The 2019 film, Girl on the Third Floor, tells the story of Dan Koch (Phil Brooks), a former criminal who says that he’s trying to turn his life around. Phil is married to Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn) and they’ve not only got a baby on the way, they’ve also got a new house! It’s a surprisingly big house and you have to kind of wonder why no one else has bought it. Maybe it’s because there’s an Episcopalian church right across the street. That definitely would have kept me from moving in.
Still, despite the presence of Anglicans in the neighborhood, Phil moves into the house. He wants to get the house ready before his pregnant wife comes out to join him. Helping Phil out are his dog Cooper and his best friend, Milo (Travis Delgado). Ellie (Karen Woditsch), the rather judgmental pastor who lives in the church, also comes by and visits.
Of course, any old house is going to have its issues. There’s the mysterious sludge that pours out of the walls. There’s the mysterious marbles that keep rolling through the house. There’s the mysterious bumps in the nights and the fact that Cooper seems to be weary of the new home. Dogs can always pick up on evil. Of course, along with being a bit of an idiot, Don is too busy banging his new neighbor, Sarah (Sarah Brooks), to notice.
Don, if you haven’t guessed, is a bit of a jerk. Even though he swears that he feels guilty for cheating on his wife, he still does it. When his friends mysteriously disappear while helping out around the house, Don doesn’t make much of an effort to find them. When Don thinks that there’s a chance his wife might find out what’s been going on at the house, he goes to extreme methods to try to cover everything up. Don thinks that he can control every situation but Sarah and the House both appear to be intent to prove him wrong.
Girl on the Third Floor is a deliberately-paced …. well, I guess you’d call it a haunted house story. I was tempted to call it a ghost story but the film is frequently ambiguous as to whether or not the house is haunted by ghosts or by something far worse. Eventually, we do learn a bit about the house’s past but Girl on the Third Floor is at its best when it leaves you wondering what exactly is going on. Not all questions have to be answered, especially not in a horror movie. In fact, the key to most successful horror tales is the knowledge that some questions will never be answered, no matter how effort we put in to searching for a solution.
Phil Brooks, who wrestled under the name CM Punk, is well-cast as the frequently brutish Don. Brooks convinces us that he does want to be a better person while also showing that he doesn’t really have the inner strength necessary to do so. Trieste Kelly Dunn also does a good job as Don’s wife, who seems like she really does deserve better. Not surprisingly, the film is stolen by Sarah Brooks as the mysterious neighbor. Not only does she get to wear all the best clothes but she also gets all of the best lines and her confidence that Don will fail whatever test she puts before him is both chilling and understandable.
Despite being a little bit slow-paced (especially early on in the film), Girl on the Third Floor has enough atmosphere to hold one’s attention and the final third of the film is enjoyably surreal. Girl on the Third Floor is currently on Netflix. Watch it the next time you’re wondering whether or not to start a home improvement project.