Girl on the Third Floor (2019) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Girl on the Third Floor (2019) Review

Horrorific content by jessicagomez on January 12th, 2020 | Movie Review | Cursed, Psychological, Madness, Haunted House

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It’s about Don Koch, a man who tries to renovate a rundown house with a sordid history for his growing family, only to learn that the house has other plans...

Girl on the Third Floor was directed by Travis Stevens, and stars Phillip Jack Brooks, better known by the ring name CM Punk (from Rabid), Trieste Kelly Dunn (from Applesauce) and Elissa Dowling.

Home is where Hell is

Travis Stevens has produced some notable indie horror films (We Are Still Here, Starry Eyes), but Girl on The Third Floor marks his directorial debut. What resulted was an effectively ghoulish - and yes, a very wet - tale of destructive men being dealt harsh consequences for their actions.

Don, formerly known as “King Don” from his fast lifestyle in finance in Chicago, has narrowly avoided prison after defrauding his clients. With the money that his pregnant wife brings in, they purchase a home in the suburbs that is, shall we say, a bit of a fixer-upper. (Lore of hauntings surround the actual house which served as the set location, and it’s the perfect setting for this story. The bleachers on the third floor? Cryptic.) It’s clear from the very first scene that the house is home to at least one ghost with an agenda.

Don calls the new house his “second chance”, but from the beginning we see that Don isn’t taking this new lease on life very seriously. He’s drinking when he promised his wife that he wasn’t; he speaks about fixing the house up, not wanting help from professionals although he has no idea what he’s doing; a romantic interlude with a stranger named Sarah is afoot mere days after he’s moved in.

The house has a horrific past of its own that we learn towards the end of the film, but it becomes clear very quickly that the house is a metaphor come to life for Don’s toxic masculinity. It needs a lot of work - and with every fix, Don is merely patching. He does not seek to dig to the root of the problems, to replace its rotten core - and as his friend Milo points out, he is ill-equipped for such a task. The more he uncovers throughout the house, the more the house begins to fall apart.

An aspect of the film I found particularly interesting was that allies who weren’t engaging in bad behaviors found themselves in a fateful position for being complicit, for becoming the pillars on which a pernicious man is propped. Loyalty is not always the best policy; a message most well-intentioned men would be remiss should they not receive.

The camerawork is completely stable at times and off-kilter at others, which is completely intentional and brings the viewer to an uncertainty about the events that are unfolding. The score, the sound effects and the SFX were top-notch. Brooks (aka CM Punk) is believable in every scene - the viewer can feel his anger emanating from the screen as his trials become harsher. Sarah is at the same time enticing and chilling as she utilizes her strengths to serve cold justice, one by one, to the men who thrive on abusive, abhorrent behavior. But the truly terrifying “monster” goes to the girl who we find out later has been put to death on railroad tracks, and her face - a thing out of nightmares - shows it.

I was left with some questions, as I usually am after all of the horror movies that I love. The story of the actual girl on the third floor, an innocent child, surrounded by voyeurs, who was present for adult acts that occurred within the walls of the house years prior - is she the girl who was taken to the train tracks? Did she witness what happened to the star of the show? Was she being groomed?

Worth Watching?

There are elements of the film that are influenced by The Shining, which Stevens notes on the Blu-ray commentary. But while keeping in the tradition of most ghost stories where there is more to the past than meets the eye, this haunted house allegory is entirely its own. This isn’t a movie we’ve seen one hundred times before. Rather than the house inflicting evil onto its tenants, such as in The Amityville Horror, the structure is a mere reflection - marked by the many mirrors in every room - of the men who live there. As the pastor who lives across from the house noted, some men who lived in the house, those who perceivably dug within themselves, had happy lives. Others succumbed to their own transgressions.

As with most great horror films, the message is very timely, and its many layers do not forego the elements of classic haunted horror. There are plenty of scares - both the ones that make you jump, and the ones that make you cringe. Much like a marble to Don, the Girl on the Third Floor will get under your skin.

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