The first few minutes of the movie is bound to give you a series of little heart attacks.
We are quickly introduced to a small girl, roaming about a large house with her favorite stuffed toy－ a turtle.
She makes breakfast for herself, throwing in berries and whatever she can find into a blender. The next instant she looks above the cupboards and spots a jar of marmalade. She wants that too.
She’s a sweet little girl so obviously, you worry about her when she lets the jar almost fall on her head. The jar does fall and shatters into a million pieces. Stephanie picks up a shard that has a large amount of marmalade on it and dumps it into the blender. The next instant, she’s licking the glass shard clean. When the blender gets stuck, she sticks her hand right in. A sound distracts her at the last second and she pulls her hand out before the blender starts working.
That’s the beauty of this film. It manages to make you fall in love with the little girl’s innocence and worry about her. Clearly, she’s all alone at home. There’s no adult supervision. But why?
Stephanie goes about her daily activities. Come night, she hears terrible growling sounds and goes into a room where she steps into a rotten pumpkin that she had left for whoever is lying covered on the bed. She holds his hand as she fears an unknown presence. The hand presses back.
The next day, Stephanie is doing what she does best－being a kid. It is only when she flicks through the TV channels that you see glimpses of what must have happened. There has been an epidemic of some sort, an attack, causing people to build shelters and for the armies to be dispatched. But what exactly is that threat?
The problem is, this part is never fully explained in the movie. We are made to guess if aliens have taken over human bodies, or some disease has struck mankind or is it a mutation of some sort. Whatever it is, it just happens and we are left perplexed.
Stephanie is a happy kid until she hears the monster and hides. One night, as she is hiding in the bathtub, the curtains open to reveal her parents. They seemed relieved she’s still alive but their constant whispering and nervous glances suggest something else is going on.
Stephanie is naturally happy to have her parents back. They find the covered body and it is revealed it is her brother who had died which had caused her parents to leave the house. She asks her parents whether they left her because they thought the monster had gotten to her too?
More nervous glances and no answers until the next night, Stephanie hears the monster again, sees her parents being dragged away and makes a run for the fence that her father had been building to keep the monster out.
It is only when the mother comes running out and injects her that the truth is revealed. The fence was being built to keep the monster in. The monster is Stephanie. Or rather, what is inside her.
Turns out, one day when Stephanie and her brother were carving pumpkins and he ruins her work, she uses her telekinetic powers to kill him. The parents run away, afraid as Stephanie’s face and eyes turn black.
They return, only because she is their daughter after all and they want to find a remedy for whatever is plaguing her and a couple of others in the world. The mother tries to operate on Stephanie’s brain, but even while unconscious, she uses her power to stop it. The parents try various ways of killing her, but Stephanie is too powerful. She does struggle to remain calm as it is her anger that triggers the ‘monster’, but her pain of being abandoned by her parents is too much.
She kills them both and drags them to where they had buried her brother.
In the last scene, we are shown Stephanie throwing chaos and leaving behind a chain of destruction. She no longer needs her trusty stuffed turtle toy either.
Stephanie is predictable in parts. You guess immediately that there is something wrong about the girl. After all, aren’t little girls always targeted by evil in horror movies. So no surprise there. You do feel for her, see that even though she’s trying to remain happy, she does feel neglected.
When she comes after her parents as a monster she tells them their mistake wasn’t that they left her. But that they came back. She could have kept on being a little kid, playing with her toys, making dangerous breakfast for herself. Living without turning into a monster.
The fact that her parents came back, reminded her that she had been abandoned and feared by her parents. They don’t tell her the truth immediately and instead drug her.
In their defense, they were scared of the “monster” and wanted to try everything they could to save her from herself. In this case, though, they could have saved her by just staying away.
Stephanie is a pretty decent movie to watch, but it won’t be for the predictable twist but for the acting and for the conflict each of the characters faces. Because sometimes the monster that we fear, is closer to us than we can imagine.
For Stephanie, it was her mutation or possession. For the parents, it was the guilt of abandoning their child.
Scare scale: 2/5