Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Wraith (1986)

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


Dom Coccaro said...

Heh. I just posted the trailer for The Wraith yesterday. Haven't seen the film itself in years. I believe that I watched it on MonsterVision. Those were the days!

Franco Macabro said...

Holy Moly, its Dom Coccaro!!! How you man! Glad to see you around my friend! Hey, so Random Review is still operational, Im gonna swing by and check it out.

As for The Wraith, its a fun time, on its most amusing things is Clint Howard in that funky Eraserhead hair do. He looks dorky as hell, but thats his job anyways. Im going to be reviewing Evil Speak soon, on the extras for The Wraith, there is this whole thing where they interview Clint Howard called "Rug Head Speaks!" Rug Head is the name of his character in The Wraith, and in the interview he mentions that he wore a head piece for Evil Speak as well.

Thanks for commenting Dom, see around man!

Dom Coccaro said...

Yeah, Random Reviews has been fully operational for 4-5 months now (maybe a little longer). I changed a few things, but I think it's better than ever.

Evilspeak is a cool b-movie. Clint Howard is the fucking man.

odenat said...

Great review. I have never seen it, but being one of "80's generation" i am very curious about the movie right now .
Even in this shitty part of the world, we had our Mc Donald's lol. The country had no gas to operate the cars but Mc Donald's were still operational lol

Franco Macabro said...

Thats so strange, your comment somehow managed to resume everything that The Wraith is about: the 80s, gasoline, and hamburger joints! But yeah, someone who grew up in the 80s should 'get' this movie and its vibe.

What 'shitty part of the world' are you from Odenat?

Unknown said...

Excellent review! Man, I haven't thought about this film in years. Nice to see that it has finally been given the deluxe treatment on DVD. I see it pop up on TV every so often. I really should give it another go. It has been too long.

odenat said...

i am Turkish, country of contradictions. We have slums near skyscrapers, Ferraris near Ladas, burka wearing women near super-minis. 10% of the population have 95% of all the money. And, they call us democracy !

Franco Macabro said...

@J.D.: Hope you enjoy your re-watch bud!

@Odenat: Our countries seem to have many similarities!

Unknown said...

The main issue with the statement that "The Crow" stole the plot of "The Wraith" is that James O'Barr who wrote the comic books that the movie is based off of started creating the books in 1981 five years before "The Wraith" was made. The published copies of the comics didn't come out until 1989, but James O'Barr started writing and creating in 1981 when his fiancee died from a car accident with a drunk driver.

Unknown said...

I can't help loving this film! I agree about the plot holes and inconsistencies, they were just something I didn't pay too much attention to as a kid.

Now at 45 I just have to put it on now and then for nostalgia purposes and it's still entertaining. Yes the car is ultra cool and I'm miffed I can't even buy a friggin model of it anywhere!

Charlie Sheen is a dude and the women are pleasing on the eye. Soundtrack is good and when you think of the low budget, some of the actors took their roles quite seriously. I always find the end scene emotive when Billy discovers his brother has returned from the dead, but knows he won't ever see him again and the emotion was quite convincing.

This could have been amazing with some plot alterations and a bigger budget with some of the silliness taken out. That car in my opinion would still hold up as futuristic even by today's standards - So what if someone grabs the opportunity to do a remake? It's happened with so many other movies, so why not this?? I just hope I live to see the day.


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