The Fifth Floor is a sleazy piece of business, essentially a woman-in-prison story transposed to a psych ward, juiced with a disco soundtrack, and adorned with dubious assertions that the story was based upon real events. The picture is watchable in an exploitation-flick sort of way, which means that tolerating the movie requires lowering one’s standards, and that actually enjoying the picture would require sacrificing a tiny bit of one’s soul. To be fair, The Fifth Floor is mild when compared to, say, the average grindhouse flick, because the lurid elements aren’t designed to make viewers nauseous, and there’s a sense of both consequences and morality. Still, because so much of the narrative revolves around humiliation presented as titillation, it’s not as if there’s some noble movie buried inside The Fifth Floor. Think One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with chases and rape scenes in place of satire and social commentary, and you’re close.
Girl-next-door type Dianne Hull stars as Kelly McIntyre, a discotheque employee saving money for college. One night while shaking her groove thing on the club’s dancefloor, Kelly freaks out and loses consciousness. When she wakes, Kelly is told that she ingested strychnine. Authorities believe she did so intentionally. Despite Kelly’s protests to the contrary, she’s classified as suicidal and committed involuntarily to a psychiatric ward—the “fifth floor” of the title. Kelly gains unwanted attention from Carl (Bo Hopkins), a sociopathic orderly determined play mind games with Kelly as a kind of foreplay inevitably leading to rape. When Kelly reports Carl’s menacing behavior, doctors mistake her claims for paranoia, extending her stay in the psych ward—and when she tries to escape on several occasions, that adds even more time to her commitment.
To complement the cat-and-mouse game between Carl and Kelly, the filmmakers give one-note personalities to some of the other patients. Benny (Robert Englund) is a sweet guy prone to play-acting as Dracula and other characters, Cathy (Patti D’Arbanville) is pregnant and worried about her baby, Derrick (Anthony James) is a dark-eyed brooder who seems forever poised on the brink of violence, Melanie (Sharon Farrell) is genuinely suicidal, and so on. These character arcs meander toward predictable and unsatisfying payoffs. Meanwhile, the protagonist endures all sorts of abuse, often while naked. Not exactly the stuff of a resonant cinematic statement.
The Fifth Floor: FUNKY