The first thing that makes any movie better than the others is something that sets it apart from the others. The 28th Day: The Wrath of Steph has promise from the start, with a premise like no other seen before at Space Jockey Reviews–after several trips around the universe already. In this true period piece (wink, wink), an evil Mesopotamian spirit possesses the weak minded and…women on the 28th day of their menstrual cycle! Yes, you read that right! Feminine cycles have never been more the cause for originality (and humor) than they are here. And if that’s not enough, what could be? Let’s try an Mesopotamian spirit who somehow finds his way from the cradle of civilization to (no, you didn’t guess this) Southern California! “Why Southern California?” you ask. Who cares? What’s more important is this: The Wrath of Steph is one successful exorcism of demonic doldrums possessing most movies on and off the big screen. Yes! As Father Karris would say, “The power of [Steph] compels you!”
Is there more to the originality of this otherworldly omen? Of course! In The Wrath of Steph, we have a possession that “feeds off of women’s true desires.” Although that’s maybe not done for the first time here, it surely adds more to rival the best. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” was said long ago. Or, modified for the movie, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, possessed by a demon, on the 28th day of her period.” And you can quote Chris Rennirt with that one!
“I accidentally killed Tom….I guess I got too excited, and I crushed his head between my legs.” ~ Steph
One thing that saves The Wrath of Steph is its consistency and success in being the type of movie it aspires to be. It never takes itself too seriously or becomes overwrought with seriousness and drama; instead, it mixes doses of humor, (often dark) with new mythology and over-the-top action, violence and mayhem. It also provides logical ways to justify its horrific, otherwise fantastic events within its own originality. Yes, that man who was hacked countless times with an ax should have been a bloody mess, in more than several pieces; but, that caricature of a demon likely cleaned it up, put it back together, and used it all to serve his own (you guessed it) demonic purposes. Of course! Don’t even try to argue with that. (Besides, the humorous tone was already set long ago–probably thousands of years ago in Mesopotamia; so who cares?) Speaking of over the top, the excessive punching, chopping, stabbing, kicking, etc. add just the right spirit of humor, again when combined with the intended lack of realism. Where this could be a flaw in movies that aspire to realism, it only adds to the charm of Steph.
“I would have to say that it is the result of the possession. I’ve never had that kind of strength in my legs…ever.” ~ Steph
From here, the possession only gets better, and more to the spirit of spoofs! The Wrath of Steph pays welcome homage to classics such as Evil Dead, Ghostbusters and, yes, even to a favorite fedora-sporting archaeologist. As in Evil Dead, there are malevolent spirits breaking speed limits down woodland paths, animated vegetation intent on making prey of hapless humans, books of evil incantations (from questionable online sources–of course), and, yes, even a makeshift but just as legitimate cabin in the woods! From Ghostbusters, we even have EMF readers (although “real” in this movie) detecting the eloctromagnetic fields produced by all spirits…of course! Before you think I’ve told you too much, think again. I never do that.
I do not normally talk about women’s beauty in a film perse, unless it has a true effect in the film overall. In The Wrath of Steph, Kate Nichols and Jodie Grundin add exactly that effect. They are both beautiful and mesmerizing to watch, adding just the right aesthetics to a horror film–for balance and contrast, of course! Yes, don’t beautiful women always emphasize the horror, so ironically complimenting one another? Somehow, they always do! But, here, it is not a mystery that Nichols and Grundin do this so naturally, and so well.
Now that I have focused on Kate Nichols and Jodie Grundin, I will say, as it should be said and stressed, that these two ladies are far more than pretty faces. Kate Nichols plays the part of Liz Lucky–a tough as nails archeology student, longing for a kick-ass life of adventure and artifact finding anywhere but behind a desk. Yes! If any actress has the title of heroine in a horror melodrama stamped on her character early on, it is Kate Nichols. Liz is a real-life Indiana Jones in the making, honing her swashbuckling skills in the unlikely locations of Southern California…of course. Liz kicks high and thinks fast, making a formidable and willing adversary, even for a thousand-year-old evil spirit. Although I have not seen Nichols before, she acts with skill that makes her believable, likeable, poised, and perfectly fit for the part. She delivers her lines with just the right tone and mood to make them hit the spot every time; whether for humor or drama, Nichols acts with impact, kicking ass on screen as an actress, as does the character she plays. Perfect!
With no less force is Jodie Grundin playing the title role as Steph. Left for dead by her boyfriend, before even being checked for a pulse, she becomes the unwilling victim of evil spirit possession. (Yes! Imagine the “true desires” of Steph already!). All of this, according to the story’s title, coincides, conveniently, with the 28th (and surely most volatile) day of her period. Grundin has and does a hero’s job of showing the transformation of character necessary, as an ever-more possessed personality, ever more struggling with it as well; yes, her dealings with dichotomy are indeed impressive and certainly cause for accolades here. Grundin portrays 20-something fear, determination and humanity with alternating all-out evil as if born for the job. What’s more is even better! When evil pushing starts to shove, Jodie is equally up for the task, kicking ass to match her costar, Kate. Yes! In The Wrath of Steph, Grundin and Nichols are the dynamic duo of demon destroyers, doing the job with style as much as effectiveness. These are the type of scenes in a movie that you watch more than once, with the remote nearby! Trust me!
Of course, this review could not be complete without mentioning the contributions of Rollin Blanton and Derek Houck. Blanton plays the too-academic-for-his-own-good paranormal invetstigator, Dr. Irvin Woogie, who joins forces with Liz and Steph (that is, when Steph’s not possessed). Woogie tries, with surprising success, to make sense and good use of better-known movie props and horror cliches. He is the essence of branded victim fodder who may or may not meet his movie fate. Blanton plays his part exactly as needed to make the story complete; Dr. Woogie is a success as the perfect caricature of himself in a spoof. Yes! A paranormal investigator is obligatory in a film about demonic possession and, here, Blanton fills the EMF reader with off-the-chart readings.
“So now I’m just going to show you my bloody junk?” ~ Dr. Woogie
Derek Houck is a true “hoot” in the truest and most complimentary sense of the word. (Yes, doesn’t every horror spoof need one of those?) Houck plays the part of Rufus–an old friend of Dr. Woogie and arm-chair archeologist, longing for the good old days when large-breasted coeds more common than ancient artifacts. Derek Houck is a would-be minor character who brings life to The Wrath of Steph through the boldness of his talent and comedic delivery. He literally steals every scene he’s in, not just with his appointed dialogue, but, equally so, with the force of his acting; he is in your face as another caricature of a character every time. If ever there was a Space Jockey Reviews nominee for the next SNL regular, Derek Houck is the one! Lorne Michaels, listen up!
AND, could we ever end a review about a demonic possession film without mentioning the demon himself? Of course not, again! In The Wrath of Steph, Jeff Trenkle is none other than The Evil Lord Zasulground–the mean-spirited menstrual master himself. Banished from his Mesopotamian motherland and hungry for the weak and willing, he’s a true spoof of supernatural spectres. Trenkle’s Zasulground hits like a visual rock and roll, heavy metal moniker, ready to jam in the Netherworld. On impact, it all works perfectly! In the spirit of the spoof, Zasulground is another caricature of evil, rather than a serious manifestation of it. Trenkle nails the part, portraying Zasulground as a gothic groupie–a true fan of himself with a fatal, if not mortal, arrogance and humor. He’s an impotent immortal, fated for failure by his human origins; or so we think (wink, wink).
“What if I want to laugh after I see it?” – Liz Lucky
“Action?” you ask. “Is there enough in The Wrath of Steph?” That can be best answered with not one but several cinema-themed questions. Do plants move and attack humans with a life of their own in Evil Dead homages? Do the undead bleed green blood? Do evil spirits always control the minds of their minions? Are women really more likely to be possessed during their menstrual cycle? Are they really more likely, at that time, to crush their boyfriends between their legs? Hell yes to all…of course! Oh, and Liz’s examination of Dr. Woogie’s “bloody junk” (although not typical “action”) is, at the risk of sounding morbid, as funny as it gets! Need I say more, before you see the movie? Probably not.
Does the Mesopotamian menace make menses meat of everyone, or does he end his immortal days in menopause? Is he lost in a purgatory between heaven and hell, or is he resurrected to rein supreme in Southern California, possessing menstrual maidens forevermore? Does Steph escape Zasulground’s grip, exorcised to save another day? Is Liz really “lucky” enough to be an Indiana Jones, alter-ego heroine in a melodrama movie? Well, if I told you, I’d have to possess you…or something like that. (Ha ha ha!) I’ll leave the cinematic “cycle” unknown for now…that is, until you see for yourself–the “Zack Scott Experience” not to miss. Yes! With The Wrath of Steph, Zack Scott has indeed written, directed and produced a movie well worth the “experience.” Kudos to Scott for producing a unique and creative film that possesses the spirit of the genre. The Wrath of Steph is a welcome addition to the movies we love to add to our collections rather than only watch.
The 28th Day: The Wrath of Steph is already a favorite at Space Jockey Reviews! It’s a smart spoof of cinema–a horror comedy with an original twist and its own story, specialized for the horror fans among us. Those who appreciate a wink and a nod at what can’t be done better, but what can be saluted all the better will love this one. While appealing to the masses (with a few incantations and a spell as well), it may even develop a cult of its own. This is one you’ll like with or without the Kool-Aid. Enoy!
“He was a good man.” ~ Dr. Woogie
“And he’ll be a greater man in Hell.” ~ Evil Lord Zasulground
See more screenshots from The 28th Day: The Wrath of Steph!
And, be sure to see the trailer below!
AND NOW FOR THE TRAILER!