The film by American director Akiva Goldsman, written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, was first presented to the public in April 2017 at the Overlook Film Festival, where horror films are traditionally shown. It is to this genre that the tape, named after the main character – “Stephanie” belongs. The game of the 14-year-old actress (there was so much Sri Crooks at the time of filming), reviewers and viewers called it an unconditional success. Charming Shri, who was given such a stressful role, was no stranger to the profession even then. Like many acting children, the daughter of actor and producer Greg Crooks made her film debut early, starting acting at the age of nine. Today, the 21-year-old girl has 14 works in films and TV shows. Her co-stars Frank Grillo (father) and Anna Torv (mother) were also at their best and created memorable images.
Little mistress of a big house
The action of the tape, which takes an hour and a half to watch, develops slowly, gradually immersing the viewer in the mysterious atmosphere of a strange house. The first mystery is connected with the stay of a little girl here – she lives in a luxurious country cottage without adults, completely alone. Except for the plush turtle Francis, with whom Stephanie does not part, she constantly talks, reads fairy tales to her at night, and a live rabbit named Mr. Jumper. And there is an older brother, Paul, who is dead and in his room, sometimes making contact with his sister. And this is also one of the mysteries that the viewer of the picture faces.
The absence of parents, the need to cope with everyday difficulties on their own, and even the corpse in the house, it would seem, do not depress the main character too much. She carries herself like an ordinary child, moderately spontaneous and cheerful. Stephanie cooks simple meals for herself, plays with dolls, draws and watches cartoons on TV. From her behavior, it is clear that in solitude the girl finds considerable advantages for herself: you can swear as much as you want, eat sweets without measure, you can not worry about broken dishes. And at first, the audience watches with interest how the self-sufficient baby copes with everything. At the same time, Stephanie hardly leaves the yard, and the onset of night scares her. The girl is trying to escape and hide from a threat only known to her, some sinister force, a monster that haunts her. But in the morning the heroine, as if nothing had happened.
As Stephanie flips through the TV channels in search of cartoons, disturbing news bursts from the screen. Concerned announcers talk about some kind of disease that has engulfed the country (or the world?), which is not treatable, urging people to stay at home, not to let their children out. What happened – an invasion of aliens, an epidemic, an ecological disaster?! But since the child is not interested in these messages, for viewers the external situation becomes another mystery.
When mom and dad return
The appearance of the girl’s parents, Eric and Jane, outwardly changes the situation for the better. The compassionate spectators were relieved from the heart: now the baby is not alone, under the care and protection of adults. But in fact, the questions are only increasing. Where have they been all this time, why did they disappear, leave their daughter and leave their dead son unburied, is all this connected with the external emergency that is being trumpeted from the TV?
Arriving parents behave strangely: hiding their eyes, they apologize to Stephanie for leaving her alone, but do not explain the reason. Both seem to be aware of the night monster that is after the girl, but see no way to get rid of it. And if the father’s behavior is more open and cordial, it is felt that he wants to protect the child, then his wife only portrays maternal feelings, but actually keeps her distance from her daughter.
Despite everything, adults are trying to return to normal family life. Jane cooks delicious food, tries to please her daughter. Eric is engaged in a man’s business – enclosing the yard with a large fence in the hope of blocking the path of the night monster. Parents bury Paul’s corpse not far from the house, in the park under a large tree, put a cross on the grave. But Stephanie does not like it, and with the help of her supernatural powers she returns the dead brother to the place. As a result, the parents come to a terrible conclusion: if the monster exists, then it is their sweet girl, the “princess”, as her father affectionately calls her. Actually, they had already guessed about it, but they were afraid to believe it. Although the story of the murder of their eldest son is alive in their memory, this terrible incident was the reason for their departure from their home.
No easy death
The worst thing is that Stephanie is not alone. The TV news reports on a national and global epidemic that has infected ordinary children with a virus of inhuman cruelty. There is no cure for this evil. The only way out is euthanasia, an easy death. In the end, Stephanie’s parents decide to take this extreme measure. The father invites the girl to take a walk in nature, takes drinks prepared by his wife with him. The girl is destined for poisoned cocoa. But it is not possible to treat Stephanie with a poisonous drink: an unknown force knocks out a small thermos from children’s hands. An easy death did not work out – the man is forced to shoot the monster several times and commit the murder of his daughter.
But the filmmakers do not put an end to this. It’s well known that monsters don’t give up so easily. Alive and unharmed, Stephanie returns to the house and deals with her father and mother. Finally, a farewell dialogue takes place between them: “We shouldn’t have left you,” says Jane. “You shouldn’t have come back,” Stephanie replies. The girl tortures and kills her parents, then destroys the house with the power of telekinesis and goes out the gate, dragging her parents’ corpses and leaving them at Paul’s grave. A few minutes remain before the end of the film – during this time the little heroine manages to destroy neighboring houses.
We can become monsters ourselves
In an attempt to isolate the meaning of what is shown on the screen, the audience puts forward different ideas. One of them: monsters do not come from outside, they can live in us in real life. We ourselves, without suspecting it, can become monsters for others. The film not only entertains, it also has a psychological background – it teaches us to be more attentive to ourselves and loved ones, to listen to our own experiences, to delve into the reciprocal feelings of those who are close to us.
According to professional reviewers and film critics, Stephanie is not a masterpiece. This is a fairly average horror film, designed for an unpretentious admirer of this direction in cinema. You will not see the work of Akiva Goldsman in the ratings of the best horror films and horror films. Let’s start with the fact that even immediately after the birth of the film, the on-screen fate did not set, “Stephanie” did not hit the box office and immediately went to electronic media. As for the opinions of ordinary viewers, then, as you know, there are no comrades for the taste and color. Some people liked the picture as a whole, the sharpness of the intrigue, the intensity of passions and the acting are quite satisfactory. Others lack fear and eerie, drive and shock; others, contrary to the genre, require a happy ending. In a word, the impressions are different, they watch the film, write reviews, argue about the merits and demerits.