Based on King’s story “Secret Window, Secret Garden,” writer/director David Koepp’s underrated chiller stars Johnny Depp as a successful novelist named Mort Rainey, still smarting from his wife’s adulterous betrayal. While suffering from writer’s block, Rainey meets a mysterious, menacing man named John Shooter (John Turturro) who accuses Rainey of plagiarism. Mort tries to brush him off as a stalker, but soon, violent incidents are piling up around Mort, and Shooter becomes Mort’s prime suspect. At the same time, it becomes clear that Mort is full of raging demons that govern his creative and personal lives.
As with Misery, King seems to be pleading for the reader’s pity over the psychic and emotional tolls taken by the writing life, but in the movies, the premise is just an excuse for an effective thriller that cannily uses star power to play on viewers’ sympathies. After all, we’re used to seeing Depp as the misunderstood artist and Turturro as the threatening outsider. And yet, something is off, from the campiness of Turturro’s southern-accented interloper to the widening holes in the stories that the desperate Depp tells himself and others. By the time Mort figures out who his antagonist really is, it’s too late. He’s trapped, and so is the audience, by the snare set by King and Koepp’s storytelling prowess.
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