Six months ago, writer Morton Rainey (Johnny Depp) was sitting outside a motel torturing himself about whether to go in or not. Inside one of the rooms were his wife Amy (Maria Bello) and Ted (Timothy Hutton) the man she was carrying on an affair with. Morton has never been the same since, and now the divorce is nearly complete, his wife living in the town house and him living in their lakeside country house. He is taking a nap on the sofa when his doorbell rings; he gets up to answer it and there is a man in a wide-brimmed hat on his doorstep calling himself John Shooter (John Turturro) and claiming that Morton has stolen his story...
Secret Window was scripted by the director David Koepp, adapting Stephen King's novella from the Four Past Midnight collection. It is another of King's stories concentrating on the troubles of the writing process and the situation it puts the writers in, taking a touch of the obsessed fan of Misery and adding the dangerous, crazed author of The Dark Half (it can be no coincidence that Hutton, who starred in the George A. Romero filmed version of that book, also appears in a supporting role here). By taking the kind of unwanted attention that being well known brings, the downside of fame if you will, the story runs the threat of being too specialised to appeal to the moviegoers who consider themselves fans as well, even if ninety nine point nine percent of them are not of the obsessive variety.
Morton denies ever having read anything by Shooter and closes the door on him. Not wishing to give up so easily, the man leaves a manuscript of his work under a rock on Morton's porch, gets into his car and drives off; Morton's curiosity gets the better of him and he takes a quick look at the title: "Secret Window", just the same as one of his own stories. After trying to get rid of it, he gives in and checks: the stories are identical. When Shooter returns, claiming to be from Mississippi, he wants proof when Morton says his story was published a couple of years before Shooter wrote his, and Morton remembers that he has a copy of the magazine it was included in. It's a simple matter of showing the man the magazine.
Or it would be if Shooter hadn't killed Morton's dog and left a menacing note that he will be back in three days - NO POLICE. Naturally the first thing Morton does is contact the local sheriff (Len Cariou) who doesn't turn out to be much help, so he goes to a private detective (Charles S. Dutton). So far so good, with Koepp managing a nice sense of paranoia as Shooter never seems to show up when there's anyone else around, and his identity is difficult to pin down. Is he in cahoots with Ted, who shares the same accent? Does his wife have something to do with it? And is he in the house when Morton is asleep?
But as the admittedly guessable twist starts to become clear, the flimsier the film grows. Shooter apparently burns down the house Morton's wife is living in to prevent him finding the magazine, a witness to Shooter's presence is reportedly frightened when the detective visits, then things get nasty when murder is involved. But as good as Depp is when he's being victimised, when he has to face up to Shooter in the final act his character is unconvincing - maybe we're too used to seeing him on the other end of the danger. Turturro is consistently off kilter as the possible killer, but you can't help feeling he's been wasted as the film draws to a close and the lack of a solid motive is obvious. Morton claims to have found a perfect ending for the story the Shooter demanded he rewrite, but Koepp and King didn't find one for their's. Music by Philip Glass.