Brief synopsis: a man moves to a rural townhouse as part of a deal with the federal authorities. The house is old and the man plans to renovate it before his wife, who is expecting their first child, moves down from their old home in Chicago. Strange things start happening around the house.
Is it any good?: Girl on the Third Floor is terrible. The acting is horrible. The pacing is cold molasses-slow and the directing is awkwardly basic. How Netflix keep finding films of such mediocre quality is some sort of talent in itself. Just awful.
Spoiler territory: Don Koch (C. M. Punk) moves into a large old abandoned house, in the suburbs, Portsmith, planning to renovate it before his wife, Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn), who is pregnant with their first child, moves down from Chicago to join him. For company, Don has his dog, Cooper. Don plans to stay in the old house whilst he renovates it.
He finds gunk behind a wall and leaves it. Okay. A marble comes out of the wall in an upstairs room and rolls down the stairs. The dog eats it. Makes no difference to the film or plot but it introduces the marbles.
The first person he meets is the local pastor, Ellie Mueller (Karen Woditsch), who rings the doorbell and welcomes him to the neighbourhood with a drink. Don tells her he moved there because they feel it will be a good place to raise a family. He tells her they are not particularly religious. Not that it matters because that plot strand does not go anywhere either.
The next day, Don calls Liz and, speaking to her via video phone, shows her the house. He never turns the phone around mind, so I’ve no idea how she sees the house. He decides to fix the oozing wall. As he is working, the power drill fails, its battery dead.
Don, obviously a person with anger management issues, rages as he goes to put it to recharge. He steps on a marble – a bit of a theme, marbles in this film – and that triggers another explosion of expletives. There is a knock at the door. It is attorney Manny Bharara (Anish Jethmalani) and he has some documents for Don to sign. He seems unreasonably disdainful of Don who, it transpires later, defrauded a lot of people out of money.
Later, Don goes into town to get some food. He goes to the local bowling alley. He meets the owner, Geary McCabe (Marshall Bean). He tells Geary that he has moved into the old house. Geary asks him if he is gay, as straight men tend to suffer in that house. Don, angered – there’s a surprise – by the questioning of his masculinity, says he is having a child. Geary is nonplussed.
Don returns home and is scared by Cooper moving around the house quietly. He is a dog. Not likely to be partying. He speaks to his wife by video and gets a peek at her cleavage – highlight of the film – and turns in for the night. The next day, whilst working on the plumbing under the kitchen sink, in perhaps the tightest space it is possible for to get one’s head into, and banging around with a mallet – a plumbing expert. Not. – smashes into a wall that releases black gunk all over him.
Don goes outside and washes himself off at a standpipe. While he is trying to clean himself, a woman starts giggling. He turns to see a young woman. He asks her why she is there. She tells him she likes the old house but it is usually empty. He tells her that he has bought it. She flirts a little more and leaves.
Don goes for a run. When he gets back and tries to use the shower, an old creaky, partially rusting shower, that he has just decided to stand under without testing, it all goes wrong and he ends up raging again. Don gets back to decorating. The young woman returns in the evening. Don invites her into the house for a beer. Don and the woman have sex. She leaves, Don, seeing her out.
He returns to the house and hears a loud crash. A ceiling in one of the upstairs rooms has fallen in. Don talks to Liz and, once again, shows her the damage without ever turning the phone. The next evening the woman returns. Don politely declines her advances. She leaves. Don goes to sleep and has a vivid dream about his wife and the young woman and is shocked awake by the same woman changing to a horribly disfigured woman.
It is the weekend and Milo Stone (Travis Delgado), a friend, comes to help Don. He looks at the collapsed ceiling. He does not think Don has enough tools. They get to work on the ceiling. Later, the two men head to the, now strangely bustling, bowling alley. Milo meets Geary and tells him how Don was a bit of a high roller in Chicago.
Geary jokes that Don swapped the penthouse for a whore house, telling them how the old house he has bought used to be a house-of-ill-repute. Don scoffs, noting that it has not been a brothel for over a century. The next day, Don wakes to find Milo already working. Milo tells him that his assistant has made coffee.
Don finds the young woman in the kitchen. He confronts her aggressively, finding out that she is Sarah Yates (Sarah Brooks) – everyone in the film is given a surname even though it is never used – asking her why she is there as he had explained his situation with his wife. Milo sees the exchange.
After Sarah has left, Milo confronts Don about his conduct. Don leaves the house, angry at having been called out for his decisions. He tells Milo if he does not like it, he can leave. Milo gets back to work. He hears a noise coming from the basement and goes to investigate. He sees Sarah. She hits him in the face with a hammer. An injured Milo tries to escape the basement. The disfigured girl is at the top of the stairs. Sarah bashes his head in.
Don returns and thinks Milo has left. Later he speaks to Liz, showing her – well not really, never turning the damn phone – the work they have done. A woman walks past whilst he is talking to her and Liz asks who is there. Don, thinking he is alone, looks around the house. He does not find anything. The next day he changes the locks.
He gets another visit from the pastor. She asks him if he wants to talk. He tells her it has been hard. She replies, somewhat cryptically, that the house is difficult. Cooper hears a noise in the house during the night and goes downstairs – a non-barking dog – to check it out. The next morning, Don wakes up looking for the dog. He ends up in the laundry room and finds the tumble dryer running. The dog is dead inside of it.
Don calls the police. Patrolman Weaver (Bishop Stevens) comes to the house. Don tells him that he thinks it was Sarah. Weaver does not know of any Sarah and there is no sign of a break-in to the property. Don rages. Again. The patrolman leaves his card, telling Don to call him if anything else happens.
Don sits in his front room drinking a beer. A marble rolls towards him. He looks up to see Sarah standing in the room. Don apologises to her for the way he treated her. He tells her he has a present for her in the kitchen. As she goes to the kitchen he smashes her in the head with a hammer killing her.
He wraps her body up and takes it to the basement, planning to bury her in the wall. He is interrupted by a call from Liz. She wants to know what he is doing. Don, the calm individual that he is, rages at her and ends the call. He returns to the basement and the body is gone. He searches around the house for her. He finds a child’s room with strange drawings on the walls.
He drills a hole in his wall and puts a camera into it – yes, I know, barely has tools but has a pinhole wall camera – to see what is in the walls. Something moves and starts giggling in the walls, spooking Don. He grabs a hammer and starts smashing into the wall. He finds Milo in the wall. In the other holes he has smashed in the wall – for some reason he smashes several holes into the wall at random heights – there is something breathing.
He goes to try and contact Weaver. A photo comes up on his phone. It is Sarah giving him the finger and a message: actions have consequences. He turns to see the disfigured woman emerging from a draw. A marble rolls towards Don and gets under his skin. A screaming Don cuts into his leg just below the marble and follows the marble as it travels painfully up his leg. I have no idea why he did not cut above the path of the marble, I suppose it would have shortened the scene.
It runs up to his neck and he puts the knife into his neck. Yeah, he does. He screams, writhing on the floor as the disfigured woman watches him. The marble bulges below his eye and pops out. Don scrambles across the floor screaming at the disfigured woman. She releases several more marbles.
Liz turns up at the house. She has come to surprise Don. She looks around the house and goes down to the basement. As she comes back up she meets Sarah. She is somewhat sceptical of Sarah’s story, that she works for Don. The doorbell rings. It is the pastor. Liz goes to tell Sarah that she is going to talk to the pastor but Sarah has disappeared.
Liz returns to the pastor and invites her in. The pastor tells her she would rather talk on the porch. The pastor asks her about her marriage, intimating that the house test marriages. Liz returns to the house. She sees an eyeball in the sink. She calls Don’s phone and finds it in the house. She goes and sees the pastor.
Liz tells the pastor about Don’s less than salubrious character, telling her he defrauded clients and cheated on her whilst she was pregnant. The pastor, who is not particularly helpful, tells her that some can make the house a home and some can’t. Okay then. Liz returns to the house. The house is a brothel with men everywhere and Sarah putting on a BDSM show. Liz, obviously emboldened and crazed by pregnancy hormones, walks around the house screaming for her husband.
Every room she goes into, something strange is happening. Liz, eventually decides she should leave the house but is stopped by Sarah recounting the history of the house. She then comes after her with a knife. Liz runs into a bedroom and locks the door. A bloodied Don emerges from another bedroom. Liz tells him they have to leave. Don says it is not that easy. He says he is going to change. He slices down the centre of his face and Sarah’s head is underneath his face.
Liz leaves the bedroom. She sees Milo in the wall. He laughs at her. The disfigured woman squeezes out of a hole in the wall but Liz smashes her head with a hammer. Sarah goes over to the corpse of the disfigured woman. Liz leaves the house. She finds the pastor sitting outside the house.
Liz looks to the pastor. She knew. The pastor says she did but everyone has to make their own choice – whatever the heck that means. Liz goes back into the house and bashes another hole in the wall, this time finding a mummified corpse – I’m assuming it is Sarah but there is no explanation and I’ve suffered this film twice! – she and the pastor bury the corpse.
Six months later and Liz has had the baby and has stayed in the house – because of course, one would – she comes to see the baby, telling it that they are going to the park after its nap. Liz leaves the room. Marbles drop into the cot where the baby is. Don looks down on the baby from a grill above. The end.
Girl on the Third Floor is awful on a level that is hard to explain. It is badly written, woefully acted – except for Dunn as Liz – and makes no sense whatsoever. The directing, especially when it came to verbal exchanges was amateur in the extreme, with each character just saying their line whilst in the shot. No reaction shots, no movement, no change of depth or distance to affect a particular vibe.
The film takes an inordinate amount of time to get going and the victims – Milo; undeserving plus black man always dying first, Cooper; undeserving though a smarter dog might have barked and Don; deserved but you’re beyond caring by that time.
Four people – FOUR – wrote this nonsense – Trent Haaga, Paul Johnstone, Ben Parker and Travis Stevens. Stevens also directs. How four people could read this and think it not only made sense but would make an entertaining film is beyond me. It is difficult to see what sort of story they were trying to tell.
There are – unfunny – elements of humour in the script but in no way could they have been aiming for a horror-comedy. The scene they show in preview on Netflix is one of the best bits of the film and nothing happens in that clip.
Girl on the Third Floor – one really has no idea how many floors the house has and it is a title with no meaning – is a wretched, uninspired, pointless and dreadful piece of cinema. Give the widest of berths.