The shadows of Hitchcock and the Coen Brothers loom large over this noirish crime drama. Suspecting his fiancee (the late Brittany Murphy) of having an affair, Terry (Cold Case star Danny Pino) follows her to a 1920s-era hotel and checks into the room opposite. He then phones his best friend Julian (Cloverfield's Mike Vogel) to say he's got a gun and something is gonna go down. And so it does... but not as you might expect. Expanding his own festival-acclaimed short, director Alex Merkin plays an impressive hand of twists, stylistic flourishes and suspense.
Successfully invoking the spirit of Hollywood's noir heyday, writer-director Alex Merkin makes a confident debut with this stylish tale of suspicion, manipulation and deceit.
At a tired old hotel (not a million miles from the one in the Coen brothers' Barton Fink), paranoid Terry (Pino) is about to bust in on his fiancee June (Murphy), convinced she is there with another man.
This is obviously of some concern to his friend Julian (Vogel), whose nice, relaxing bath is forgotten as he pleads with Terry to stay put until he gets there.
After all, since Terry has Julian's gun, the situation could have serious consequences for all three of them.
Despite the odd plot hole, Merkin unspools each twist with a controlled hand. He also creates a suitably conspiratorial atmosphere around his astutely cast leads.
In the same way that 1999's Best Laid Plans showcased the talents of Josh Brolin, Alessandro Nivola and Reese Witherspoon, Merkin's noirish set-up provides a tense platform for a trio of talented fringe players.
Of course, while Vogel and Pino have rosy futures, this is one of the last opportunities for anyone to appreciate Brittany Murphy, who died just two weeks after the film's US release.
Yet while essentially a three-hander, Merkin adds to the human suspense by roping Julian's ex-girlfriend into the intrigue, and having Brad Greenquist's mysterious porter as an ever-skulking presence in the background.
And though the soundtrack feels somewhat borrowed (John Carpenter's The Thing could pop out at any moment), Across The Hall is an impressively polished accomplishment for a film shot in only 17 days. Book yourself in for the night.