- Jun 24, 2003
- Real Name
- Michael Osadciw
Studio: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
Film Year: 2004
U.S. Rating: PG-13
Canadian Rating: 14A
Rated for: Violence/terror, sexual content and language.
Film Length: 96 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 anamorphic
Audio: English & French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English & French
Closed Captioned: Yes
SLP: US $28.95
Release Date: June 22, 2004
Film Rating: :star: :star: :star: :star: / :star: :star: :star: :star: :star:
Starring: Johnny Depp (Mort Rainey), John Turturro (John Shooter), Maria Bello (Amy Rainey), Timothy Hutton (Ted Milner), Charles Dutton (Ken Karsch)
Directed by: David Koepp
Written by: Screenplay – David Koepp
Novella: Stephen King
Forced Trailers: A new Spider-Man 2 teaser, for a June 30th release.
Some windows should never be opened.
I used to read a lot of stories before life became so cluttered with responsibilities and when free time seemed endless. Picking up a book was always a favorite past time and a luxury that seems unforeseeable to me in the future. My favorite writer was Stephen King and I devoted a lot of time reading his novels and short stories page by page from his first and successful book Carrie until well received novel titled The Dark Half. I still purchased his hard covers over the years, but left them on the “to get to, eventually” shelf that is now overflowing with all types of (what I think are) interesting pieces of writings over the past few hundred years.
I guess my reasons for not reading books are simple. With the proliferation of home theater and the visual and audible stimulation films provide for the whole hobby, I’ve put down the pages that once captivated my imagination by means of written text in trade of someone else’s vision behind the camera. A fair trade? Maybe… Both types of media have their drawbacks. I think its fair to say that people come out more disappointed with films because they are harder to make successfully in short screen time. It is even harder to write a successful screenplay that is based on a novel and not have criticism against it. It’s safe to say not every film adaptation of a Stephen King novel hasn’t always been successful. In fact, many of them were terrible. Accurate to the novel or not, many of those films just weren’t enjoyable to watch and were far more effective in print.
Secret Window, Secret Garden is a novella in King’s Four Past Midnight compilation of four stories. The film Secret Garden is about this third story in, and tells the story of a writer named Mort who, on a cold winter night, has a traumatizing experience with his ex-wife. After that event, he chooses to live in a secluded cabin on a lake. Six months later, a strange and eerie man named John Shooter arrives at Mort’s doorstep and accuses him of stealing his best story. Both stories are almost identical, except for the ending, and Shooter is angry that Mort “ruined” his ending. Mort insists he wrote the story first, and if he can’t prove Shooter wrong, Shooter will demand Mort to change his ending to reflect his.
The man becomes increasingly psychotic over time and Mort hires his friend and private investigator, Ken, to protect him. All the while, his ex-wife and her boyfriend are pushing Mort over the edge to sign documents to finalize the divorce between them. Mort finds himself at the mercy of Shooter as all events come to a close. The story holds a deadly secret that comes to reality as Shooter systematically destroys Mort’s life. Secret Window will leave you shocked and satisfied due to a well written ending.
Even though I haven’t read Secret Window, Secret Garden yet, I know time was taken to ensure a good screenplay was written for this novella. I can assure you the result is one of the more satisfying films about a Stephen King story that I’ve seen in a long time. We are kept in Mort’s world through most of this film and we understand his isolation and sympathize with him. Koepp’s direction and Depp’s acting is a perfect blend with Turturro’s creepy character, successfully keeping the viewer in suspense through many parts of the film. Unfortunately this was a ‘if you blink you will miss it’ film in the theaters, so I highly recommend picking up this title to some DVD entertainment.
VIDEO QUALITY :star: :star: :star: :star: / :star: :star: :star: :star: :star:
I recommend viewing this picture in a dim environment because of the dim lighting used in the interiors of Mort’s lake cabin. Shadow detail is excellent in this film and that dim lighting helps carry the suspense. Outdoor scenes are bright and colourful without any dominant tint or oversaturation. Edge enhancement is bothersome on these outdoor scenes, as sharp edges can have a halo along side of it.
The 35mm film is 2.39:1 widescreen and the DVD is enhanced for 16:9 displays. The image is not as resolute as other films I’ve seen. The picture is smooth, but slightly softer as text is sometimes difficult to read given the size it appears on screen. Mosquito noise also doesn’t help that situation and some MPEG shifting is noticeable in the interior backgrounds along walls and such. These are minor flaws that are noticeable on the biggest screens and shouldn’t detract those with smaller screen sizes. The film is mastered in High Definition for the best DVD transfer today.
AUDIO QUALITY :star: :star: :star: :star: 1/2 / :star: :star: :star: :star: :star:
Encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1, the audio is quiet in nature to increase the suspense for the film. Spread through all five channels is the sounds of nature in the middle of the night and the sounds that scare Mort in the house. All are placed in the mix to draw you into the film. This quietness is shattered by the sounds to scare. The dynamics will make you jump and is used at the right moment in time. Very effective! Music by Philip Glass is well recorded with a soundstage that is extended very wide beyond the main speaker locations. LFE information is subtle but effective when needed.
SPECIAL FEATURES :star: :star: :star: :star: / :star: :star: :star: :star: :star:
Secret Window has a good dose of special features on it. In addition to the well-informative featurettes, a director’s commentary is on audio option 3. Koepp recorded this before the film was released theatrically, so his commentary is mainly additional thoughts about the film as it was being made.
There are four deleted scenes that can be accessed individually or played all at once. They total a second under six minutes and are taken from a composite master, but thankfully are in widescreen. The scenes don’t provide any progress to the story and were wisely left out to keep the story tight and mysterious. Director’s commentary is optional on the first two deleted scenes.
Just over an hour of three featurettes (which can be selected individually or as a play all function) explain much of the film’s progress From Book to Film where Koepp explains his relationship with Stephen King over the making of the film and what angles he chose to translate the novella to screen. He also discusses the importance of casting to make the film interesting and successful. A Look Through It discusses Mort’s trauma and how it keeps him isolated in his cabin, costumes design, exploring the character’s mind, as well as visuals and camera movement to complete a scene successfully. The third featurette, Secrets Revealed, discusses animatics and the final moments in the film I won’t speak about them because I want you to see the movie and not spoil it for you.
Another brief feature is titled Animatics which is a seven minute pre-vis of several scenes of the film in computer format. There are four scenes of the storyboard pre-vis’ed here from the opening credits to the final scene in the film. They do not have any commentary or sound effects as they play, only music.
All special features are 4:3 and in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.
For those of you interested, a bunch of previews are also included along with the film’s theatrical trailer (16:9, DD5.1) buried in this menu. Other previews include Seinfeld, Spider-Man 2, Hellboy, White Chicks, 13 Going on 30, Kingdom Hospital, The Mothman Prophecies, and The Triplets of Belleville.
Secret Window is a film that is successful as a novella adaptation and will not disappoint. It’s good to know that someone out there cares about writing a good screenplay because too often they are poorly written resulting in a less than satisfying film. Best of all, it’s a Stephen King story, and Stephen King is just so good at horrors and thrillers. David Koepp also proves he’s good at what he does: writing the screenplay and directing a fine film thriller. Secret Window is nice piece of work from film to DVD in almost every respect - Recommended.