Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
Charles S. Dutton
|Director||David Koepp—“Panic Room,” “Spider-Man,” “Stir of Echoes”|
|Producer||Pariah Entertainment Group|
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.
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.
► 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: 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!
► How does viewing violence on TV or movies affect the family? Answer
Violence: Heavy | Profanity: Mild | Sex/Nudity: Moderate