Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Ramaskrik review – Girl on the Third Floor

My notes on Girl on the Third Floor, which played at the Ramaskrik Film Festival.

Don Koch (Phil Brooks, who also goes by C.M. Punk), a disgraced Chicago financial whizz once known as ‘King Don’, pitches up at a dilapidated Victorian house in a suburb which he sets out to restore almost single-handed.  The project is supposed to be a new home for his family, which is due to expand since his wife Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn) is pregnant, but it’s also a chance for the downsized and lucky-not-to-be-incarcerated high-flier to prove his blue collar manliness with a lot of dry-walling, hammering, sawing and general handiwork.

Of course, things don’t go smoothly – the friendly vicar (Karen Woditsch) won’t set foot in the house and a local bartender (Marshall Bean) mentions that the place is bad ‘for straight men’, not only does Amityville Horror-type black gunk seep out of the walls but the light fittings drip ectoplasmic semen, and local sexpot Sarah (Sarah Brooks) shows up to seduce the weak-willed Don (‘I deserve this,’ he tells himself before cheating on his pregnant wife) but then shows definite bunny-boiling tendencies.  And that’s not even counting the title girl (Elissa Dowling), whose head is swollen and mutilated – something like a cleaver wound with teeth – and might be a hangover from the house’s past history as a 1920s brothel, which explains why the master bedroom has a viewing gallery.

This is at once a spook story, with alarming apparitions and slow-burn chills, and a portrait of an amiable but not very nice guy cracking up and going the film noir/EC SuspenStory route of committing more and more crimes upto and including murder in order to cover up his initial misdeeds.  Brooks sports rather more tattoos than the average pension fund adviser, but is interesting casting – he’s credible as a former maverick titan brought low by the little people he’s trampled on, but not really humbled by the experience.

The horrors escalate quickly as Don spirals into insanity while harried by ghosts and women and ghost women, while Liz – kept at the end of a phone for most of the film – only ventures into the house for a calmer, creepier tag sequence.  Written and directed by Travis Stevens, making his auteur debut after producing a lot of indie horror films (The Thompsons, Cheap Thrills, Starry Eyes, 68 Kill), from a story by Ben Parker (The Chamber) and Paul Johnstone.


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