Elephant

Starring Johnny Depp, John Turturro and Timothy Hutton.
Directed by David Koepp.
Running Time:
Rated: PG
Mort Rainey (Depp) is a famous writer, and his life is presently falling apart. His wife Amy has left him for Ted (Hutton) and she has filed for a divorce he does not want. Mort is depressed. He retreats into his log cabin on the shores of a beautiful lake in upper state New York. He can't write, wears the same dingy clothes all the time and he spends most of the day asleep on his couch.

Out of nowhere John Shooter (Turturro), a farmer from Tennessee turns up on Mort's door and accuses him of having stolen a short story from him. He demands restitution. When Rainey denies the charge of plagiarism Shooter becomes more psychotic in the way he stalks the famous author. When Shooter starts to murder people who come to Mort's cabin, and then turns his terrorising attention toward Amy, Rainey realises the spiral of destruction is out of control, and so is he.

Secret Window is based on Stephen King's novella, Four Past Midnight: Secret Window, Secret Garden. Knowing the author of the original work is all some viewers will need to know in judging whether this film is for them or not. It is filled with the usual King trademarks: a psychological thriller where someone goes nuts in an isolated place. It has all the scary bits and big shocks we have come to expect of film adaptations of his work.

Unlike some of King's other work, however, this story is just too unbelievable to be taken seriously. It starts out soundly enough, but the pay off at the end raises more questions than it answers.

Johnny Depp is an actor of extraordinary versatility, as is John Turturro, and neither of them disappoint in their roles here.

The same cannot be said of David Koepp's direction. There are some incoherent directing decisions that make an already dense story, unnecessarily more so. He even gives us, at a dramatic moment, the stalled car.

The only clever thing in the story and the film is the early focus on a rear vision mirror which reads, "Things in the mirror are closer than they appear.' We know its important because they dwell on it, but it takes another 70 minutes to figure out why.

Secret Window is only for the most ardent Stephen King fans, and those who like their films to be frightening.

Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the Director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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