The 3rd Floor (2007) – By Duane L. Martin

 The 3rd Floor is the story of Howard and Sandy Baxter. Howard’s brother lives in an apartment building downtown, and suddenly an apartment opens up down the hall from him on the 4th floor when an old man hangs himself. Howard’s brother Buck lets him know about the apartment, and after looking at it, he and his wife move in. The strange thing about this building though is that the whole third floor is sealed up and no one is allowed in there. Howard and his wife don’t think too much of it until Howard starts having nightmares and hearing voices and thumps in the floor. What’s on the third floor, and what’s the big secret that no one will talk about? You’ll have to watch to find out.

Every time I see a movie like this, I’m reminded of that bit Eddie Murphy did about, "Why do white people always stay in the house when there’s a ghost in there?" I mean seriously, if I moved into an apartment that some guy hung himself in and I started having nightmares, hearing thumping and scratching on the floor and a ghostly voice whispering my name, I’d pack up my wife and all my crap and get the hell out.

This movie was technically ok. It was well shot, well edited and the sound and lighting were good. I only had two real problems with this film, which I’ll talk about now and get them out of the way.

The first was the acting. For the most part the acting in this film ranged from decent to quite good. Some of the actors though, including the main character, sounded like they were reciting their dialogue. There was no naturalness to the line delivery. It wasn’t horrible, like he was reading it off a card, but it just didn’t come off as natural at all. When people are writing scripts, they have to realize that we write things differently than we’d actually say them if we were speaking. When an actor is reciting dialogue that was written, you can tell. If it’s written so it sounds like natural speech however, it comes off as more natural in the performance. Another problem with the dialogue was that Howard kept calling his brother Buck by his name. In fact, he used Buck’s name so often when talking to him that it sounded forced and unnatural.

The second problem I had was with the story. Certain elements of the film felt like they were dragged out excessively. If those elements had been cut down, or removed completely as being unnecessary to the telling of the story, this film could have been tightened up and probably ended up being at least fifteen or twenty minutes shorter. I’m not saying this film would have worked better as a short, because it wouldn’t have. It could have done with some tightening of the story though.

That said, the story was well laid out and coherent. I do want to give kudos to the film makers on this one for coming up with a really creepy scene that actually impressed me with how creepy it truly was. It was the scene where Howard was in the stairwell, standing by the third floor entry door that was locked. He heard sounds and stopped and knocked on the door, and whatever was in there knocked back. That’s creepy enough, but it didn’t knock back every time, so it really built the tension every time he’d knock. It was just…awesome. Very, very cool scene, and one of the creepiest I’ve ever seen in an independent film.

Despite a few problems, this was actually a rather good film. It told a coherent story and managed to be creepy without using big budget effects. A lot of film makers out there could learn some lessons from that. I think too often, people rely on tons of make-up, creature fx or CGI to create scares, when all it really takes is a little imagination to pull off the same thing without any of that, cheaply and effectively. Now don’t get me wrong, those other things aren’t bad things at all, but if you’re on a budget, you shouldn’t have to mortgage your house just to throw effects into a film that could achieve the same level of creepiness without them.

This film is a good example of how well a film can be pulled off on a low budget. Sure it had it’s problems here and there, but all in all, it actually ended up being quite good.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can visit the film’s website at http://www.the3rdfloormovie.com.