“GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR” is a horror film written by Travis Stevens who also makes his directorial debut with this project that premiered at SXSW this month. Starring WWE superstar C.M. Punk this story centers on Don, a man that begins remodeling a recently purchased home unknowing it holds a sinister secret. Trying to piece his family back together with his pregnant wife played by Trieste Kell Dunn, he funnels all his energy into fixing this home. The paranormal events begin to escalate and when Don meets a mysterious, but seductive girl from the neighborhood named Sarah played by Sarah Brooks, things quickly spiral out of control.
This was one of the midnight screenings I took in during SXSW and I think it had some pro’s and con’s but overall was a solid horror film. It was familiar in large sections and the slow-burn of the story pace was at times too slow. The performances were serviceable for the most part, and the technical crafting of the movie was solid. The direction from Stevens utilized the singular location to create a string of dark and haunting scenes that felt nicely paired with the simplistic story-line. How Stevens maneuvered the camera around the house was capable and with the use of some effective practical-effects it felt like a highly capable indie-horror film with some genuinely creepy moments.
C.M. Punk in the lead was a mixed bag for me. I know he is not a veteran actor, and everyone must start somewhere. So, for that aspect he did a great job of virtually carrying the run-time on his shoulders. Also, when the intensity ramps up and his character was called on for some emotional swings, I think Punk was able to deliver more often than he wasn’t. My main issue with his performance was during the story progression scenes. I think his expressions were on the animated side. He felt cartoonish at times, and I am not sure if it was the intention to possibly get some laughs. But there were times it felt like he was just not hitting the intended emotional reaction, and other scenes felt overacted. But like I said, he worked for the film, fit the part and showed solid effort.
Sarah Brooks was great in this role of the mysterious woman that seduces our lead. The story already creates the feeling something bad is going to happen. When and what it will be is was keeps the viewer on edge and with her calculating delivery I felt Brooks added to that ominous atmosphere perfectly. She seems harmless, but you know she isn’t. You know there is a reason she keeps showing up and watching the story to find out why is an appealingly violent ride of tension and uneasiness. Trieste Kell Dunn was also very good as Punk’s wife. She felt comfortable in the role. She hit the emotional marks with realism and certainly made a positive impact on the story-line. Together, I think both Dunn and Brooks were able to fill in where Punk may have been lacking in terms of creating compelling characters to invest in.
I would have preferred a slightly swifter pace. It felt like some of the second-act got a little bit repetitive and it hindered some of the energy and tension. The third-act also seemed to go too hard at the end. The tone turned to nearly outrageous and that isn’t a deal breaker but with the film that led up to it, the shift was mildly distracting. It killed a bit of that foreboding feeling and some of the creep-factor. It was still entertaining though. The practical-effects felt like a throwback to the genre and they inspired thoughts back to the days of looking at ‘Fangoria Magazine.’ It was able to cement a charming retro B-horror movie vibe, but I think it would have served better had the dark and malevolent tropes not been overshadowed by eccentric comedic undertones in the closing act. As it was through, I had a good time with it. There was solid effort and while not all of the story choices worked for me, they didn’t necessarily hinder all the fun either.