I have been weirdly underwhelmed by short films at the moment. After a crazy weekend of comic con, I really just wanted to watch something short and satisfying – The Room At the Top of the Stairs only fulfilled one of these requirements.
It’s another one of those “let’s keep it mysterious by explaining zero things” kinds of stories. And I’m reeeeally getting ill on them now.
The Room at the Top of the Stairs is the story of a girl (who isn’t given a name) who moves into a new flat-share with three roommates. They’re all artsy and ‘free spirited’. Three paintings of a girl hang on one of the walls.
When the Girl first sees her room, she notices nails on the wall. She’s told that their former roommate, Carmen, enjoyed nailing everything to a wall. The Girl is later told more about Carmen, and it’s slowly revealed that Carmen was a bit of a problem to the other three roommates.
The roommates have a party that night, and the Girl eventually joins them. They share more stories about the mysterious Carmen – who apparently had one incident involving a pair of scissors. But it’s pretty clear that The Girl doesn’t fit in. Her tries to share her own stories, but they are mostly lame and her roommates have no idea how to react to her.
Feeling slighted, the Girl returns to her room to drink wine and work on her art alone. During the night, her posters begin to fall off the wall. But the wine convinces her to tear them all off herself. She begins to join the lines between the nails together, forming a geometrical pattern on the wall.
The next day a girl, presumably Carmen, tries to make her way into the house and her roommates push her back out. After the incident, the three roommates decide to go out, and the Girl declines the invite to join them. She later hears a noise and discovers a girl in one of the bedrooms.
The girl, Carmen, is standing over a bed with a sheep’s heart on it. It’s clearly her way to freak out the roommates she despises so much. Carmen sees the Girl wearing a maroon dress and demands she takes it off (not sure why the dress thing is such a big deal, but neither will you – there’s no explanation).
But the Girl refuses to take off the dress, takes a bite of the heart and spits it out, then offers to help Carmen clean up the mess she’s made.
While in the bathroom, the Girl tries dragging the fan towards the bathroom and realises the cord doesn’t stretch to the tub. The night before, she was told a story that Carmen had threatened to drop the heater into the bathtub while one of the roommates was in the tub. Not sure if the short cord was supposed to imply that the Girl couldn’t kill Carmen or that the stories about Carmen were actually a lie.
But don’t worry. There will be no answers.
Carmen eventually leaves and the Girl decides to hang up her own paintings in place of Carmen’s. Her roommates see them and compliment the work, saying the pieces were a lot better than what had been there before. The Girl smiles and leaves. Then the roommates look into her room, and their looks change to one of disgust.
But you don’t see what’s in that room. No, my friends.
I didn’t get any of it. Not a thing. And I suppose there could have been something I missed. Maybe I’m not smart enough, but watching movies should be hard.
Nothing was properly explained. The dress, the tub, what the hell was happening to the girls. Were they both just kindred souls of crazy? The stories that are tackled in a short film need to be appropriate. These are bite-sized minutes of our lives that should really be a full arc. Unfortunately, The Room at the Top of the Stairs was probably a little bit too ambitious. It may have served better fleshed out and delivered as a full-length film.