably promotional, spending a good deal of its time introducing characters and talking about the plot of the film we've just viewed. The documentary does get better, as once the story stuff is out of the way, the interviews get more insightful and interesting. The actors provide a lot of good tidbits about how they approached playing their characters, while Koepp chats about trying to fine-tune the film and challenges that occured during production. The one major note about this documentary is that it does give away a lot of story twists - don't browse through it before watching the film.
Moving on, the DVD offers four deleted scenes (including a longer, more graphic ending), two of which offer commentary from Koepp. Also included are animatics for four scenes and trailers for "Secret Window", "Seinfeld", "Spider-Man 2", "Hellboy", "White Chicks", "13 Going on 30", "Kingdom Hospital", "Mothman Prophecies" and "Triplets of Belleville".
Final Thoughts: Despite the fact that the plot was somewhat predictable, "Secret Window" nevertheless kept me very involved, offering a series of very good performances and a great deal of tension. Columbia/Tristar's DVD edition provides fine audio/video quality and a few solid supplements. Recommended.
The Film ***