A Creepy Johnny Depp Horror Film Is Streaming For Free

A creepy Johnny Depp literary adaptation is streaming for free, and some parts of it have not aged at all well.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

Johnny Depp

In a surprisingly short amount of time, Johnny Depp went from one of America’s most beloved family actors to a Hollywood pariah to whatever weird space he holds now. It took him decades to transform from that guy who dies in the waterbed in A Nightmare on Elm Street to a critically respected actor in films like Dead Man and Ed Wood, and just one Pirates of the Caribbean movie to become a Disney mascot. However, Johnny Depp was still making some smaller-scale movies when Captain Jack Sparrow became a pop culture icon and the creepiest of them is streaming for free right now. Secret Window, the 2004 Stephen King adaption, is currently watchable for free on Tubi right now and it has been given some uncomfortable connotations by the passage of time. 

Johnny Depp

Secret Window is an adaptation of Stephen King’s novella Secret Window, Secret Garden, so it should be no surprise that Johnny Depp stars as a mentally unstable writer named Mort Rainey. Stephen King has a wildly vivid and active imagination that has spawned literally dozens of novels and hundreds of short stories but never let it be said that he works hard to think up professions for his protagonist. In the opening scene of the movie, Johnny Depp is frozen behind the wheel of a car, seemingly caught in some horrible decision; moments later, we see him burst into a hotel room where he discovers his wife Amy (Maria Bello) in bed with another man. Flash forward, Johnny Depp has writer’s block and is dragging his feet on signing divorce papers, and then a mysterious man shows up at his door claiming that Depp stole his work. 

The mysterious man (John Turturro getting new mileage out of his Southern accent from O Brother Where Art Thou) announces himself as John Shooter and claims Johnny Depp stole his short story “Sowing Season” for his own “Secret Window.” Depp initially rebuffs him, pushing him to go through his agent in New York, but Turturro grows increasingly insistent and sinister. Even after Johnny Depp confirms with Turturro the dates of their respective story and verifies his own story was published first, Turturro keeps showing up. Then Johnny Depp’s dog shows up stabbed through the throat with a screwdriver and things get really creepy. 

Long story short, things continue to get worse in Secret Window. Maria Bello’s house burns down and is determined the work of arson. A private investigator (the great Charles S. Dutton) hired by Depp is found brutally murdered in a car along with a neighbor that saw Johnny Depp and John Turturro together. Or did he? The presence of Timothy Hutton as Maria Bello’s new boyfriend, who starred in the cult Stephen King film The Dark Half, which also featured a writer dealing with a mysterious intruder, might be a tip of the hat to what eventually happens in the movie, but it does not make it less disquieting. 

Secret Window was released in 2004, long before allegations of domestic abuse against Johnny Depp were made and before his notorious defamation case against estranged spouse Amber Heard took place. It is not the film’s fault that it is so unnerving to see Johnny Depp in tense legal arguments with his blonde former partner on-screen or that the implied ending of the film and its slow pan to the soil of the cornfield behind his cabin is so disturbing. But it is difficult to remove a movie from its current context, even when watching it for free on Tubi (with the occasional ad). 

Considering the sheer amount of Stephen King adaptations there are in the world, Secret Window ranks somewhere in the upper-middle. Johnny Depp comes off convincingly at the end of his rope, with scraggly hair and perpetual stubble that somehow makes his movie-star good looks seem more creepy than appealing. John Turturro characteristically commits to the part of the otherworldly, folksy John Shooter, and does more than anyone to cement the foreboding, claustrophobic atmosphere of the film. The film did moderately well at the box off and currently holds a 46% on Rotten Tomatoes, but was largely overshadowed by the imminent billion-dollar box-office grosses of the next Pirates of the Caribbean movies and Tim Burton’s horrific Alice in Wonderland movies. But if you want to see some of the last gasps of Johnny Depp as a low-key actor, you can do it for free with Secret Window right now.