The strongest influence on The Room at the Top of the Stairs is the Hitchcock film Rebecca (1940), from the novel by Daphne du Maurier. Rebecca is the story of a young woman who feels overshadowed by her husband's beautiful and mysterious dead wife. It's all about the (mis)perceptions of the protagonist and how insecurity feeds her fear. In The Room at the Top of the Stairs, the unnamed heroine feels menaced by Carmen's shadowy presence in the house, even while beginning to feel a strange kinship with her. By making Carmen absent, as opposed to deceased, the script sets up a situation where it's possible for her to return and play an active role in the story. The twist is that the heroine comes to empathise with her nemesis instead of simply wishing to defeat her.
Stylistically, and particularly in terms of the music in The Room at the Top of the Stairs by Heath Brown, two key influences are the British ghost story The Haunting of Julia (Richard Loncraine, 1977) and the horror films of Dario Argento. Broader cinematic inspirations include Gaslight (George Cukor, 1944), Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958) and Black Narcissus (Powell & Pressburger, 1947). These are stories dealing with identity confusion, obsession and the suppression of powerful emotions. Cautionary tales but also wish-fulfilment fantasies, they blur the line between insanity and the supernatural.
The Room at the Top of the Stairs is also inspired by the heroines of Gothic literature, particularly the seemingly fragile protagonist of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Like Jane, the girl in this film is an intelligent observer of human nature, an outsider, and yet she is highly sensitive, her untapped desires and rich imagination making her susceptible to malevolent influences. Ultimately, however, like Jane, she has an unexpected strength of will that proves to be her salvation.
My aim with this short film is to combine genre references with a coming-of-age story about a recognisably modern young woman. The danger for the heroine of The Room at the Top of the Stairs is not a vampire or a serial killer but a 'ghost' created by her latent fears and desires. Her journey to the dark side allows her to recognise her own complex nature and, finally, to begin to express herself honestly. So this is a story about self-expression, artistically and in the most fundamental sense, and the struggle of finding one's voice.