By DEIRDRE CRIMMINS
GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR
Starring C.M. Punk, Trieste Kelly Dunn, and Sarah Brooks
Written and Directed by Travis Stevens
Diving into his feature directorial debut, horror movie producer Travis Stevens chose one of the most iconic horror tropes as his setting: the haunted house. However, in GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR the body fluids you find are just as likely to be from a sexual encounter as they are to be viscera.
The film begins with Don (wrestler C.M. Punk) renovating the house he just bought for his growing family. His expectant wife Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn) is hanging back in Chicago until the house is ready for them, and it needs an awful lot of work. Don seems stubborn enough to want to do all of the repairs on his own, even though he needs to Google how to patch up the walls. Despite Liz’s multiple offers to get a professional, Don won’t accept any help.
It’s clear that Don is a bit of a scumbag. He seems friendly enough to the few new neighbors and locals he encounters out in the sticks, but he also seems to be enjoying the last bastion of his bachelor days before the baby arrives and he is a card-carrying suburban dad. A few hints at his slightly dirty past tell us that our hunch about him being shady is deserved.
GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR quickly gets to business of showing us that this is no ordinary haunted house. Sure, it has secret rooms and concerned neighbors to warn Don, but the buckets of ejaculate that spew from the electric sockets and the shower tell us- in no uncertain terms- that this house has seen plenty of action it is not willing to forget.
As fun and promising as this all sounds, GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR never quite gets it together to tell us a spooky tale nor a make us laugh along with it. There are some good visual gags, but the inconsistency in the lore of the house and the forced dialogue make it difficult to see it as much beyond a collection of gags. Nearly equal screen time is given to lingering on both male and female bodies, but the film itself never quite gets away from feeling a little unkind to women. From the thirsty blonde (Sarah Brooks) who can’t get enough of Don to the nagging wife, the women are mostly one-note and not much more than archetypes. The men don’t get portrayed very well either, but at least they are given a little more to do.
When the film pivots to focusing on Liz it gets more palatable as the film focuses much more on the incredible practical effects. As the house’s revolt against the living gets into full swing we are distracted from the lackluster plot and flat characters by some amazing and gross effects. They start coming out of the screen so rapidly you will still be marveling at one piece just as the next one starts up. These bits save GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR from being a miss.
The film clearly has an awareness of horror’s history of haunted houses and punishable sexuality. It is not a lack of literacy in the genre that hold it back from greatness. Rather, GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR spends far too much time on clunky storytelling and a discordant plot than it does on the wonderful effects.