Frightfest 2019: Girl On The Third Floor review

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A beautiful house plays home to a quality horror – here’s our review of Girl On The Third Floor.

Certificate: TBC
Director: Travis Stevens
Cast: Phil Brooks, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Sarah Brooks
Release Date: TBC
Reviewer: Matt Edwards

I have an elevator pitch for you. What if David Cronenberg remade The Money Pit? That’s Girl On The Third Floor.

The film, directed by Travis Stevens from a script he wrote based on a story by Ben Parker and Paul Johnstone, finds financial trader Don moving out of the city and into the suburbs to get his new home set up for his pregnant wife. The house is massive and beautiful, but it is in need of fixing up and modernising. It’s also a little strange, with a weird dark spot on the wall seems to be leaking an oily substance from somewhere within. Don sets about renovating the home by himself, lacking the necessary equipment but balancing it out with an abundance of misplaced confidence. He soon finds himself trying to set up a new home and a new life for himself that he lacks the tools and skills to build. The house seems to be falling apart in time with Don’s bogus decision making.

The beautiful house at the centre of Girl On The Third Floor is really something. It has all of this stylish wallpaper and these gaudy, golden framed mirrors. It’s basically a living entity, with complete with a personality, a heartbeat and even its own body fluids. It’s a bizarre and exciting twist on the haunted house movie.

The film is a gloopy affair, with ooze splatting from the shower and gak leaking from the walls and power sockets. Between the crazy hijinks and the gunge, Girl On The Third Floor almost ends up playing as a sinister version of Noel’s House Party.

As lead character Don becomes increasingly frayed by the consequences of his decisions closing in on him, the house escalates its attacks on his sanity. The film ramps up its horror and becomes increasingly strange and ominous, with some stomach-turning acts of violence. There’s just something about a box cutter being used as a weapon. I suspect we’ll never see one match the ‘hold-your-breath-and-never-let-go’ effect of Green Room, but Girl On The Third Floor makes its case and makes it convincingly. This film really does get extreme.

The first third or so of the film is carried impressively by Phil Brooks. Brooks, better known to some as pro wrestler CM Punk, features here in one of his first movie roles. Don is bubbling with testosterone, a physically powerful but mentally weak man. The house, which we come to find is a former brothel, has no trouble exploiting Don’s weaknesses. Brooks is so solid, feigning a supportive father and productive builder on video calls to his wife, while seething as the house falls apart around him, the universe failing to bend to meet his expectations. Brooks is able to take the gross out moments like he’s the straight man in a comedy partnership, allowing the goo to get the laugh. But he’s at his best when he’s cornered and angry. Don is a man pressed into a lifestyle that he’s ill equipped for and Brooks is able to sell that impressively. There are no weak links among the small cast. Trieste Kelly Dunn, the pregnant Liz, makes a huge impact with relatively little screen time.

It’s difficult to describe a film as unique as Girl On The Third Floor without spoiling its surprises. There are characters to invest in, and so when the horror and the threat starts ramping up, there’s genuine tension to be felt. The tone is so carefully balanced, with gross out laughs sitting among genuine moments of discomfort.

Girl On The Third Floor is a brilliant, original and exciting horror. It’s an exploration of masculinity, and of failure and weakness. Unique, smart and entertaining, it squeezes its characters and then delights in showing you what comes out of them.

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