This Horror Movie is not for the Faint of Heart
Imagine being a young child who has been left alone to fend for herself, trying her best to make the most of an unfortunate situation. Played by Shree Cooks from American Horror Story: Hotel, Stephanie (2017) begins by showing us this scene. We do not know why she is alone, but we can clearly see she does not have all of the necessary skills to take care of herself. She injures herself on broken glass making a smoothie and is also scared of the dark. Stephanie has no one but her stuffed turtle, Franklin, and the corpse of her dead brother for companionship. No one else is with her, or seemingly around her, save for an occasional visit from a dangerous yet unseen creature stalking her.
Stephanie has been abandoned in such a state by her parents for unknown reasons, and we are led to believe they may have fled in a hurry, or be dead as well. Very little background information is provided up front. All we know for sure is that she is completely alone and vulnerable, save for her blanket fort. She’s too young to properly care or cook for herself. We see an occasional glimpse that some dire sequence of events led to her isolation. Stephanie bounces a ball next to a knife stuck in the ceiling, a door has cracked windows, and her dead brother is rotting upstairs tucked into his bed. Aside from a short-lived visit from her former rabbit friend, Stephanie is completely and utterly alone.
What impressed me the most about Stephanie is that the lead actress has an incredible ability to shift. She can go from a scared yet still playful child to the powerful person we see her evolve into the longer she is left to deal with the fallout from whatever caused her isolation. The actress is able to convincingly portray a range of emotions and create an atmosphere of mystery impressive for any actor, but especially for a young child playing off no one else but herself for a large portion of the movie. We see her go from lonely, to playful imaginative child, to scared, protective/caring of Franklin, to sad, and then terrified. She is a talented actress who goes beyond just character portrayal. Her reminiscing, happy memories with her family to her now secluded situation clashes drastically with how abruptly her life was changed, nearly without warning from the perspective of a viewer.
Stephanie has a secretive plot, most of which is slowly revealed throughout the movie. While many questions are answered, the ending leaves us with more and different ones that have no conclusive answers. The focus of Stephanie, however, is on the story of Stephanie and how she transforms from scared and helpless into the strong person she became. Available for streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Vudu.
See our episode all about Horror Leading Actors.
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