Girl on the Third Floor is super producer Travis Stevens’ debut feature but, in many ways, it resembles the last high profile movie he took to Frightfest, 68 Kill, which Stevens introduced with a bizarre speech about how women “run the world.” At the time, it felt like he was preempting backlash to a movie with more than a few problematic ideas about women. Unfortunately, Girl on the Third Floor suggests those are ideas Stevens not only shares, but perpetuates.
Ex-wrestler and failed MMA star CM Punk, now known as “Phil Brooks” since he’s a serious actor and all that, stars as Don, an expectant first time father with a dark past of dodgy business dealings who’s been relegated to the suburbs where he’s fixing up a home for him and the long-suffering mother of his child, Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn). She’s working away in the city and glimpsed only via FaceTime for the most part, but it’s clear Don hasn’t been the best partner, or man, which for some reason is supposed to endear him to us.
Related: Haunt [Frightfest 2019 Review]
While doing some (pretty bad) basic DIY work on the dilapidated house, Don encounters some strange, gooey substances. There are also presences darting about, one of which presents itself as a sexy, scantily clad young lady (newcomer Sarah Brooks) who barely puckers her lips before Don is leaping into bed with her. Likewise, although Liz has enforced a no alcohol rule, the bottles scattered about the place suggest Don is about as interested in staying sober as he is in being faithful to his wife. All the while, their new pastor neighbor suggests very bad things are afoot.
Girl on the Third Floor boasts some truly excellent production design (by two women!) but, when the quality of goo onscreen is the only thing keeping one’s interest intact, it’s not usually a good sign. Early on, the question of what happened in the godforsaken house is posed but the answer, to be frank, is nothing particularly interesting. There’s some business with a bordello and moralizing over children bearing witness to sex acts or some such but it’s neither clear nor mysterious enough to be in any way intriguing.
The big, glaring issue with Girl on the Third Floor is Brooks himself. A gifted wrestler with a motormouth that could shut anybody down, the erstwhile Punk falters when delivering someone else’s dialogue (the script, maddeningly, is credited to three men including Stevens). For what feels like the first 20 minutes he’s onscreen, Brooks doesn’t close his mouth and by that I mean he lets it hang open like a fish. Later, he’s unable to convincingly fake-sign his own name. It clearly killed the militant straight edger to pretend to drink a beer (a PBR at that), but more annoyingly the massive “STRAIGHT EDGE” and “DRUG FREE” tatts (on his belly and hands respectively) aren’t covered up. Considering the attention to detail on the yuckier side of things, it seems a huge oversight — particularly if we’re to believe this is a dude with a drinking problem.
Much like the house itself, Brooks never settles. He’s incredibly uncomfortable and stiff onscreen. For much of the movie, it seems he’s doing a bad Henry Rollins impression, but where the great man infuses his hard-edged characters with subtle shades of sensitivity, suggesting their pain and inner turmoil actually comes from somewhere, Brooks can only grimace. It’s bizarre that we’re expected to feel sorry for such an outright jerk, too, especially as he makes bad decision after bad decision and treats everyone around him (including a well-meaning friend and person of color who, as per the laziest of horror tropes, doesn’t last long) like garbage.
Don’s wife is saddled with the usual wifely duties, while the female pastor who drifts in and out of the story, the best and most layered character by far, is quite literally kept on the edges for the entire movie until she gets to explain the plot somewhat about ten minutes after the thing should have ended. There is some radical feminist stuff shoehorned in, but it feels completely unearned, much like Stevens’ pandering speech before 68 Kill, a film in which the women were either psychos, nymphos, or sweet virgins. Maybe Stevens and his buddies should actually speak to some women before settling down to write female characters?
See Also: Come to Daddy [Frightfest 2019 Review]
With a stronger lead actor or a better developed premise, Girl on the Third Floor could’ve been something special. Possibly. As the movie stands, all the gooey stuff is great, but there’s not much else to it and what is there can be seen elsewhere and done better (body horror Bite had a similar issue, but was at least upfront in its intentions).
Catch Girl on the Third Floor In Theaters and On Digital October 25, 2019
WICKED RATING: 4/10
Director(s): Travis Stevens
Writer(s): Paul Johnstone, Ben Parker, Travis Stevens
Stars: C.M. Punk/Phil Brooks, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Sarah Brooks, Elissa Dowling
Release date: October 25, 2019
Studio/Production Company: Queensbury Pictures
Run Time: 93 minutes