Across the Hall (2009)

Genre(s): Drama / Thriller
Anchor Bay || R - 93 minutes - $27.98 || January 19, 2010
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2010-01-03


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Alex Merkin
Writer(s): Alex Merkin (story), Jesse Mittelstadt (screenplay)
Cast: Mike Vogel, Brittany Murphy, Danny Pino


Theatrical Release Date: December 4, 2009


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • 4 Featurettes
  • Trailer


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

“Your worst fears are waiting...”

I can say, thankfully, that my own fears that this direct-to-video (well, it had a very limited release in December 09) suspense-drama wouldn’t deliver, be lost in the shuffle of the hundreds of others to come across my desk. Instead, I found Across the Hall to be a well made suspense yarn that, albeit predictable, still delivers the goods with a good cast including the late Brittany Murphy.

Terry (DANNY PINO) calls his best bud Julian (MIKE VOGEL) from a seedy hotel room across the hall from another room where his new fiancée, June (BRITTANY MURPHY) is apparently stowed away a lover. He’s drunk, semi-incoherent and reveals to Julian that he also has a loaded gun that he stole from Julian’s apartment. The longer Terry waits, the more obsessed – and drunk – he becomes to know what she’s doing in that room and with whom. As Julian tries to talk him down, will he be able to stop his best friend from making a big mistake?

That’s the basic premise for director Alex Merkin based off of his own short film of the same name that he filmed back in 2005 and starring Adrian Grenier of “Entourage”. I only caught a couple minutes of the short film after watching this one, but I can see why someone felt it would make for a good feature film, especially when you get a better cast together (Grenier was decent, but the other two didn’t have the necessary screen presence).

The biggest contributor to the feature film is that of Danny Pino who you may or may not know from the underrated TV series, “Cold Case”. Although his character is a mish-mash of clichés – the drunken boyfriend obsessed with his cheating girl – but he brings an intense charisma to the film matching opposite Brittany Murphy who, while I’ve seen better out of her, gives one of her better performances in a while even though the script doesn’t give her character a whole lot to do.

The biggest downside to the film is the script itself. Merkin contributed to the story with Jesse Mittelstadt providing the screenplay adaptation (he served as co-writer for the short film). The issue I had, which I assume is in the short film, was that it’s all a little predictable for as much as the writers try to disguise the twist, a twist that luckily doesn’t come until the halfway point rather than dragging it on (there is another cool twist at the end, however). That said, even though anyone could see the twist coming, how Merkin presents it makes it all worthwhile.

** MINOR SPOILER **

As I stated before, Brittany Murphy doesn’t have a whole lot to do but I felt she did the best anyone could to with the hand she was dealt. Not to get into specifics but it’s not a huge part in terms of screen-time and it’s more than a tad distracting.

** END SPOILER **

Across the Hall isn’t a gem of the direct-to-video/limited release titles that have come across my desk, but it certainly surprised me at how well done it was. The cast are all quite good, which includes (in a bit of trivia) one Natalie Smyka who played Brittany Murphy’s part in the short film. If you happen to see this at your local Blockbuster or Red Box, give it a shot. I know it won’t be some people’s cup of tea as the story is slow to develop, but how the story unraveled plus Pino’s performance makes it worthwhile.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

All features are presented in standard definition and look utterly awful.

Making of Across the Hall (12:36) is an interesting, though not entirely in-depth, making-of featurette on how the feature film came to be off of the short film going into the casting process. It includes sound bites from Brittany Murphy (briefly) and the other members of the cast.

Then there three short and quite skip-able featurettes: Working with Director Alex Merkin (2:27) is a short featurette on the director from the perspective of the cast; The Call (2:16) covers the cell phone use and having the actors doing their lines over the phone to make it more authentic; and Working with Friends (2:22) on the friendship between Mike Vogel and Danny Pino.

And amazingly they’ve also included the theatrical trailer (1:47), something that is an increasing rarity.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

I was actually somewhat impressed with the DVD video quality. It is presented with a 2.35 aspect ratio and all things considered (i.e. standard definition), there wasn’t a whole lot of pixilation or other flaws. Even the detail level wasn’t half-bad, though it’s no match in comparison with its Blu-ray counterpart. Personally, I prefer the HD version but if you haven’t switched over, this isn’t too bad.

Similarly, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track isn’t very expansive with the environment, yet decent enough for a standard track. Dialogue levels were pretty good and ambient noises can be heard through the other channels. Like the Blu-ray version, the subwoofer doesn’t get much use.



.::OVERALL::.

Across the Hall is definitely one of the better limited release movies of 2009 and while I realize it’ll get more attention now due to the passing of Brittany Murphy, I think the story and the performances make it an advisable rental (a purchase might be much as it will turn some people off). Unfortunately, the features aren’t all that great but the video and audio are both much better than I expected given the budget.