“That house just seems to be bad news for straight men.”
Veteran genre producer Travis Stevens’ directorial debut allows the flaws in Don Koch (CM Punk) to unfold relatively slowly (at first, at least) but we’re never in any doubt that this house has the upper hand. He’s decamped there with his dog to fix up the place before his pregnant wife Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn) arrives, but he’s not prepared for the sheer amounts of goo and slime to be found. Something is living in this house and it’s bad news for this “reformed” fella.
Before the FrightFest screening, effects maestro Dan Martin (whose work in the movie is spectacular) took to the stage to assure the audience that this is a “very wet” film. The fluids are certainly the most immediately eye-catching element. Sockets drip, orifices in walls pulse, there’s a gooey puddle with a condom in the middle of the floor just minutes into the movie, and Stevens has a huge amount of fun pushing his leading man into tight spaces where he can be blasted with, well, whatever *that* is.
But this is also a carefully constructed haunted house story that plays with the old “some houses are just born bad” trope. We quickly discover that Don is a weak man who will not resist temptation (be it booze, drugs, or sex), and that he’s got a criminal past in Chicago (the details of which are revealed slowly), but his violent mean streak becomes increasingly important as the house’s past is revealed. The film is in no hurry to put all its cards on the table, however, allowing the audience to guess, and second-guess, the story’s twists and turns, and there’s a fantastic supporting turn from Karen Wodistch as the rev from the church across the road who swings by to check on Don and remind him he’s definitely living somewhere evil.
The third act shifts up several gears quite suddenly, almost jarringly at first, but as Liz finally arrives to find out what the hell is going on and the house pulls back the wallpaper, there’s a truly satisfying and empathetic conclusion. There’s a steady hand on the wheel even when things start getting delirious.
With strong performances, an excellent blend of dark humour and horror, an inventive spin on the haunted house formula and truly glorious goo and gore effects, Girl On The Third Floor is an absolute treat for genre fans. Maybe don’t eat beforehand, though.
Girl On The Third Floor was seen and reviewed at Arrow Video FrightFest 2019.