Bodily fluids ooze from electrical sockets and holes in the walls in Girl on the Third Floor, an atypical horror film where the haunted house feels as alive as the ghosts who haunt it. Don Koch (Phil “CM Punk” Brooks) didn’t account for the seeping fluids, rotting walls, and goo-filled pipes when he convinced his pregnant wife Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn) that he could renovate their newly purchased Victorian home on his own. In way over his head, he soon discovers that the house has a sordid history and plans of its own.
Travis Stevens, genre mainstay producer of hits like Cheap Thrills, Starry Eyes, and We Are Still Here, makes his writing/directing feature debut with Girl on the Third Floor. Stevens flips gender expectations and traditional haunted house iconography to deliver a new take that keeps audiences guessing. While his tale is completely fresh, Stevens drew inspiration from the Frankfort, Illinois home where they shot the film. A home that has its own history of haunting.
In 2016, Queensbury Pictures producer Greg Newman (We Are Still Here, The House of the Devil) had purchased the multi-story corner home at the intersection of Sauk Trail and Center Road, situated across the street from a church, as an investment to rehab and flip. It didn’t take long for locals to share stories with him about the house. Naturally, it sparked the idea that maybe it would make an ideal location for a horror movie. With time constraints battling against the real estate market, Stevens took the reigns and wrote the screenplay himself. The house itself and the local lore wove its way into his story in some ways.
The historic Frankfort house was built in the early 1900s. It was rumored to have been a bordello at one time, and a few deaths that occurred there left an enduring imprint on the home. The most popular lore is that the house is haunted by ghosts of two girls; one a young English immigrant that died from illness, and the other a young girl mistaken for a prostitute and brutally murdered by a man. Both deaths were said to have taken place in the same third floor bedroom.
It should surprise no one, then, that most accounts of paranormal activity involve ghostly sightings of a girl around the third floor. Or sounds of crying coming from that third floor bedroom, along with lights that turn on and off on their own. The ghost of the girls apparently aren’t content to stay within the confines of the home, either. An article from the Chicago Tribune during the film’s production includes an anecdote from the house’s next-door neighbor, in which a ghost tried to make friends with the neighbor’s daughter. The daughter, whose room was on the second floor, was less than receptive.
In horror films centered around a haunted location, that location tends to take on a personality of its own. The setting becomes a character, essentially. At least in the best haunted house horror films. That’s certainly the case with Girl on the Third Floor, which presents one of the most unique, and ooey-gooey, haunted houses in the genre. Stevens took the layout and lore behind a historic site and crafted a modern tale about a house with a vendetta. That it was filmed in an actual haunted house only enhances the story.
Girl on the Third Floor releases in theaters and Apple TV on October 25, 2019.