Secret Window Blu-ray Review

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by Chris McEneany Sep 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM

  • Movies review

    Secret Window Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £17.95


    Whilst I was very satisfied with Secret Window's MPEG-2 transfer overall, there were still a few elements that denied it a top class score in my book.

    Blacks have a tangible depth, which is terrific for a film of this nature. Plenty of creepy night-times situations are aided enormously by the weight and accuracy of the shadow-play on offer. But there are times when I suspect that some detail has been lost beneath it. I checked with my SD copy and discovered that whilst the blacks there weren't quite as deep, they also allowed for a tad more information within them. Thus, this is possibly a case of six of one, half a dozen of the other. Personally, I prefer the deeper blacks, even at the expense of some very minor detail. The point really is that the Blu-ray transfer should have had the deeper quality yet still retained the detail.

    Colours are good. Neither enhanced nor washed-out, the palette seems deliberately down-played to keep it looking natural, with an agreeably earthy hue. But, when called for, the disc produces some lovely shades - such as the sleepy, pensive twilight across the lake, the effect of the subdued lighting and shadow within the cabin whilst the sun suffuses the woods outside and the vibrancy of the big city. Skin-tones look fairly natural and faces are allowed a nice degree of close-up detail.

    The image is certainly sharper than the SD version, which can betray the occasional CG effect, and its texture remains pleasingly filmic. The source is great and the print is clean and crisp-looking. The transfer suffers from no smearing, pixilation or colour-banding and the picture is refreshingly noise-free. There isn't a great deal of pop-out-proud three-dimensionality although there is still a good sense of depth provided. Background details can appear slightly soft at times, but there moments when the image is fantastically vivid.

    Overall, Secret Window has a very nice image that is a definite step-up from its previous incarnations.
    Secret Window Picture


    Never a very aggressive film, acoustically speaking, the mix for Secret Window is perhaps unsurprisingly pretty tight and intimate. But it is perfectly in-keeping with the movie's air of menace and unease and, as far as I am concerned, works just fine. The PCM Uncompressed track feels open and, even if it doesn't fully push back into the forest with its depth and ambience, this only aids the sense of drawing claustrophobia in the scenes set in and around the cabin.

    Movement is well-dispersed around the channels and, with only a couple of over-developed effects - the wall-cracking sequence, for instance - follows the onscreen action with clarity. Ambience is well put-together and the sounds of the forest, the creaking of the cabin, unsettling noises emanating from the upstairs and the hubbub of the city are convincingly reproduced. The score is treated to a rewarding presentation that neither dominates nor gets submerged by the surrounding sound design. Dialogue is always clear and crisp and the stereo spread across the front is wide and realistic.

    The bass is used to good effect but doesn't oversell itself. The walls coming apart at the seams are a good moment of dynamic rage and there is a nice 360-degree soundfield throughout the eeriest of scenes, such as Mort's upstairs investigation and the frantic finale. The DD 5.1 mix which is also offered is definitely a lesser quality experience, sounding much thinner and more subdued, with less acute directionality and, consequently, less viewer-immersion.
    Secret Window Sound


    The extras package for this Blu-ray release mimic those of the SD and although they look pretty decent listed on the back of the box, there really isn't much here to write home about.

    David Koepp's commentary track is a dry and tedious affair that I actually didn't manage to sit all the way through. He covers the film in broad strokes that actually tell us very little of the production itself and can come over as a tad self-important at times. Quite disappointing and un-illuminating, he spends more time discussing individual shots and effects than providing anything worthwhile about the screenplay, which he also wrote.

    He also provides a commentary for two of the four deleted scenes that are on offer, explaining their excision. However, there is nothing in this quartet that is missed by the final cut, except perhaps a slightly harder alternate ending.

    Then we get three rather brief and decidedly EPK-style featurettes that take a look into the film's production. “From Book To Film” has Koepp discussing his interest in Stephen King's original story and his intentions for its evolution to film. He's quite chatty here and a little bit more interesting here, although this, like the next two features could do with a bit more meat on its bones.

    ”A Look Through It” and “Secrets Revealed” are little more than fluff-filler and only venture superficially into the filming of Secret Window. Quite a shame that a little more depth couldn't be found ... but then again many people would possibly say that about the movie as well. Taken as a whole, the three featurettes run for almost an hour, though they all contain lots of film clips to pad them out.

    Finally, besides some previews, we get Animated Storyboards that provide a little glimpse into the development of some crucial scenes and effects, laying out the camera movements etc. But the lack of any verbal explanations leaves the feature sort of cold and clinical.

    To be honest, this is a pretty poor batch of extras that feel only half-hearted and kind of tacked-on. Definitely a one-watch (if that) affair. But at least they did put something extra on the disc.
    Secret Window Extras


    I can't deny Secret Window's lower-rung status in the mystery/thriller genre, but there is one terrific appeal that it retains with aplomb and which helps it to rise above the obviousness of it all - and that, of course, is Johnny Depp who, once again, seals the deal. The best element of King's fiction is his ability to place you inside the mind of his characters and in Secret Window, David Koepp and especially Depp, provide a successful realisation of that kind of psychological intimacy. Mort may be full of the actor's theatrical mannerisms and his now trademarked ticks and nuances but he is still a damn sight more believable and three-dimensional than many prime movie characters. The film is slick, but involving, fast-playing, yet measured in tone and atmosphere. It may not receive a lot of critical acclaim, but this is a sound slice of rug-pulling, sleight-of-hand entertainment that bears up to repeated viewing, if only to enjoy the performances of both Depp and Turturro.

    The BD release is both visually and aurally a worthy upgrade from the previous SD editions, but is still let down by the rather lame extras. This is my only real grievance, however, and Secret Window remains a polished enough release to please more than just Johnny Depp or Stephen King fans.
    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.95

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