Girl on the Third Floor renovates the relationship between toxic masculinity and female empowerment.
Girl on the Third Floor is a haunted house movie where the male protagonist is in need of some fixing up. It mixes genres like the haunted house tropes, such as a wronged ghost, with a graphic gory style, surrealistic elements, body horror and modern themes about men and women and their abusive and violent history.
All this is played out in the house itself. A Victorian house with a shady past, just like Don’s, the main character. While he is trying to find redemption, he makes the same mistakes again. With a simple but haunting and gory setting, with only five real characters and effective practical effects, a great music sore and tight cinematography, this film is able to provide some mirrors for Don as well as for the audience.
Don Koch tries to start over with his pregnant wife Liz, after a shady past. He promises her to be a better man and convinces her to buy a house in the suburbs which he will renovate completely. Rejecting all help from professionals he only lets his best friend Milo help him. Alone with his dog Cooper, Don tries to fix up the house, but strange mucus, dark fluids and mold spots keep showing up at the walls. Not keeping his promise to Liz, he drinks, lies about the house and gets seduced by next door neighbor Sarah, while another neighbor pastor Sadie tries to keep him on the right track. But the house is not so forgiving and keeps its grip on Don tightly and relentlessly.
Why you should watch it
Though it seems like this is a very masculine movie, with a male protagonist, and ‘male job’ (renovating the house) and his encounters with the evil that lurks in the house, it’s a very feminine movie as well. Both male and female don’t come out as good people. Displayed as archetype characters, Don as the typical male, stubborn, naive, easy to feed his ego, vain and reluctant to ask for help with a shady past on top of all this.
Sarah as the seductive pretty female, easily wronged, jealous, and vindictive. Liz as the dominating and complaining pregnant woman on the phone, who is constantly checking in on Don, not really trusting him (for good reason).
These archetypes are here for a reason. They serve the plot, while they search for redemption, or peace, and acknowledgment in a house that doesn’t let them.
The house itself, or should you say herself, is a very feminine house. The wallpaper, the mirrors which serve as a symbolic reflection which are very well put to use in creepy original scenes, and even the lamps radiate femininity. But also it/she oozes a gory substance, the bodily fluids of the house and of those who are sealed inside, have a feminine feel about it. It’s all about actions having consequences. With the house as a conduit that brings out the worst in people.
Don isn’t a bad man per se, just weak, and Sarah isn’t a bad woman, just wronged. This will come out in the third and final act which is reserved for Liz. Finally we see her as a real person, not in any way affected by a pregnant brain, but brave, strong and clear minded and determined. It’s her actions that finally have a positive effect that can turn things around.
Right after we are treated with a surreal scene which blends the past and present together. All is revealed and explained. It’s about men who either consciously or unconsciously mistreat women, and the female empowerment not through violence and revenge, but through forgiveness and acknowledgement and understanding.
It’s a very nice mixture of a haunted house, with some well made gory effects, not only the gory walls and ooze, but also the inescapable undoing of Don. Shown with blood fountains, the inner walls made flesh, the full appearance of the Nymph, a lot of scary marbles (you’ll never look at those the same again), and body horror, which would make The Evil Dead (1981) proud. Also the dark humor, that accompanies the body horror and weird graphic and gory horror reminds of The Evil Dead.
Side note: Dog Cooper dies. Although this is not shown and we don’t know exactly what killed him, his discovery is very gruesome and horrible.
My favorite part
The part when Don had his chance but screwed it all up and his time is up, is an escalating scene of gory, bloody, bodily mutilations, preceded by a scary haunting buildup. It’s a great finale of the second act and an unexpected turn of events, at least visually and cinematically.
The use of the camera showing something shifting in the background, but especially the use of the many mirrors in the house, give the film a more than average feel of a haunted house. The mirrors serve as as symbol, reflecting ones actions, while also reflecting the past into the present but are also functional for conjuring up some creepy images or surrealism.
With a simple premise, a simple plot and setting, simple characters, the message comes across meaningfully, with a morality to it, that doesn’t judge, but you’ll better heed its powerful warning.
Gore factor: ★★★★☆
Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆
Originality factor: ★★★☆☆
Cast and crew
Girl on the Third Floor is directed and written by Travis Stevens and cowritten by Paul Johnstone and Ben Parker. It stars Phil Brooks (Don), Trieste Kelly Dunn (Liz), Sarah Brooks (Sarah), Elissa Dowling (Sadie) and Travis Delgado (Milo).
Music: Steve Albini, Alison Chesley, Tim Midyett. Cinematography: Scott Thiele. Produced by: Giles Edwards, Nicola Goelzhaeuser, Greg Newman, Travis Stevens. Production company: Queensbury Pictures. Distributed by: Dark Sky Films.