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Movie Review

Secret Window

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence/terror, sexual content and language

Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Mature Teens and Adults
1 hr. 46 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Featuring: Johnny Depp (Once Upon a Time In Mexico, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Blow, Chocolat)
John Turturro (Anger Management, Collateral Damage)
Maria Bello (Coyote Ugly, The Cooler, Auto Focus)
Charles S. Dutton (Against the Ropes, Gothika)
Timothy Hutton (Sunshine State, Winds of Terror)
Source Writer: Stephen King (Dreamcatcher, Carrie)
Director: David Koepp (Panic Room, Spider-Man, Stir of Echoes)
Producer: Pariah Entertainment Group
Distributor: Columbia Pictures

I’ll tell you a little secret. I gave up reading Stephen King 15 years ago. That is not a statement to be taken lightly. I had it bad. I couldn’t wait until the next horrific novel was published. Yet, I considered myself a good Christian. Then Jesus stepped in and said to my heart “Your love for Me has got to be greater than anything in this world!” That did it for me. The process is akin to a 7 pack a day smoker quitting cold turkey, except there is no withdrawal. Jesus took care of everything. I abandoned SK and surrendered to JC.

Unlike Lot’s wife, I never looked back. As I have not picked up a Stephen King story since then, I have gotten opinions of the story-to-film aspect from some who have read the novella “Secret Window, Secret Garden” upon which this film is based. Most of those I interviewed said they had expected more out of director/writer David Koepp who’s responsibility, for the most part, lies with bringing this work to the big screen. Koepp’s most memorable works include the scripting of “Jurassic Park,” and “Spider-Man.” Some interviewees thought Koepp did an acceptable job adapting the screenplay. If they were King fans, to see his work mirror what they expected as in “Stand By Me” and “The Shawshank Redemption” and not done sloppily was satisfying.

As the film begins, we are instantly tossed into the mind of our hero Mort Rainey (played with tongue-in-cheek, offhand grace by Johnny Depp), who has found his wife in the very act of an adulterous relationship. The viewer is made keenly aware of the violent yet heart wrenching effect this has had on Mort through flashbacks over the course of the movie.

Cut to six months later: Mort has secluded himself at the cabin where he and his wife had once spent many a vacation. He has obviously been trying to eek out another novel. The blinking computer screen with just the first three lines of his story painfully relays to the audience he has full blown writer’s block, obviously caused by the traumatic confrontation with his wife’s adultery. Depp’s character is shown sleeping on the couch in the middle of the day wearing his wife’s old bathrobe. An article of clothing he wears as a way of still connecting with her in some subconscious way. It seems he has become a recluse of sorts and has let himself go, not bathing or brushing his teeth, just not caring about himself because she doesn’t care about him either.

Copyright, Columbia Pictures

A stranger knocks at the door. Confused and bewildered, Mort listens as John Shooter (an eery, menacing John Turturro), an amateur writer, accuses Mort of stealing his story when he wrote it back in 1997—and in a dour rasp demands he “make things right.” Reason being, he gave the story the wrong ending.

Mort tries, with much impatience, to explain the story was penned by him in 1994 and appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine for the first time in 1995. The ultimatum from Shooter: give him the evidence it is a true Mort Rainey original. “Ya got three days to prove it, or else,” growls a malevolent John Shooter in a slow southern drawl.

Mort, even though he slams the door in this crazy-acting guy’s face, is shaken by his mysterious and unwelcome visitor. Over the next few hours Mort becomes dismissive of his scruffy accuser, but does travel into town and tries to explain his dilemma to the local sheriff (Len Cariou) who seems to take the whole thing in an over casual way. Mort doesn’t retrieve a copy of the magazine right away, as it is in the home he once shared with his wife who still resides there. It is too painful to go back there, so he puts it off.

He is concerned enough over his invasion of privacy though, to hire a detective he has used once before (played in a no-nonsense manner by Charles S. Dutton). Now with the detective Ken Karsch on the scene, we seem to have things under control, but that is simply not the case.

Things start to escalate out of control as Mort’s cabin is broken into, his dog is found killed, and the house his estranged wife, Amy (Maria Bello), still lives in is burned to the ground. The only copy of “EQMM” expires with it.

Mort is relieved Amy is not in the home at the time, but is shaken all the same. As these horrible threatening things grow out of control, Mort’s lack of control grows too. Although he is a seasoned writer used to concocting murderous fantasies, he now is facing real-life terror, and it is obvious it is eating at him emotionally.

Mort tries to avoid additional suffering by trying to avoid Amy’s boyfriend Ted (an unsympathetic, obnoxious Timothy Hutton), but Mort cannot seem to shake him and finally comes to the conclusion in his own mind that Ted in deed must be behind all these attacks.

As Shooter shows up more and more, and turns the emotional screws on Mort, his character falls deeper and deeper into paranoia. Not wanting to give away the events that culminate into the ending, we spend the rest of the film watching a great deal of tension, lies, peril, graphic violence and mental illness. These are the things I found most disturbing as a Christian viewer.

Although most Stephen King fans would say this venture is watered down in comparison to other King movies, there is gore and many disturbing, un-Christian themes throughout.

The PG-13 rating is what I would consider borderline. There are profanities uttered 14 times, not bad by the world’s standard, but I would prefer none. Parents should see the movie first to decide if their pre-teens and teens can take the violence, sexual references and visions of murdered pets and people. I know that lots of teens may want to see this film just because Johnny Depp is the star, but keep in mind this is no Disney fun time, this is not kid stuff.

Most would say this is a thriller, but I believe the message is missed. This is a film that deals with the power Satan has in inflicting depression caused by sin and then turning it into mental illness. The grip of mental illness that so often turns into murder. If he can catch a soul at this most vulnerable time the devil feels he has won a small victory.

Read: What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer

My heart aches for the individual who is gripped by severe depression and has not heard of the knowledge that faith in Jesus can command the demons of mental illness to flee. It pulls back the veil, to some extent, on how the sin of adultery can effect a person’s spirit. If not dealt with by confession, repentance and God’s forgiveness, adultery is one sin that Satan can take and send a soul right off the edge.

God took me to Daniel 6 where Daniel escapes the lion’s den. I pondered this until it came to me that we all are as Daniel, keeping our faith in all life’s circumstances including the pain of adultery, divorce and severe depression. The lions are Satan, poised to devour whatever morsels of our mental health he can. Eating away until some, without spiritual love and guidance, commit unspeakable acts of violence on other human beings. With our commitment to, faith and love of Jesus we can allow Him to be the fourth man in the fire, our protector from the lions, as well as our wonderful redeemer from all sin once relinquished to Him.

  • Are there biblical examples of depression and how to deal with it? Answer
  • What should a Christian do if overwhelmed with depression? Answer
    (Is it right to use antidepressant drugs? Or should a Christian’s faith be enough to solve depression problems?)
  • Fear, Anxiety and Worry—What does the Bible say? Answer

My bottom line is because of the references to adulterous sex, the themes of alcohol abuse, loose morals, strong language, and graphic visions of murder, this film will be extremely offensive to most Christians and should not be viewed by any children under the age of 16.

I praise the Lord because He prevailed over my lust for the written words of King so many years ago and that He lovingly replaced them with His Living Words! He has most lovingly changed the ending!

Read: How does viewing violence on TV or movies affect the family? Answer

Violence: Heavy | Profanity: Mild | Sex/Nudity: Moderate

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—Secret Window is a good thriller full of twists and turns.for the most part. The climax in the movie was a surprising twist of events (I won’t say exactly what happened. I don’t want to ruin the movie for those of you who have not seen it). However, after the climax of the movie it became a little bit more predictable. BUT, it is still worthy of greatness, even if you can figure out how it is going to end. The whole movie leads up to what we would suspect as this grand finale, and we get an adrenaline rush right at this point. But after this point is where the movie, in my humble opinion, falls a little short. It ends a little… cheesy. The last bit made me chuckle at the silliness, and it took away from the drama and suspense that I held onto for almost the entire movie.

I loved the whole movie, except for the last oh, 15 seconds of it. I know I am being a little picky so I will say overall I really enjoyed it. It’s not a movie that really makes you think those deep thoughts about life like you would with a movie like “Magnolia.” You won’t find this in Secret Window, but you will find entertainment. Jonny Depp is (as always) incredible. His acting really brings this movie to life. But we cannot forget John Turturro’s haunting performance. He is also amazing in this movie. He adds so much mystery to his character and the movie that it makes this movie as great as it is.

On the moral note, there is a mild amount of profanity, however it is not extreme. Of course with a movie like this there will be some violence and some blood, but it’s not gut wrenching. It’s enough to give the movie what it requires and no more. There is talk of adultery in the movie, but they did this in good taste. There is no nudity (if they wanted they had the opportunity to throw that in and they didn’t) or real explicit talk about the affair. Overall, the movie is a lot better then others, however I would not recommend this movie to children under 13. In conclusion, “Secret Window” is a great movie despite its few flaws. I would recommend this movie to those who love a good suspenseful movie.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4]
—Rae, age 24

Comments from young people
Positive—This film has the elements of the old Hitchcock thrillers. The old film noir music and slow pacing helps. It reminds one of Psycho, even though the stories have nothing to do with each other. The opening scene in this movie just made everyone tense up. In the theater at the end people were gasping and laughing; not out of stupidity but out of how shocking and sadly how brilliant the movie was. The trailers for the film just show the first 5 minutes of the movie. This probably should have an R rating; not because of the violence, but because of its subject matter. Hey, it’s Stephen King.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Gar Davis, age 16
Negative—…hated it. It was gross and disgusting, as the main character ends up gruesomely murdering his wife and her boyfriend. The acting was well done, though. I would not recommend this.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/3½]
—Jon Burgess, age 14
Negative—How this movie got a PG-13 movie is beyond me. The violence was disgusting to me, even more so than many R-rated films I’ve watched (and I’ve seen quite a few). Four people are murdered in cold blood, quite brutally (although not graphically), and we the audience are supposed to cheer. I was quite horrified when the person in front of me clapped when one of the main characters is brutally dispatched by the protagonist. Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought if the F-word was used as a sexual verb that meant the film automatically would receive an R-rating. However, in Secret Window, the main character screams rather clearly, “Maybe you shouldn’t have f—ked him!”
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/2]
—John, age 17
Positive—The movie was greatly directed. You could never predict the outcome of the movie. It was morbid for a few scenes. It was a great story line that was very thrilling. It kept you on your seat waiting just for what will come next. Jonny Depp did an excellent roll in his character. It was a well done movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/2½]
—Samantha, age 13
Positive—I thought Secret Window was a great thriller. All of the actors in this movie, especially Johnny Depp, did a great job acting. This movie had a great plot, suspense and a surprise ending you probably will not guess. There is almost no objectional content in this movie. There is some mild language and violence. Also, the main characters wife is seen cheating on him for a very brief moment. I would recommend this movie to anyone who likes Stephen King or thriller movies.
My Ratings: [Average/4½]
—Jordan, age 16
Positive—A great suspense thriller with a totally unexpected ending! The swearing was a little much, but other and that there wasn’t really anything to objectionable—for teens and adults that is—not children. Of course there was some violence—but that has to be expected with a thriller and it wasn’t overdone at all. You will be greatly surprised by the ending and Johnny was totally magnificent in this role—as he is with any role that he plays. I loved him in this movie and you will too—as long as you like this genre of a movie. “The only thing that matters is the ending” as he says in the movie; that is definitely true with this movie.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Emily Cimber, age 15
Positive—Good, but I twitched when I heard G*D twice in the film. I was glad they didn’t show too much gore, but think before bringing someone to this film.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Dylan, age 12
Neutral—I didn’t really find this movie offensive. In fact, considering Depp’s in it, I was surprised how clean it was. As good as an actor as he is, a lot of his movies are offensive for a Christian. Yes, there was swearing but considering the circumstances of Depp’s character… Anyway, not Depp’s best but still pretty good.
My Ratings: [Average/3½]
—Sarah, age 17
Positive—wow… this was a really good movie!!! What I thought would happen in the end, never happened. It had some slow parts, but overall I thought it was really good. a little on the violent side, but I would take my kid brother to it!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Erin, age 16
Positive—I really love this movie! I thought it was a great thriller! I don’t think everyone would appreciate it because of a few things like the fact that he kills his wife and her b/f with a shovel and you see a screwdriver in a guys head and stuff, but that didn’t bother me! I loved it and I recommend it to someone over the age of 15 or 16 and who isn’t scared of blood and loves scary movies!!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Stef, age 17
Positive—…pretty good, there wasn’t really any sex, and the plot and the acting were both good. However,I would not recommend this movie to a sqeamish person because of the violence.
My Ratings: [Average/3½]
—Paige, age 14
Positive—I thought Johnny Depp (as always) did some awesome acting… not horribly violent, just a little, but hey it’s a thriller and a Stephen King novella. I, being a Christian myself (and my dad a pastor), found this movie very interesting and at the same time relevant on how Satan can get a grip on you through trials such as drugs, depression, sex, alcohol, and other worldly desires. And it shows how much we really need Jesus Christ in our lives.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Ryan Gagliardi, age 15
Movie Critics
…typical King primal horror stuff… clever, tense thriller that loses steam toward the end… last third… disappointing…
—Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune
…a hack job patched together from bits of Stephen King’s earlier, better stories…
—Eleanor Ringel Gillespie, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
…underwhelming… sluggish pacing …[Depp’s] performance as the trebly beset writer Mort Rainey is the highlight…
—Elvis Mitchell, New York Times
…first-rate cast and production elements. It’s not sensational but subtle… eerie, playful thriller… entertaining
—Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle