They say writers should write about what they know best, and for Stephen King, that has often meant writing stories about writers, and so far—in movies like The Shining, Misery and arguably even Stand By Me—filmmakers have had remarkable success bringing these stories to the big screen. Secret Window, based on a novella that appeared in King's anthology Four Past Midnight, falls into the same basic category as those stories, but it is not in their league, partly because it forgets what King's story is really all about.
The film is written and directed by David Koepp, a screenwriter who has parlayed his success with the Jurassic Park and Spider-Man franchises into occasional directing jobs on thrillers like Stir of Echoes, a decent but not spectacular ghost story that had the bad luck to come out right after The Sixth Sense had cornered the market on such tales. In Secret Window, Koepp follows King's story very closely, but he shuffles a few scenes around, and he completely changes the ending, so that a story about the almost mystical power of writing becomes a somewhat predictable film about a divorce that goes very badly.
King's story begins with an accusation of plagiarism. Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp), a best-selling author recently separated from his wife, is woken from his sleep in his isolated cabin by a stranger named John Shooter (John Turturro), a drawling Southerner with an uncomfortably precise stare and an Amish hat, who claims that Mort stole his story.
Mort insists that he did not steal Shooter's story—indeed, it turns out Mort's story was published in a magazine a couple years before Shooter claims to have written his own story. But Shooter refuses to believe that Mort is innocent until he can ...1
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