STEPHEN KING’S SECRET WINDOW. 2004. BASED ON THE NOVELLA BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY DAVID KOEPP. MUSIC BY PHILIP GLASS. STARRING JOHNNY DEPP, JOHN TURTURRO, MARIA BELLO, TIMOTHY HUTTON AND CHARLES S. DUTTON. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
As even the most die-hard Stephen King fans like myself would agree, not all film and TV adaptations of the works of the greatest horror writer in the world make for top-notch viewing. Some of these adaptations, however, are pretty much beyond reproach.
I’d count THE SHINING, MISERY, DOLORES CLAIBORNE, SALEM’S LOT, CARRIE, THE LANGOLIERS, THE MIST and a few others among the outstanding success stories. There are more which weren’t brilliant but I liked them anyway, like THE DARK HALF.
Into which category does SECRET WINDOW fit? It’s only my own opinion, but this film doesn’t come near the dizzy heights of CARRIE or THE SHINING. Then again, of course, few films do, haha.
SECRET WINDOW is based on Stephen King’s novella (or extra-long short story!), SECRET WINDOW, SECRET GARDEN. Over the short wet summer of 2015 (I’m Irish…!), I finally read the enormous doorstop of a book, FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT, after threatening to tackle it for ages. It’s a huge big book containing four of Mr. King’s novellas, of which SWSG is one.
I carried the book around with me all summer in my backpack, which I would always do with whatever book I’m currently reading. As a result, I gave myself what I fondly refer to as ‘Stephen King Back,’ or terrible Big-Book-Related-Back-Pain. When I finally finished reading it, I actually had to choose a slimmer volume to read and carry around with me for a bit just to give my poor back and shoulders time to recover. You think I’m kidding, but in this instance I kid you not, dear reader.
THE LANGOLIERS, the first story, is a fantastic read about, essentially, a bunch of accidental (and reluctant!) time-travellers. I remember how exciting it was to watch the two-part mini-series of this over two consecutive nights back in the ‘Nineties when I was a young one. I’ll never forget that Bronson Pinchot, aka Balki from the sitcom PERFECT STRANGERS, was in it playing the baddie. Funny the things you remember, isn’t it…?
THE LIBRARY POLICEMAN is great fun, too. It tells the story of a man who goes to the library to take out a couple of books that’ll hopefully help him to give a better speech to his Businessmans’ Club. Does he get more, way more, than he bargained for? As it’s Stephen King at the controls then yes, you bet your sweet ass he does, haha. There’s a female character in it called Ardelia Lortz. Great name. Very memorable. It comes back to me at odd moments.
THE SUN DOG tells the chilling tale of a boy who gets a camera for his birthday. Sounds totally innocuous, doesn’t it? It’s not, though. There’s a bit too much detail about the actual workings of different cameras in this story for my liking, just as in THE LANGOLIERS we learn rather more about the inside of an aeroplane than we need to, but otherwise this is a cracking little story.
No wonder so many of Stephen King’s short stories and novellas (STAND BY ME, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, etc.) get made into films. Lucky sod. I can’t remember the last time any of my books got made into a movie. Must be because it’s never actually happened…
SECRET WINDOW, SECRET GARDEN is perhaps my favourite of these four stories, probably because it’s about a writer. I love the way that so many of Mr. King’s stories are about writers, for example, MISERY, THE DARK HALF and BAG OF BONES. He just can’t resist writing about what he knows. I absolutely love that. I love him, sigh.
Anyway, writer Morton Rainey, played in the film by Johnny Depp, is experiencing a bit of a bad patch when we meet him. Not only is he going through a messy divorce from his unfaithful wife, but now some geezer’s shown up at his lake-house retreat claiming that Mort’s stolen a story from him and that he’s got to make reparation, pronto.
Mort just can’t believe his lousy rotten luck. When John Shooter (for such is the geezer’s name) kicks off a campaign of terror against Mort and everyone- and everything- Mort knows and loves, Mort likes it even less.
Johnny Depp just doesn’t seem believable as Morton Rainey for some reason, I’m not sure why. He plays it a bit too jokily for my liking, maybe it’s that. Also, the twist in the story is handled quite badly too. If I hadn’t already read the book, I literally wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on. The ending was butchered ever so slightly and I totally prefer the way it was handled in the book.
On the other hand, the lakeside house and the surrounding countryside are gorgeous and Chico the dog is a sweet little poppet. Johnny Depp looks as cute as ever as the dishevelled, I-totes-don’t-care-what-I-look-like scribe, though his choice in hats is deeply suspect and I bet he didn’t buy those awful specs at SpecsSavers. Still, a Johnny Depp movie is a Johnny Depp movie and as such should be (mostly) held in high esteem, haha.
I may not rate SECRET WINDOW as highly as some others in the Stephen King movie-canon, but if you’re looking for a good read, the story on which it’s based is terrific stuff. It’s filled with twists and turns and it proves without doubt that when it comes to surprising your audience and making ’em sit up and take notice, Stephen is- and always has been- King.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
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