House renovations have always been the perfect setting for something bad to happen; secrets are easily uncovered between the walls, old rumours about dead bodies come true and stress that breaks minds comes to fruition. It’s a trope that has long been used in horror films, but in modern times it seems to have become a little underappreciated, without the mention of one film that did this incredibly well; Mother! With that said, the premise for Girl On The Third Floor felt strong before it even started, but a loss of direction and a strange tone of misogyny throughout leaves Travis Stevens’ film never quite hitting the mark.
Don Koch is your typical bad boy turned good; with an attitude that screams of a criminal past and looks that unfortunately draw in women just to break their hearts. But Don is a new man and plans on starting a new life with his pregnant wife, which includes a big new house in a quiet suburban neighbourhood where they can truly focus on family life. As the man of the house, Don tackles the house refurbishment by himself, proving to his wife that he is serious about becoming the man she’s always wished for. However, as he starts to destroy floorboards and knockdown oozing walls, he becomes tempted by a few too many whiskies and the blonde bombshell that keeps turning up at his door in the dead of night. It’s not long until Don falls back into his old ways, but the house seems to have a watchful eye over him, one which doesn’t like men that are liars and cheats.
The first act of Girl On The Third Floor starts exceptionally strong, and carefully pulls the audience into this mysterious yet enchanting house that has its own wet personality. From plug sockets oozes white screamy substances, from the walls comes a black foul goo and small marbles seem to appear from nowhere, ready to cause many accidents. We also start out rooting for Don – it’s clear he’s had a bad past, but actor Phillip Jack Brooks, more commonly known by his wrestling stage name C.M. Punk really does well at managing to hook us into believing that he’s truly changed for the better and wants to dedicate his new life to his wife and his baby. Unfortunately, that truth soon falls flat when Don begins to show that he’s not really the man we believed him to be – which comes from an outstanding performance from Punk who balances between being a detestable asshole and a reformed man.
As Don slips into his woman-exploiting ways, the film takes a hideously misogynistic turn, and for no real reason. This is where Girl On The Third Floor begins to demolish itself. Although there are some relations to the storyline that explain the demeaning factors towards women, it seems that those reasons could have still been explained without going full-on misogynistic. The way the women are portrayed in this film is horrendously demeaning; they are made to carry awful mens’ children, they are designed to be pieces of meat made for fucking, even when they die at the hands of sex slavery, they continue to be whores into the afterlife. The entirety of their representation sits very badly and made me feel very uncomfortable when watching. This way of presenting women in the film even led to some women in the audience at Frightfest leaving the screening, which is such a disappointment considering there have been so many movements within horror to stop women feeling they are not represented how they should be.
After this, the entire film begins to spiral out of control and quickly downwards into a film that is barely recognisable from the beginning. Nothing really makes sense anymore, with the biggest confusion being all the sticky, wet and gross fluids that ooze out of every orifice in the house – there is absolutely no reason for them and it comes across as if Stevens just wanted to add a gross-out element because he knew the rest of the film had no real substance to it. Girl On The Third Floor doesn’t know what film it wants to be, which is where the biggest flaw comes from. Is it a body horror film? Not quite. Is it a supernatural film? Not quite. Is it a psychological film? Not quite. Therefore it doesn’t sit within any sub-genre of horror and leaves us in a state of confusion as to what this film was all about.
Girl On The Third Floor begins its renovations with some grand ideas, but once the wallpaper is peeled back, becomes a film that is just meaningless body fluids, misogyny and an identity crisis.