Updated: Mar 6
When Chicago native Don Koch (Phil Brooks, aka CM Punk) buys a fixer upper in the suburbs, he insists on saving a few bucks on the renovation with some DIY. His wife Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn), by this point very pregnant, is skeptical, but with the help of their friend Milo (Travis Delgado), the overhaul gets underway. As the repairs proceed, Don learns more about his new house than he could have ever imagined. Enter Sarah (Sarah Brooks), a mysterious muse who takes an interest in Don. Between his new house, his wife and incoming child, and the wild card Sarah, Don appears to have more to fix up than the new property.
Girl on the Third Floor is This Old House by way of The Amityville Horror, with its myriad secrets held within the old house. Without giving away too many things, each layer of the hellish abode that is revealed is more disturbing and captivating than the last, and by the end, it’s a wonder how anyone could stand to live in a house steeped in that much haunted history (fun fact: the house in which the film was shot had a reputation for being for-real haunted, so bonus points for that).The slow burn in this film is as slow as it needs to be, keeping a consistent pace on par with Don’s descent into madness.
Being a wrestling fan, I was fully familiar with what CM Punk was capable of, delivery-wise. The way he gives his lines commands the attention of the viewer, though I never found myself feeling like it was CM Punk. He took on the role of Don to the letter, even drinking during one scene, which makes the “STRAIGHT EDGE” tattoo on his stomach a bit ironic to those clued in to Punk’s lifestyle choices.
Another massive highlight was the use of practical effects. The black and white slime that oozes through the various orifices of the fixer-upper is truly disgusting, and it makes for several effective gross-out moments throughout the film. This was noted by the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, as the film notched the “Best Gooey Effects” award. Add to this the effects used in the hammer scene, which sees one of the most jaw-dropping disfigurements I’ve ever seen put to film, and the effects team should be damn proud of themselves for this one.
While the presence of one of my all-time favorite wrestlers was a major selling point for me, it also helps that Girl on the Third Floor was a fantastic film. In its roughly ninety minutes, no scene feels too drawn out or too abbreviated. The shocking, gruesome moments are allowed to breathe for as long as they need to, even in the fever trip of a final ten or so minutes. For a full-length debut in the director’s chair, Travis Stevens (Cheap Thrills, Big Ass Spider!) has built not a house, but a home with this film.