What the world needs now is more CM Punk. And thanks to Travis Stevens’ new film, Girl on the Third Floor, we’re getting it.
If you’re unaware, CM Punk (or Phil Brooks, his given name) was one of the most dynamic wrestlers of the past 20 years. A straight edge, no-bullshit guy who could take any opponent or any storyline and make either shine, Punk was the Best in the World, until the business took its toll and Punk walked away. He pursued a career in UFC, and while he lost his first match, he walked out with his head held high and gave a post-match interview where he delivered a quote that has stuck with me ever since:
“I know there’s a lot of doubters, but, listen, life’s about falling down and getting up. It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down, it’s about getting back up. So if there’s any kid out there that’s told by a parent or a coach or a teacher or somebody that they look up to, somebody that’s supposed to push them and believe in them and they’re told no, don’t listen to them. Believe in yourself.
“Sometimes the outcome isn’t always what you desire it to be, but the true failure in life is not trying at all. I know it sounds preachy and kinda weird for a guy that just got beat up, but fuck it. This is the time of my life.”
To me, CM Punk is a legitimate inspiration, and watching him take his first lead acting role in a film that’s very much up my alley was great to see.
In Girl on the Third Floor, Punk plays Don Koch, a married man with a child on the way who is renovating the new house he and his wife Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn) are getting ready to move in to. Unfortunately, Don is a bit of a dick. He’s been in trouble with the law, first off, and then winds up cheating on Liz with an eager woman who shows up at the house and isn’t quite who she says she is. Meanwhile, supernatural occurrences start happening at a rapid rate, and Don soon discovers that his new fixer-upper comes with a backstory.
With Girl on the Third Floor, director and co-writer Travis Stevens has crafted a solid Lovecraft-esque haunted house film that delivers an omnipresent feeling of unease. Electrical sockets ooze liquids, the house hides secrets, neighbours exude mystery. The vibe is just right. There’s also some seriously great gore for the hounds out there, especially the marbles that really get under your skin.
None of this would matter though if CM Punk wasn’t up for the task of being a leading man. Thankfully, he delivers the goods. I don’t think either Punk or Stevens would be offended at the suggestion that Punk’s performance recalls the best horror work of Bruce Campbell. The physical similarities are there (that jaw!), but so is the strength of Punk’s acting and commitment to the character. I didn’t like Don, and I don’t think I was supposed, but in the hands of CM Punk, I couldn’t stop watching him.
While I’d love to see Punk back in the ring on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday, if he continues along with the solid acting he demonstrates in Girl on the Third Floor, I’m perfectly content to see the Best in the World make his name as an actor. He’s an inspiration regardless of the stage he’s on.
Girl on the Third Floor recently played the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival and is now available on VOD.