Girl on the Third Floor
|Girl on the Third Floor|
|Directed by||Travis Stevens|
|Produced by||Giles Edwards|
|Written by||Paul Johnstone|
Trieste Kelly Dunn
|Music by||Steve Albini|
|Edited by||Aaron Crozier|
|Distributed by||Dark Sky Films (MPI Media Group)|
Girl on the Third Floor is a 2019 horror film directed by Travis Stevens, written by Stevens, Paul Johnstone and Ben Parker, and starring CM Punk, Trieste Kelly Dunn and Tonya Kay. The film tells the story of a deeply flawed husband who renovates an old home for himself and his wife, and the supernatural events that ensue while they live there.
Girl on the Third Floor is scheduled to world-wide premiere on October 25, 2019 after having previously garnered largely positive reviews at SXSW, BUFF, and the London FrightFest Film Festivals. Reviewers took note of both the command of the genre of newcomer director Travis Stevens as well as the convincing portrayal of the main character by pro-wrestler-turned-actor Phil "CM Punk" Brooks. The film was widely praised by reviewers for its "wonderful and gross" usage of practical special effects.
A deeply-flawed ex-lawyer named Don Koch seeking a new start in life, purchases a run-down old house in the suburbs of Chicago with the intent of fixing it up to provide himself and his very pregnant wife, Liz, a new life away from the city. He moves into the home ahead of her, determined to begin renovating the house without any help, despite his wife's advice. He learns through his new neighbors that the house has a sordid past, and Don begins experiencing several supernatural events within the home.
- CM Punk as Don Koch (credited as Phil Brooks)
- Trieste Kelly Dunn as Liz Koch
- Sarah Brooks as Sarah Yates
- Elissa Dowling as Sadie
- Karen Woditsch as Ellie Mueller
- Travis Delgado as Milo Stone
- Marshall Bean as Geary McCabe
- Anish Jethmalani as Attorney Manny Bharara
- Bishop Stevens as Patrolman Weaver
- Tonya Kay as The Nymph
- Eileah Pyrzynski as the Baby
During SXSW 2019, Stevens revealed during the post-screening Q&A that much of the story he wrote was not entirely fictional: the house was real and its backstory was "only slightly embellished for the film".
Girl on the Third Floor was filmed entirely in Frankfort, Illinois, at a house newly acquired to accommodate the headquarters of Stevens' production company. The house was actually in the process of being renovated at the time, and Stevens paused the renovations in order to use their incomplete state as part of the movie.
Girl on the Third Floor is scheduled to be released widely on October 25, 2019. The film was previously shown at several film festivals, including SXSW, BUFF, and the London FrightFest Film Festivals.
- World Premiere – SXSW 2019 – Midnighters
- Official Selection – Boston Underground Film Festival 2019
- Official Selection – Chattanooga International Film Festival 2019
- Official Selection – Overlook Film Festival 2019
- Official Selection – Popcorn Frights Film Festival 2019
- Official Selection – FrightFest London 2019
- Official Selection – Knoxville Horror Film Festival 2019
- Official Selection – Fantasy Film Fest 2019
- Official Selection – WYO Film Festival 2019
- Official Selection - Cinema/Chicago Film Festival, 18 October 2019
In his review of Girl on the Third Floor, Anton Bitel of SciFiNow designates the film a "highly accomplished" haunted house story for the #MeToo generation: "the undoing of ‘King Don’ is a belated revenge of the female repressed, as well as a long history of perverted patriarchy replaying itself ad nauseam and deconstructing...the uneasy, even exploitative and violent relations between men and women".
Deidre Crimmins, from RueMorge also notes that while "nearly equal screen time is given to lingering on both male and female bodies...the film itself never quite gets away from feeling a little unkind to women". She points out that the female characters are presented as "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." Crimmins does extol the practical effects, calling them equally "amazing" and "gross."
Dennis Harvey of Variety considers Stevens' directorial skills to be well above average for the genre, but offers a mixed review of the film, noting how the film draws from films like The Amityville Horror, The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut, and considers Sarah Brooks' lack of convincing "inner malevolence" to be terrifying.
In trying to define the film for her readers, Daily Dead's Heather Wixson notes that Steven's memorable directorial debut feels like what one would get "if Clive Barker and H.P. Lovecraft had teamed up to make The Money Pit, and singles out Phil Brooks' acting as "compelling". Bobby Lepire, reviewer for FilmThreat also compliments Brooks' portrayal of Don Koch, further noting that writer/director Travis Stevens not only has an "innate understanding" of the lessons that horror films teach, in this case a horror story as morality play. As well, Lepire feels that the director effectively sustained the atmosphere of dread throughout the film, but "runs out of steam before the conclusion, making for a not quite, but almost, great film."
Film School Rejects writer Rob Hunter points out that while all haunted house movies involve misdeeds of the past affecting the present, Girl on the Third Floor instead has present-day bad behaviors "unintentionally reaching out to past transgressions". While opining that Brooks resembles "nothing less than the angry love child of Jon Hamm and Ted Raimi with his expressive antics here — walking a fine line with a character who earns our sympathy before threatening to lose it." Hunter sees the main character as needing to find redemption for his past misdeeds and expresses his hope that "this guy, finally, will understand and acknowledge his actions before it’s too late."
Vanyaland's Nick Johnston also noted the connection between the main character's behavior and the house's reaction: "Stevens’ thematic goals here are interesting and compelling. It's all about a bad man paying for his behavior and, thusly, the actions that his misogynistic forbearers [sic] committed decades ago, and when that bad man is played by Phil Brooks, it becomes infinitely more interesting."
Adi Robertson, reviewer for The Verge.com, notes that, instead of trying to push the narrative limits of the haunted house trope, Girl on the Third Floor generates suspense through the predictable and inevitable fall of the Brooks' main character using foreshadowing and jump scares. Robertson, commenting on the effectiveness of the practical effects, opines, "marbles, mucus, and doorbells have never been so ominous".
Film Inquiry's Kevin Lee states that, despite "clunky writing", the film's efficiency lies in two areas; the house - with its creepy noises and gross leakages - is more than just old and in need of renovation. It is also clear that Stevens is exploring the fallout of toxic masculinity through the Don's disreputable past and his refusal to accept help with the extensive renovations. Lee notes that it is this behavior and shady past that makes Don "a vulnerable victim to the house’s psychological effect. Whether or not the film works for you depends on your opinion of Don". Lee goes on to point out that the film's final act clearly demonstrates Stevens' knowledge of surrealism and his fondness for the 2017 Darren Aronofsky psychological horror film, mother!.
Brian Tallerico from RogerEbert.com notes that Stevens' previous experience as a producer of respected indie horror films is evident in his confidence behind the camera in his directorial debut. Tallerico points out the metaphor of the main character's devotion to the physical task of fixing something physical because he is unwilling to perform the real repair on his deeply-flawed character, and that is the source of the problem.
"There have been smoother and more leveled 'tortured past inhabitants won’t leave' realty nightmares than Girl On The Third Floor, but this one ain’t too shabby," says Slashfilm reviewer, Matt Donato decides. Donato notes how director Stevens "breaks a man down, tears a house apart, and leaves us with the ultimate conclusion that forgiveness can only be granted so many times."
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- Bitel, Anton. "GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR FIRST LOOK REVIEW: SXSW 2019 Horror veteran Travis Stevens' directorial debut Girl On The Third Floor pits a weak-willed man against a house with a history". Scifinow.co.uk. Kelsey Publishing. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
- Crimmins, Deidre. "BUFF '19 Review: "Girl on the Third Floor" Shows Love for Practical Effects". RueMorgue.com. Marrs Media Corp. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
- Harvey, Dennis. "SXSW Film Review: 'Girl on the Third Floor' The vengeful spirits in a former bordello prey on the home's new tenants in producer-turned-director Travis Stevens' enjoyable horror opus". Variety.com. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
- Wixson, Heather. "SXSW 2019 Review: GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR Reminds Us That You Can't Escape the Ghosts of the Past". Daily Dead. Daily Dead Media. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
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- Johnston, Nick. "SXSW Review: 'Girl on the Third Floor' gives CM Punk a strong role Director Travis Stevens has true chops when it comes to the setting and atmosphere". Vanyaland.com. Vanyaland. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
- Robertson, Adi. "Girl on the Third Floor is a skin-crawling horror movie about home improvement". TheVerge.com. Vox Media, Inc. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
- Lee, Kevin. "SXSW 2019 Reviews: Darlin', Girl on the Third Floor & Snatchers/Girl on the Third Floor: Clunky Writing, Practical Effects, and Toxic Masculinity". FilmInquiry.com. Film Inquiry, Inc. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
- Tallerico, Brian. "SXSW 2019: Girl on the Third Floor, Tone-Deaf, I See You". RogerEbert.com. Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
- Donato, Matt. "'Girl on the Third Floor' Review: This Fixer Upper Has Ghostly Occupants [SXSW]". Slashfilm.com. /Film. Retrieved 14 September 2019.