The Girl on the Third Floor combines excellent effects work with strong performances and themes of secrecy, temptation and revenge to create a gooey, grisly and chaotic haunted house movie.
Synopsis: Bursting pipes, rotting walls and unidentifiable slime were not what Don Koch (WWE legend Phil “CM Punk” Brooks) expected when he convinced his wife Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn) that he could renovate their new Victorian home himself. In over his head, under duress and tempted by his old weaknesses, Don soon discovers that the house has its own dark, sordid history and won’t be so easy to change after all….
The Girl on the Third Floor uses the traditional trappings of a haunted house movie but adds lashings of bodily fluids and a side of other weirdness to make for a far more visceral, sinister experience. So many films attempt to make their central house a character in it’s own right but director Travis Stevens has really put something on screen that feels alive. A notable producer in his own right, Third Floor is his directorial debut and it is outstanding to have something that feels so cohesive and confident as a debut. Bodily fluids seep from plug sockets, walls crumble at a slightest touch and pipes fill with slime. As Don’s attempted renovation of the house is disrupted by a number of strange occurrences and disruptions Third Floor feels like a wild, but thoroughly enjoyable ride in which you sometimes aren’t sure of the next turn, but are more than happy to sit back and be taken there.
Phil Brooks takes on the lead role of Don Koch in an incredibly bold move for the former wrestler. He has the majority of screen time and handles this incredibly well which is very impressive for a debut feature role. Very occasionally the performance feels a little bit ‘big’, but this tends to happen in the latter stages of the film where the escalation is understandable. As a character, Don is very well written – initially presented as a dedicated family man his presentation evolves throughout the film as further elements of his personality and past emerge. It is to Brooks’ credit that he’s able to balance the comic and more disturbing elements so well and keep Don as a grounded character.
Sarah Brooks as Sarah produces a performance which moves from benign to overtly sinister with a great deal of care. While we only know Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn) via her video chats with Don, when it comes time for her to visit the house she becomes a far more engaging character. This feels like another layer in it’s examination of toxic masculinity in that when viewed through Don’s lens she is only seen to be asking questions about the construction of the house and is, in some part, treated as a nag. It is only when she enters the house that we get the full scale of her performance and a more fully fleshed character.
A recurring marble motif works to brilliant and sinister effect, resulting in one of the most memorable and grisly moments. Dan Martin’s effects are really impressive. However, Third Floor, despite the attention to detail given to the surface level is not about that surface but is equally as interested in those things that are hidden from view. The film moves to reveal more about Don as the house reveals its secrets, almost in tandem. Becoming a searing take-down of toxic, masculine culture and how this escalates in the poor treatment of all women Third Floor explores themes of temptation, secrecy and revenge. Don’s temptation is almost biblical in nature as it is his transgression which escalates the behaviour of the house (referred to as a bitch by a neighbour). The fact that the film is able to balance a strong message, with an irreverent sense of humour and some excellent, grisly effects makes it very impressive.
A hugely entertaining, frequently disturbing film which has a huge amount of confidence, Girl on the Third Floor represents some of the most exciting indie horror currently available and does it with an occasionally wicked sense of humour. Check it out as soon as you can!