There was a fair share of horror’s building up to October 31st, most notably, It Chapter Two. However, one of the more unique projects within the horror genre hit screens on October 25th, a film that also happened to be the feature film debut of former WWE Champion, C.M. Punk (Phil Brooks). Punk’s first outing in cinema is a haunted house story with a unique and compelling narrative that quietly drags you into its horrifying setting.
Girl on The Third Floor tells the story of Don Koch (C.M. Punk), who purchases an old house in a quieter part of Chicago, hoping to prove himself to his wife, Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn). He is intent on renovating the home by himself, so it is ready for Liz and their future child that Liz is carrying. But as he attempts to fix the house, the old house has other ideas as Don encounters obstacles and events he could not have foreseen.
The film starts very ominously. Shot after shot, all we see is close-ups of various parts of the house that are either ruined or barely functioning. What makes these shots and this opening so effective is the shots are long and dragged out. Allowing the setting for the story to sink in with the audience, and it is very static. There’s no movement from the camera, no dialogue, and barely any movement from anything we see on screen in the opening minute and a half. Director Travis Stevens establishes the tone and pace immediately with an opening so simple, yet so effective.
The biggest strength of Travis Stevens’ haunted house tale lies in its slow-burn build-up. A lot of B-level horror films rely on quick scares and blood and guts to fill up the runtime, a trapping Girl On The Third Floor intelligently avoids. The narrative slowly builds by watching Don go through a somewhat repetitive daily ritual, but slowly, he begins to encounter more and more peculiar events that ensure we as an audience stay glued to the screen, curious to see where this narrative takes us.
We also see a great evolution of our characters, particularly Punk’s character Don Koch. Initially, his relationship and actions towards his wife seem like that of an honest, loving husband. However, as the story progresses, we see a shift in Don, and he does not appear to be the man we first suspect he is. Also, CM Punk’s impressive performance enhances this transformation. His performance feels natural, and at times effortless, as the thought of “CM Punk” is quickly replaced with “What’s Don going to do now?”
Everything builds to an excellent climax that peels back the mystery surrounding the old house, while continually keeping you guessing, and not to leave you disappointed, unleashes its fair share of gore as well.
Where the film does fall short, though, is when it attempts to incorporate more stereotypical elements that you associate with the genre. The cheesy comedy we see so often in horrors is, unfortunately, a part of this. But unlike other films, you find yourself cringing as opposed to laughing.
In addition to the bad comedic elements, we have some typical ‘warning’ scenes where Don encounters an old man who shares uncomfortable details about his new home. And your classic scenes where characters slowly walk around the house with unusual activity going on in the background. Again, instead of having the intended impact, these scenes can feel forced and almost unnecessary as they don’t lead to anything or move the narrative forward. It’s clear that when Travis Stevens sticks to his unconventional approach, the film’s quality is at a much higher level.
Overall, Girl On The Third Floor will satisfy its core audience as the intelligent narrative, and slow-paced approach gives fans of the genre a refreshing take. Plus, wrestling fans who tune in for their former superstar C.M. Punk will be pleasantly surprised by the former WWE Champion’s acting chops.
Dir: Travis Stevens
Scr: Paul Johnstone, Ben Parker, Travis Stevens
Cast: CM Punk, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Sarah Brooks, Elissa Dowling, Karen Woditsch, Travis Delgado
Prd: Giles Edwards, Nicola Goelzhauser, Greg Newman, Travis Stevens
DoP: Scott Thiele
Music: Steve Albini, Alison Chesley, Tim Midyett
Runtime: 93 minutes
Girl On The Third Floor is now available on VOD platforms.