I’m confused. Really confused.
The plot of Travis Stevens’s awful horror film, released last year and recently added to Netflix, is so convoluted that it stumbles into contradicting any sort of message that could have been extracted from it. If the point of Girl on the Third Floor is to detach the pregnant main character, Liz, from her chronically unfaithful husband Don, spurred on by a dead female spirit living in her new house, then why does she have to go through pain, fear, and trauma at the hands of this other woman? There is a stunning lack of acknowledgement of the kind of pain Don causes, but we sure do get to enjoy watching the aggression enacted upon Liz in the final third of the film by other women. Sarah, the spirit whose purpose seems to be getting Liz to leave her husband, also bizarrely kills off a character who expresses disdain for Don’s cheating behaviour, making it impossible to understand what Sarah’s motivation actually is.
But aside from the theme of this film being just about impossible to wrap my head around, it is also deeply baffling to watch. Is the spirit of Sarah the same as the woman with the mangled face? If not, who is the woman with the mangled face? Are we supposed to support these ghosts or not? What’s up with the slightly weird Protestant pastor? The film’s slow pace at the start suggested there would be plenty of time to answer or at least explore some of these questions, but instead we witness an absolutely breakneck final act where nothing is resolved.
That’s not to say that all of the themes don’t work. It’s nice to see the main character’s toxic masculinity backfire on him in a very physical way, and the misogyny that seems to exist all throughout the house’s history become challenged by women. The problem is that such themes continuously becomes circumvented.
Though the film fails at making many of the jump scares actually scary, its horror elements emerge when it comes to the practical effects. The gore is so uncomfortably realistic that it’s hard to watch, and Don constantly seems to be getting dunked in various disgusting liquids to the point where, as a viewer, it’s hard not to feel dirty yourself. The spectacle almost makes up for its terrible plot with its visceral images. The house, too, an actual house in the process of renovation, is a kind of Victorian falling-apart ugly-walls classic: it screams haunted house from exterior to interior, with intelligent touches such as a room painted pink keeping it from feeling too stale.
Phil Brooks’s acting holds the film together for the first hour or so: he’s able to balance the line of keeping the audience’s sympathy but also portraying a character prone to violence, adultery, and who continually and stupidly refuses any help from the women around him. Unfortunately, Trieste Kelly Dunn doesn’t get much more to do as Liz than a lot of screaming, and Sarah Brooks, while excellent in some scenes, doesn’t seem to possess the required amount of talented needed to make her character truly terrifying.
Aesthetically, the film is great and gross – unfortunately, it just doesn’t seem to hold up anywhere else.
Image: HenrikBergsten via mysteriousmadison.com