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"Secret Window"

WITH A storyline that deals with the issue of plagiarism, it is funny how "Secret Window" is not particularly original. You keep feeling you have seen this before and as the movie progresses that feeling gets stronger and stronger. And not just because it is an adaptation of a novel by the king of paranoid fantasies, Stephen King.

David Koepp relies on the atmosphere and the anticipation of terrible things to happen and keeps the film moving, albeit at a slow pace — with tension and not violence and gore as the key factor.

Besides, it is technically well made too. But it is only towards the end that it heads straight downhill without much deviation. Writers often live in their private world with reality and illusion co-existing. In some cases the lines blur and that is when problems arise as it does with successful, suspense writer, Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp).

But right now, he is alternating between lying on the couch and trying to get over the typical writers block. He is also suffering from the pain of a divorce after he catches his wife, Amy (Mario Bello), cheating on him. So he is morose, sitting in his summer house by the shore, alone and struggling to maintain sanity.

Then one day he is confronted by a half-crazed man from Mississippi, John Shooter, who accuses him of stealing his story, "Secret Window," written years ago.

Furious at being accused thus, Mort tries to fob him off knowing that the allegation was completely untrue. What makes him even angrier is that Shooter wants justice by making Mort change the ending and provide for `proper attribution.' The story in question is a violent tale of vengeance against an unfaithful wife.

Mort can prove that the story is his, by simply showing the magazine that had published it two years before Shooter claims he had written it.

But doing that proves more difficult than he anticipates. And before he knows it, someone has driven a screwdriver into his only companion, his dog, burnt down his erstwhile wife's house, and murdered the detective hired by Mort. And Shooter threatens Mort in that dour rasp, that he either prove that he wrote that story in three days or ``Somehow Make Things Right!''

As a writer living alone creating murderous fantasies, Mort now has to deal with a seemingly unstoppable assailant.

"Secret Window" has all the typical Stephen King horror stuff with the writer here descending into darkness, plagued by both the outside and inside world. And Johnny Depp as the rumpled, distracted, somewhat bemused writer is ok.

Though one wonders why he would want to look so scraggly — and was he really convinced about his role? John Turturro as John Shooter tries to be full of malice but not effectively enough — but perhaps that was the intention. Mild, yet menacing. The rest of the cast is adequate in a film that completely centres round Depp and when it ends the way it does just don't be too horrified or disappointed.

CHITRA MAHESH

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