Mort Rainey (Movie) Character in Secret Window

This post includes a character analysis of Mort Rainey, the protagonist of Secret Window.

Directed by David Koepp, the 2004 psychological thriller stars Johnny Depp as Mort Rainey. Today’s opinion is solely based on the 2004 film adaptation, not the original novella. Beware of spoilers.

What Happens In “Secret Window”

In Secret Window, Mort Rainey is a writer who has recently isolated himself in a remote cabin in the woods after finding out about his wife’s affair. Apparently, Mort found his wife (Amy) in the arms of another man (Ted) in some motel. Amidst this difficult time in his life, a stranger (John Shooter) walks into Mort’s life and accuses him of plagiarism.

First, Mort tries to brush Shooter off, but the latter is relentless and keeps coming back to taunt the writer. At this point, Mort reaches out to the local police. However, they don’t seem to take him very seriously.

Meanwhile, it seems that John Shooter got his hands on Mort’s soon-to-be ex-wife too. Someone set their house on fire, the one that Amy is currently living in with Ted. After some time, things escalate, and people around Mort start dying.

During this period, Mort gets a copy of the magazine that published the story (Secret Window) that John Shooter claims the writer plagiarized. This finding would be final evidence to put an end to the discussion of who wrote it first. To his surprise, someone ripped off the page that Mort was looking for.

Angry that Shooter is always one step ahead of him, Mort drives back home and finds his stalker’s hat. Out of curiosity, Mort puts it on, and then he starts talking to himself. As the conversation intensifies, multiple versions of Mort Rainey appear.

Plot Twist: John Shooter is not real, Mort Rainey created the threatening persona in his mind. Also, he is the culprit behind the following deaths: Chico (his dog), Ken Karsch (the private investigator) and Tom Greenleaf (an eye witness).

When John Shooter’s personality takes over Mort Rainey’s, he finally finds the courage to murder Amy and Ted. The ending scene of Secret Window hints that their dead bodies are buried under the cornfield growing in Mort’s backyard.

Note: For those who are interested, here is an article containing a discussion about what happened at the end of Secret Window (2004).

Mort Rainey Character Analysis in “Secret Window”

Secret Window presents Mort Rainey as a successful writer who is going through a difficult divorce. His wife Amy has already moved on to another man (Ted). However, Mort seems deeply unhappy with how things are at the moment.

In terms of personality, Mort Rainey has two facets. There is one side of him that is seemingly innocuous. When the man is Mort Rainey, he is just your stereotypical writer: a disorganized individual with very poor lifestyle habits. Then there is John Shooter, a more deadly version of Mort Rainey. When the writer wears the black hat, nothing is really off limits for him, including murder.

Mort Rainey’s Mental Heath

Mort’s mental health has been deteriorating ever since he caught his wife in bed with another man. Amy claims that her marriage to Mort was already over before she began the affair. However, Mort’s anger suggests a different side of the story.

Here is a friendly reminder: Secret Window has a very unreliable narrator, Mort Rainey. Having said that, the first two-thirds of the story are not an exact depiction of the events. Everything that Mort has told the audience so far is from his point of view.

The motel flashback is a pivotal illustration of Mort’s state of mind. In that scene, the writer convinced the audience that he just went to the motel and berated the lovebirds. However, Mort did more than just yell: he pointed a gun at Amy and Ted.

As Mort’s mental health worsens, a new character comes into the picture: John Shooter. Everything about Secret Window is in the small details, there are no coincidences. The antagonist’s last name has a hidden meaning behind it: Shooter is a combination of “shoot” and “her”.

In simple terms, John Shooter is a manifestation of Mort Rainey’s unconscious desire to kill Amy (shoot her). Everything about this man is related to Amy, Mort and even Ted. For instance, Ted is from a place called Shooter’s Bay. Then there is the hat. Amy and Mort bought the black hat when they were still a happy married couple.

The big plot twist in Secret Window comes when the writer starts talking to himself. The scene featuring multiple versions of Mort Rainey hints that the writer has some type of dissociated identity disorder. John Shooter is one of Mort’s personalities.

The writer uses John Shooter’s persona to perform all the terrible acts that he cannot as Mort Rainey. That explains how the writer managed to kill his own dog, the private investigator and a witness in cold blood. Let’s not forget other criminal acts, such as arson. Mort Rainey set his own house on fire after spotting Amy and Ted together.

Is Mort Rainey the villain in Secret Window?

On the surface, it seems that Amy’s adultery was the main trigger behind Mort’s psychosis. However, did Amy really cheat on Mort? As mentioned before, Secret Window has a very unreliable narrator.

According to Amy, her marriage has seen better days. The couple was growing distant, which led Amy to venture out and look for other options. Now, would Mort have reacted that way if their marriage wasn’t still a thing? Where is the truth? Maybe somewhere between the two stories.

Let’s assume the worst: Amy did cheat on Mort. Would that justify him killing his own wife (or soon-to-be ex-wife)? The answer is no. Mort has all the right to feel angry about the whole situation. But killing Amy makes him a murderer.

Having said that, Mort shouldn’t have killed his wife. Side note: if Mort didn’t care for Amy that much, he probably wouldn’t mind letting her go. This is still not an excuse to justify his crime, but it sheds a different light on the matter.

So what is the final verdict? Is Mort Rainey the “villain” in Secret Window? Personally, I wouldn’t label Mort Rainey a villain. Some might even call Mort a victim, but I disagree. In my opinion, Mort Rainey is a troubled individual and he is in a lot of pain. The man chose to take his anger out on Amy and Ted, which makes him responsible for their deaths.

Final Thoughts

The final scene of Secret Window is actually quite disturbing. At this point, it’s clear that Mort Rainey has completely lost his marbles. The man is eating corn grown out of Amy and Ted’s dead bodies. There is no going back for this man.

Despite his crimes, I don’t find Mort Rainey an abhorrent individual. He used to be a man with an enviable life. The writer had a successful career, a loving wife and a beautiful house. However, losing a baby changed everything.

The real tragedy behind Mort and Amy’s marriage was their inability to cope with loss. After a certain point, Mort became too emotionally distant and Amy couldn’t reach him any more. In her “defence”, that led her to start an affair with another man (Ted). However, couldn’t the woman have waited a little bit longer? How about looking for options after getting a divorce?

Secret Window shows the gradual descent of a man who once had it all and ends up losing everything. Actually, Mort’s writing career is still going strong, but everything else is out of the picture. His wife is dead, his house (the one he shared with Amy) no longer exists, and let’s not forget about his loyal companion: Chico is also dead.