Horror Movie Review: Stephanie (2017)

Stephanie is a 2017 American supernatural horror film directed by Akiva Goldsman, from a screenplay by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski. It stars Frank Grillo, Anna Torv and Shree Crooks.

The film had its world premiere at the Overlook Film Festival on April 27, 2017. It was released through video on demand on April 17, 2018, by Universal Pictures.

Stephanie (Shree Crooks) is a young girl who was abandoned by her parents in their home, with only a toy turtle to talk to. She treats him like her baby and promises to never leave them alone. An ill-defined apocalyptic event is alluded to on various news broadcasts, but Stephanie channel-surfs past them to watch My Little Pony. One thing that is clear is that a “monster” regularly breaks into the house, and when it does Stephanie has to stay quiet. She explains to her stuffed turtle that bad thoughts cause the monster to pay them a visit.

It’s revealed that Stephanie is keeping the decaying corpse of her brother, Paul, in his bed. There’s several scenes of Stephanie being a typical child: playing dress-up, having a tea party and playing in her blanket fort. One night after falling asleep in her fort during a heavy storm, her front door bursts open. Stephanie runs upstairs to hide in the bathtub, sure it’s the monster again, but it’s actually her returning parents.

After falling asleep together, Stephanie wakes up alone. Her mum (Anna Torv) enters the bedroom to get changed and while Stephanie feigns sleep, we see large and deep scarring on her mother’s stomach. Her parents act as if everything is normal again and they have breakfast together. Stephanie’s dad (Frank Grillo) spends the day building a huge wooden fence to keep out the monster. Stephanie discovers her brother is gone and has been buried outside the fence. Meanwhile, her mother secretly has a video call with a military personnel. The soldier alludes to some kind of progressive cure for a mystery illness that seems to be plaguing the world and when questioned if her family is alright, Stephanie’s mum quickly wraps up the conversation. By this point Stephanie is displayed to be suspicious and distrusting of her parents.

Later that night, Paul’s corpse is catapulted through their window, causing great emotional distress to the parents, but Stephanie actually wanted her brother to stay at home instead of being buried in the cold ground. At breakfast the next morning, the dad asks her to speak about her memory of the day they left. Stephanie’s mum is visibly stunned and begs him not to question her, but she goes on to recount the events of that day…

Why did Stephanie’s parents abandon her? What is going on in the outside world? Watch and find out.

To start off with, if you don’t like children or think they’re cute then you’ll probably hate this movie and find it difficult to relate. I’m usually not a fan of child actors but Shree Crooks handled being a main character well and her performance was solid. Her character was realistic and wasn’t bound by the overly intelligent and perceptive child trope. Stephanie had some genuinely emotional moments, and the kills were surprisingly very brutal. Unfortunately, Stephanie didn’t frighten me and although the story and its reveal were solid, it was a little predictable.

I thought it was a cop out that the characters either didn’t know what was going on or refused to talk about it, so that made it much lighter work for the writers. The limited explanation was a little frustrating. Overall, Stephanie is an above average film, it’s a nice surprise that could have easily been a bad film but it was actually pretty good. There’s absolutely zero rewatchability after the reveal though so enjoy it the first and only time around.

  • The Final Score - 6/10
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