Secret Window (2004) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A successful writer in the midst of a painful divorce is stalked at his remote lake house by a would-be scribe who accuses him of plagiarism.

  • Mort Rainey is a successful writer going through a rather unfriendly divorce from his wife of ten years, Amy. Alone and bitter in his cabin, he continues to work on his writing when a stranger named John Shooter shows up on his doorstep, claiming Rainey stole his story. Mort says he can prove the story belongs to him and not Shooter, but while Mort digs around for the magazine which published the story in question years ago, things begin to happen around Shooter. Mort's dog dies, people begin to die, and his divorce proceedings with Amy continue to get uglier. It seems that Shooter has Mort over a barrel, but perhaps Mort has his own ideas on how to resolve all the problems that plague him lately.

  • Following the break-up with his wife Amy Rainey, successful writer Mort Rainey lives in a secluded cabin on the shores of Tashmore Lake in upstate New York. Their break-up was due to Amy having an affair with her now fiancé Ted Milner, although Amy and Ted assert that Amy and Mort's marriage was long over before Ted entered the picture. Although Mort and Amy have no qualms with the division of assets, Mort is hesitating signing the final divorce papers. One day, Mort is visited at his cabin by a man calling himself Shooter, who accuses Mort of stealing his manuscript for his published story, Secret Window. Shooter does indeed have a manuscript with the text almost word for word. Shooter gives Mort a three day ultimatum of providing proof that he did indeed write the story. Shooter seems as concerned about the authorship as he is about Mort not "getting the ending right". To protect himself against the seemingly violent Shooter, Mort hires a private investigator named Ken Karsch, who Mort hopes will be able to subdue and neutralize Shooter. As Karsch investigates, an incident makes Mort believe that Shooter was hired by Ted to harass him. But as time goes on, Shooter's true nature comes to light as does Mort's decreasing grasp on reality.

  • Mort Rainey is a author struggling from writer's block and his wife's upcoming divorce, he heads to his remote cabin in upstate New York for solitude until John Shooter, a farmer from Mississippi accuses Mort of plagiarizing his story. Mort does his best to dismiss the claims, until Mort learns how dangerously far John Shooter will go in his journey for retribution.

  • Mort Rainey (Depp), a writer just coming off of a troublesome divorce with his ex-wife, Amy (Bello), finds himself stalked at his remote lake house by a psychotic stranger (Turturro) who claims Mort stole his best story idea (changing just the ending)... (Hutton plays Bello's new boyfriend; Dutton plays a private investigator hired to make Turturro's character leave Mort alone.)

  • Mort Rainey, a successful author, is passing through a hard period in his life. After catching his wife sleeping with another man, they separate and he moves away from the city to somewhere in the country. One day a man appears at his door, presenting himself as John Shooter, and accuses Mort of copying a story from him. Although Mort believes things can be solved once he shows Shooter the original version, which had appeared two years before Shooter's version, written in 1997, while Rainey's was published in early 1995. He can't seem to be able to get an original copy in the time limit set by Shooter. Strange things then start happening that prevent him from receiving the needed original, and Mort tries to find out who Shooter really is and if he is responsible for the things that have been happening.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Famed mystery writer, Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) is confronted by a mysterious stranger outside his house. This stranger calls himself John Shooter (John Turturro) and claims that Mort has stolen an idea for a story from him. Mort says he can prove he wrote his first, but whilst Mort waits for the evidence to appear, Shooter starts to become more and more violent.

    At first, Mort regards Shooter as mentally ill and throws away the book. But his housekeeper (Joan Heney) takes it out of the garbage believing it was his and instead of throwing it away again he cannot stop thinking about it, and finally reads it. It is almost exactly like his own novel, with different names and sentence arrangements. The movie follows Mort's struggles to prove conclusively to Shooter and to himself that he has not plagiarized the story. Shooter continually harasses Mort and later kills his dog, an Australian Cattle Dog named Chico. As the story progresses, Mort hires a private investigator (Charles S. Dutton) and asks the help of the local sheriff, Dave Newsome (Len Cariou), who doesn't believe him. The investigator asks if there are any witnesses, and Mort remembers a local man saw them together. But Shooter then murders both the investigator and the man and leaves them in a car. Mort then pushes the car into the river, since he thinks the murders will be pinned on him. Shooter also burns down the house of Mort's soon-to-be ex-wife. Mort is convinced that Ted is the culprit responsible for the burning.

    Mort eventually locates the magazine that proves he published "Secret Window" before Shooter wrote "Sowing Season." He goes to the post office, where he gets the magazine. But when he gets out of his car, the sheriff approaches him with a smirk asking him if he could ask a few questions. Mort then leaves. But when Mort gets the magazine, he finds that his story has been cut out. Mort's inner voice tells him that since the magazine was sent to him in a sealed UPS package, Shooter could not have tampered with it. Prompting from his own conscience leads Mort to the realization that Shooter is not real, only a figment of Mort's imagination brought so vividly to life through undetected dissociative identity disorder to personify the dark side of Mort's personality and to commit acts that Mort himself feels he could not commit (murder and arson). (This scene includes the moment where Mort sees his back, instead of his front, reflected in the mirror above the mantelpiece - much like Magritte's 1937 painting La reproduction interdite). During this revelation, his concerned wife drives up to his cabin, and at that instant he changes his persona from the well-meaning Mort to the murderous Shooter. When his wife walks in he is gone. She starts searching the house for Mort and finds an almost empty bottle of Jack Daniels on a table. We later learn that when influenced by Jack Daniels, Mort's second personality "Shooter" comes alive. All over the walls she sees inscriptions of the word "shooter". She realizes after Mort reveals himself that "shooter" actually means "shoot her". After she realizes this she tries to run away but Mort is too quick for her. He then kills his wife and her lover, Ted (Timothy Hutton), with a shovel and buries them in a garden where he later plants a crop of corn. Afterwards, Mort changes profoundly - his writer's block is finally over and his passion for life returns. The movie, however, ends on a rather sinister note. The local sheriff informs Mort that he knows what he did and as soon as they find the bodies, he'll go to prison. Mort dismisses the statement nonchalantly, and replies that "The ending is the most important part of the story. This one is very good. This one is perfect." It is then revealed to the audience that the bodies are buried under the corn field.

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