The pro wrestler hits a 0.85 on the Bruce Campbell Getting-the-Crap-Kicked-Out-of-Him Meter in his lead-role feature debut
Home projects are no-win situations that result in agony, discomfort and inconvenience to all involved, but especially for the person who’s foolhardy enough to have the hubris to take em on.
And the worst part is that there’s about a 10 percent chance that things’ll go right, or the way you expect. That means that the other nine out of 10 projects you try to complete are going to take at least two hours longer than you think they would and be stressful tests of your patience, fortitude and probably, when it comes straight down to it, end up costing you more hair loss and discord than if you’d just paid to have it done in the first place. And that’s if you don’t end up hospitalizing yourself. This guy named Murphy came up with this idea. He wasn’t wrong.
Now I’m not talking about something simple like putting up a picture hanger or shelf or maybe nailing in a piece of trim that came loose from a door frame. I’m talking about those trap projects like an unexpected repair, say the garage door opener decided to cannibalize itself like The Mangler or there’s a toilet leak you just discovered running right over the kitchen table.
The foolhardy homeowner, armed with false confidence and a credit card to the home improvement labyrinth of their choice figures, “Oh yeah, I can demolish, re-drywall and paint this kitchen while the kids and spouse go to the lake for the weekend. No problem!” The chronic foolhardy homeowner probably comes from a tradition of foolhardy homeowners, and, like a baseball relief pitcher, has a short memory when it comes to the last project they did or helped a friend or relative do and figured they could do it too. That and all those helpful folks on YouTube are the siren song playing on the way to the road to ruin.
But then, after inhaling six pounds of drywall dust from the belt sander and seeing the other six pounds are neatly distributed all throughout the first floor of the house and the dog has left drywall dust footprints all around the house, then realizing that you’ve been up for 26 hours straight and need to take a nap but the family’s going to be back in about 10 hours and you still haven’t primered the walls, that old familiar sense of panic and doom creeps in as you look into the inky black iris of the home improvement abyss.
The top reasons why someone would put themself on the brink of disaster and try one of these projects are, in no particular order:
- It’s an emergency.
- They’ve got unreasonable courage after watching a bunch of DIY shows or videos.
- They’re cheap.
- They’re broke.
- It’d mean SO MUCH more if they did it themself.
- They are an expert and can do it themself.
And yes, I am among those folks. My top three near-death home-improvement experiences are as follows:
- That time my chainsaw slipped while cutting a limb and almost grazed a power line.
- That time a tree limb fell and obliterated my 35-foot extension ladder but I jumped onto the porch roof as the ladder was tipping.
- That time my platform scaffold came loose from the pitched roof I was reshingling and I slid down the shingles but caught myself on the gutter.
And just as an FYI, if you don’t hear from me again, my house had its second water main break in as many years and it happens to be my and my wife’s anniversary this week. The hole has been dug.
And speaking of well-intentioned homeowners who bite off a bit more than they can chew, pro-wrestling superstar CM Punk does his best Bruce Campbell impression in the haunted-former-brothel-turned-house suburban Chicago renovation nightmare tale Girl on the Third Floor.
Billed under his Christian name of Phil Brooks in this one (this was before he made his AEW comeback, too), he’s homeowner Don Koch, whose wife, Liz, (Trieste Kelly Dunn) is expecting their first child, so they’ve sunk some money into this big old house with a past with the idea of renovating it and resettling in the ‘burbs.
Of course, Don doesn’t listen to his big German shepherd Cooper when he alerts that there’s something wrong.
And Don figures he can fix the weird black gunk rot that’s taken hold in the walls. He’s watched YouTube, you know and “doesn’t want some jerkwad doing his work.”
And fix the mysterious puddles of a non-descript fluid on the floor.
And fix the crummy electricity and really crappy doorbell.
And expel the black ochre in the pipes.
And remove the wallpaper that’d make Charlotte Perkins Gilman blush.
And because he’s listening to scream-o metal in his earbuds while doing his work, Don doesn’t hear the soundtrack from Chicago musical legend Steve Albini (Big Black), Alison Chesley and Tim Midyett that indicates that the spirits that inhabit the house are going to get nasty.
And then, in addition to ignoring his dog, he also ignores the wise advice from the Protestant minister who brings bourbon and keeps an eye on the house from across the street or from the local bowling alley owner.
But he does have time to be distracted by Sarah, the mysterious woman who is a little bit too interested in the new family-man-to-be who’s trying to fix up the house.
Written, produced and directed by Travis Stevens, Girl on the Third Floor is equal parts The Changeling and The Shining and Fatal Attraction and even some Evil Dead-ishness with CM really bringing some Ash-type charisma and getting put through the ringer about an hour and seven minutes in.
But since his features are a bit more angular than Campbell and there’s the whole Don doing most of his thinking with the small head instead of the big one subplot, there’s a sinister streak that ends up revealing itself in the last 24 minutes of the flick, so he’s no goody-two-shoes. CM’s been in two other genre flicks since then (the Rabid remake and Jakob’s Wife, also directed by Stevens, both of which I haven’t checked out yet), but on the strength of what I saw in this flick, I’m hoping that he finds some time in between his AEW appearances to do some more genre flicks and collaborate with Stevens again down the line. I’d watch em.
• Best Critique of the Shoddy Craftsmanship of His Tools: Don: “Piece of s— drill, motherf—er!”
• Best Assessment of the Situation: When Don’s pal Milo, who comes to help fix the house, incredulously says, “You plan on renovating an entire house with a Swiss Army knife?” and “How many times are you going to f— up until you get a clue?”
• Second-best Assessment of the Situation: When Sarah, the weird woman that shows up in his yard and talks about how obsessed with the house she is (Sarah Brooks), says, “A gift from a married man — sounds like a bribe.”
• Best Advice Not Taken From Man’s Best Friend: Don doesn’t listen to Cooper’s objections, watches porn on his phone and sleeps with Sarah.
• Best Advice for Man’s Best Friend: Don to Cooper: “Don’t s— in the house.”
• Worst Outcome for Man’s Best Friend: Cooper gets turned into fabric softener.
• Best Home Defense System: The house spits out these small ghost marbles from some goopy Cronenbergian vaginal openings in the wall sockets that roll around the house’s unlevel floors, kind of like a cross between the ball in the Changeling and the balls in Phantasm. The dog eats one of em, Don eats one of em and then they attack Don later on in the flick.
• Best Improv Surgery Scene: In his haste to extract one of the ghost marbles that invade his body, Don grabs a box cutter. But instead of trying to head it off at the pass, he chases it — with bloody results.
• Best Scare: The whole movie if you’re a plasterer or a drywall professional.
The one thing that left me scratching my head is the epilogue. After all the weirdness that occurs in the final 20 or so minutes of the flick where things go full The Shining with some time-travel Jack Torrance hallucination stuff going on, Liz does not pull a Freeling family and leave the place. Nevertheless, this flick has some great bloodlines with the involvement of the writers in flicks like House of the Devil and Troma productions and definitely worth a watch.
Three and a half stars outside of Chicago. (Half-star deduction because of the No-Breast Rule even though you can see the side of a garbonza at one point). Absolutely four stars if you’re from the Windy City and surrounding area or a CM Punk fan.
Check it out streaming on Netflix, for rent on various other streaming services or on physical media.