Title: The Wraith (1986)
Director: Mike Marvin
Cast: Charlie Sheen, Randy Quaid, Clint Howard, Nick Cassavetes, Sherilyn Fenn
The Wraith was one of these 80’s teen flicks that I grew up with, the kind that I must have seen about five hundred times on HBO. I must have been about ten or eleven and back then, for my feeble little mind (its still kind of feeble actually) movies couldn’t get any cooler than this. I mean The Wraith had hot chicks, cool cars, fast chase sequences, a rocking soundtrack and huge explosions. It's also a film that borrowed heavily from films like High Plains Drifter (1973) and Mad Max (1979). What’s not to like in a movie with those qualities? I recently revisited this film for old time’s sake. Did it stand the test of time?
The story is a bit of a mess and often times confusing, but essentially, it’s about this kid named Jamie who gets stabbed to death by a local gang of thugs, while having sex with his girlfriend Keri. Talk about Coitus Interruptus! Anyway, what happens is that the leader of the pack falls for Katie and kills her boyfriend Jamie in order to be with her. After they kill Jamie, they burn his body. Time passes and the crime is never discovered, but the leader of the hoodlums keeps Katie to himself, obligating her to be his girlfriend, or else! One day shortly after that, a mysterious rider appears in town in a cool looking futuristic race car. The mysterious driver challenges each and every one of the thugs to a death race! One by one they will have to face him in the open road. Will this gang of hoodlums survive going up against this vengeful wraith?
This movie has a couple of things going for it and one of them is that it’s the quintessential eighties movie! Everything about it screams 80’s teen flick. We have the bully, we have the nerdy good guy, we have the bodaciously hot girlfriend. Plus, hey, it’s got Charlie Sheen, nothing says 1980’s like Charlie Sheen. I mean, Charlie Sheen was part of that group of young male actors that were considered a big deal back in the 80’s, along with guys like Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, River Phoenix, Michael J. Fox Keanu Reeves and Val Kilmer. This was the 80’s rat pack, the ‘it’ boys of their generation. You know, this was the time of ‘Top Gun’ and ‘21 Jump Street’ for crying out loud. It was the time of the mullet, jean jackets and bandanas. Oh and the time when dudes would wear these huge shades to look cool! It's the kind of film where all the kids hang out at the local Burger joint eating burgers and listening to music, come to think of it, since this movie was directed by Mike Marvin, the same guy who directed Hot Dog: The Movie (1984), that kind of makes sense! To top things off, the soundtrack includes a plethora of eighties rock and roll songs from bands like Motley Crue, Ozzie Osbourne, Bonnie Tyler, Billy Idol and Robert Palmer. So yeah, The Wraith is pretty much a product of its time. You watch it, you travel back to 1986!
It's 1986 alright!
Another cool thing it has going for it is the smoking cool Turbo Interceptor that they used to make the film. This is one of those movies that is that much cooler simply because of the car they used. How cool is this car? Well, for starters it’s a freaking ghost car! Also, it can be blown up and smashed to smithereens, seconds later the sucker will just reconstruct itself as if nothing had ever happened to it! Also, its engine glows and is alive with electricity! Not enough for you? Well, how about the car separates into five different energy balls that disperse into the heavens!? Still not enough for ya? Well how about this: the turbo charger is driven by a vengeful ghost from another dimension! I know that doesn’t make a whole lotta sense, but hey, you ask the director, he’ll tell ya Charlie Sheen’s character doesn’t come from the after life but from another dimension! But isn’t he supposed to be the ghost of the dead Jamie? Oh whatever, this last point brings me to the films nonsensical plot. I’m gonna go into details about the film, so if you don’t want to read any spoilers, skip the next paragraph.
Smoking cool Interceptor!
Okay, so here’s the deal. The film has some cool things going for it, but whoever wrote the script was smoking some serious dope. First off, Jamie (the good guy) is killed off by the bad guys because the leader wants the girl for himself. Fine, then the boyfriend comes back to life to get revenge, only he doesn’t look like Jamie, he looks like Charlie Sheen! Why doesn’t the ghost look like the guy he used to be when he was alive? I don’t know! Certain things are never explained like for example, why do the bodies of the people the wraith kills not burned? And why do their eyes disappear? It’s never explained either. Why does a piece of The Wraith disappear every time he kills somebody? Don’t look for answers to that question in this movie! The police know this mysterious car is going around killing people, and yet at the end of the film, The Wraith gives the car to his brother as a gift! What? You want your brother to go to jail for owning the car with which all these teenagers have been killed by? And the plot holes and inconsistencies go on and on with this film, these are just some of them. So be ready for a film with plot holes galore, this to me is this films main problem.
Yet, in spite of all its flaws this film has managed to garner a cult following. I think it’s because people just love that cool looking car! Forget the unnatural dialog and the gaping plot holes, that car is just freaking awesome! Also, the guys making The Wraith must have done something right since The Crow (1994) pretty much stole it's whole plot from it. The folks at Lionsgate just put out a special edition dvd loaded with extras. They interview Mike Davis, the films director and he goes into details about how troublesome this movie was to make. Apparently, the producers were a bunch of assholes that wanted this film to be a rush job. As a result, one of the camera operators got killed while filming one of the intricate action sequences. Another crew member was left quadriplegic. As a result, the whole film was filmed with this death looming over their heads; not exactly the best working environment to make a good picture. Yet it’s commendable that the cast and crew carried on and finished the picture. The Wraith was also the film that launched Charlie Sheens cinematic career! It also stars Clint Howard who sports an Eraserhead type of hairdo that’s hilarious! Final word: the movie isn’t the best film in the world, but its cheesy 80’s nature can make it quite the enjoyable watch. Recommended for a night of silly fun.
Rating: 3 out of 5