Making the Grades
After his blockbuster success as a swaggering buccaneer in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Johnny Depp takes on the role of another slightly eccentric character in Secret Window.
Tortured by the discovery of his wife's unfaithfulness, novelist Mort Rainey (Depp) secludes himself in a remote cabin on a heavily wooded plot outside of town. Cursed with writer's block, he slips into a depression that causes him to spend a lot of time sleeping and smoking. But he suddenly finds himself very awake when a stranger shows up on his quiet doorstep.
John Shooter (John Turturro) is from Mississippi. He wears a wide-brimmed black felt hat and a faded denim shirt. Speaking with a heavy Southern drawl, he accuses the renowned author of plagiarism and demands that Mort give him credit for a short story he claims to have written.
However as the two men argue over the literary piece in question, Mort realizes he can easily solve the problem by producing a magazine with the story in it, published long before John claims to have penned his tale.
Agreeing to give Mort three days to produce the article, the eerie stranger disappears into the forest. But curious things begin to happen around the cottage---hand-written warnings, creepy sounds and sudden shadows.
After going to the local sheriff, Mort realizes he won't get much help from the small town officer. Instead, he heads into the city to garner the heavy-fisted assistance of a high-powered investigator, Ken Karsch (Charles S. Dutton). Before going home, he drives by his old house to pick up the magazine from his ex-wife Amy (Maria Bello), but stops short of going in when he sees her lover Ted (Timothy Hutton) coming out the front door.
Back at the cabin, grisly things begin to happen, always followed by John's arrival. With time to prove his authorship ticking down, Mort frantically searches for a good ending to the troubling episode.
Building tension in the beginning of the film is often softened by snippets of comedic relief by the messy haired writer. But those glimmers of the swashbuckling Jack Sparrow aren't enough to offset the bloody and gruesome deaths that dominate the ending of this movie or the cigarettes and liquor the despondent man uses to get through his messy divorce. In fact, cigarette manufactures seem to have found a way to sidestep the difficult advertising issues surrounding smoking by getting a prominent product placement for their merchandise in the film. Plenty of other brand names as well as profanities also weave their way into the script.
While Johnny Depp fans and horror film aficionados might be drawn to this flick, there is little if any justification or consequences for the characters' actions. So if blood and gore aren't your idea of family entertainment, don't go peeking into this Secret Window.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Secret Window.
Smoking is beginning to make a comeback in the movies. Is this a way for advertisers to promote tobacco products? Is smoking portrayed as glamorous or a necessary aid to deal with stress? Do you think that showing people (especially main characters) smoking affects the future habits of teens or children?
What are the motivations for the killers actions? How would they hold up in a court of law?
How does illegally using or downloading written, musical or intellectual property of others hurt the original author? Are anti-plagiarism laws more difficult to enforce since the arrival of modern forms of communication?