Sometimes I come back for another installment of post-80s Stephen King movie adaptations. And this trio has some high profile male actors.
SECRET WINDOW (2004)
Secret Window is based on a novella from Four Past Midnight and almost feels like King is mimicking his previous writings. It’s actually a welcome throwback compared to much of his more recent work.
As King has done often, he delves into the mind of a writer and how the man’s writing comes back to bite him in the ass. What makes this little suspense/stalker flick fun is Johnny Depp’s quirky performance as the author, which offers some humor.
While in the midst of a divorce, stays in his cabin by the lake. A man claiming Depp stole his story comes knocking and soon makes his life hell, terrorizing Depp while giving him a time limit to prove he wrote the story first. As always, King never fails to remind us that he has no problem killing beloved animals in his stories.
It’s a basic plot progression and pretty predictable when the twist finally comes, especially if you read a lot of King. It’s also not very scary or anxiety inducing. However, adding to the lite fun is what’s clearly gimmick casting—Timothy Hutton, who played a writer with an evil alter ego twin in King’s The Dark Half, plays the ex-wife’s new man in this film.
If ever there were an example of why short stories would be better adapted into short films for an anthology instead of stretched into a full-length film, 1408 is it. Even worse, it’s a 104-minute movie in its theatrical form, 112 in its director’s cut.
John Cusack is an author who debunks haunting cases. He comes to a hotel where Samuel Jackson is the manager and urgently tries to convince him not to stay in room 1408. It’s a battle he loses.
We then spend the whole movie watching John Cusack talk into his tape recorder, see scary things that aren’t really there, try to figure out how to escape the room, video chat with his wife while being haunted by his past, and eventually go pretty much insane.
Only two parts of the film were creepy to me: a) Cusack going out on the building’s ledge, and that’s only because heights freak me out, and b) Cusack trying to escape through a damn vent, where he’s chased by a crawling corpse. Eek!
It kind of sucks that they spit all over “We’ve Only Just Begun” by The Carpenters, using it as an annoyance that keeps playing on the radio.
And finally, there have been major complaints that the home release of the film doesn’t use the theatrical cut ending. However, I watched all three ending options in the bonus features, and none of them makes this a better movie.
It’s almost as if Cusack and Jackson decided to try to make amends for starring in a crappy Stephen King movie the first time. Unfortunately, they just dug themselves a deeper grave.
Seemingly running out of ideas, King decided to jump into the zombie craze, using pulses through cellphones as the cause of the crazies in order to seem like he wasn’t just writing a zombie story.
This is a zombie story.
Cusack is in an airport when those on their phones suddenly go spastic and then start viciously attacking everyone else. It’s fast-running zombie insanity, and even Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman makes a cameo (thankfully non-speaking). And because this is Stephen King, someone devours a dog yelping in agony. Sigh.
Cusack escapes and teams up with Jackson and little Esther from Orphan. So begins a typical zombie movie/The Walking Dead journey as the trio tries to a) get to Cusack’s house so he can check on his wife and son, and b) get to a place where there is no cellphone tower.
Along the way they run into Stacy Keach and some other survivors, dance to Anita Ward’s disco classic “Ring My Bell”, and dream of a man in red, whose inclusion is so typical Stephen King yet just confuses matters.
And if you want to argue that this is somehow different than other zombie movies, note that it has the same fatalistic ending as hordes of other zombie movies since the beginning of zombie time.