Directed by David Koepp, starring Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton and Charles S Dutton.

One wonders how Hollywood studios would cope if Stephen King decided to stop writing. Would they start remaking his adaptations? Track down every short story he wrote in his youth? Or just grovel and beg in his front yard until he went back to the keyboard? In the last 10 years, over a dozen King stories and books have been made into films, TV movies and shorts and in the last two alone we've had 'Hearts in Atlantis', 'Dreamcatcher' and now 'Secret Window'. It's the best of them, but if you've seen the other two you'll know that's not saying too much.

Director David Koepp enjoys enclosed spaces. 'Stir of Echoes' was almost entirely set in a house. His script for 'Panic Room' only got once beyond either the front or back door. And 'Secret Window' turns a lakeside cabin into a prison for Johnny Depp's character.

Depp plays Mort Rainey, a successful author deep in depression following the break-up of his marriage. He has come to the cabin to write, but instead ends up sleeping all day on the couch, the monotony punctuated by bitter phone conversations with soon to be ex-wife Amy (Bello) about her new man Ted (Hutton).

Mort's mood becomes even worse when Southern stranger John Shooter (Turturro) turns up on his porch. Shooter claims that Mort has plagiarised his story, 'Sowing Season', for his own work 'Secret Window'. Mort is emphatic in his denial, but the intimidating Shooter says that if Mort can't prove it, he wants him to re-write the end of 'Sowing Season' so that it is as good as can be. If he refuses, the consequences will be dire. And so
begins the battle of wits.

With just the right mix of menace, tension and humour for the first 45 minutes, Koepp's film - and script - is great. The performances, in particular a should-get-more-villain-roles Turturro, are all excellent and so grows the feeling that you could've stumbled upon a secret treat. But as Mort's predicament worsens, so too does the story, becoming ever-more far fetched until the bodies start piling up way too fast. You won't be giving yourself too big a pat on the back for figuring out the ending long before Mort does, and whatever about Shooter thinking that his own story's ending needed more work, he'd definitely think Koepp's script did, too.

Wait-for-video more than straight-to-video. But if you have two hours to spare right now, by all means.

Harry Guerin