Movie Review – The Wraith (1986)
By Josh Romo
So first I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Dave and the gang for allowing me to taint their fine review site with my authorial smut. That being said, I have my jello cup, spirits of choice and a freshly watched copy of The Wraith sitting in front of me, so lets get this cinematic car wreck on the road!
Ah yes, The Wraith…A true gem of the 80’s. 1986 to be precise, and the best year for 80’s movies if you ask me. Unfortunately with arguably better movies like Top Gun and Platoon coming out the same year, it’s understandable how many might have missed this quirky yet fantastic sci-fi/action flick. I however, was fortunate enough to have a father that was a huge fan of cheesy 80’s movie’s. I recall late night TNT movie hangouts with my dad, brother and lifetime friend, pizza. We would all sit around the warm glow of the tv and watch old greats like Big Trouble in Little China, Aliens, The Fly, Highlander, Maximum Overdrive and Flight of the Navigator (all films from ’86). The Wraith will always be one of the best for me; fast cars, violence, cheesy acting, cartoon like characters…what’s not to like?
Without giving too much away, this movie is tale about love, revenge, fast cars and ridiculous hair. So I could probably talk about the non existent score, or the horribly written script, or even the complete lack of anything that resembles substance, but I won’t. Instead I’ll just talk about how awesome this movie is! The Wraith takes place in the small desert town of Brooks, Arizona. If any of you have lived in Tucson, you might even recognize a few of the locales, like the Mt. Lemon race scene for example. It follows a car gang, lead by the ruthless Packard Walsh (Nick Casavettes), who drive around the solitary desert roads in search of innocent victims to race . When said victims inevitably lose, they are forced to give up their cars to his gang or else face the wrath of Packard and his dim-witted, yet violent cronies.
Packard and his gang are feared by most of the town because of this, especially his girlfriend Keri (Sherilyn Fenn) who only stays with him out of fear. Many years ago Packard and the boys walked in on Keri doing the McNasty with her then boyfriend Jamie and brutally kills him. Unfortunately the police couldn’t find the body, so they all get off scott free. Years later, a mysterious stranger named Jake (Charlie Sheen) rolls into town, and shows obvious interest in Keri. This of course makes Packard upset and he tries to find out who he is, only to be given the slip. Not long after Jake shows up, an even more mysterious car is seen driving around, tempting the gang with its futuristic look and loud exhaust. The car continues to entice gang members into racing only to be killed off one by one. This insights Sheriff Loomis (Randy Quaid) to investigate into matters, although he isn’t too terribly concerned about the deaths as they are limited to only Packards gang members. The races always end in a fiery crash but the bodies pulled from the wreckage are not only not burnt but cold to the touch, with their eyes missing. Spooky!
I won’t ruin the end for anyone but this movie is so predictable I’m sure you already know everything that’s going to happen. Either way, if you have any love at all for 80’s movies, I highly suggest you give this one a chance. Bad enough to laugh at the dumb one liners and goofy characters, but good enough that you won’t be bored. If you’re still not interested, you get to see Sherilyn Fenn topless, do it for the boobs. Besides, how often do you get to see Randy Quaid in a serious role? I watch it and still can’t help but imagine him as the drunk idiot cousin of Clark Griswold of Christmas/Vegas Vacation fame.
Ok, so for the rating. I really feel like I need to give it two, one for nostalgia enjoyment and the other more subjective and critical in nature. To be fair, I’ll take an average of the two and give this movie a 3.5. Its not for everyone but if you’ve got some extra time, keep an open mind and watch it. With a score of 3.5 I can with confidence, promise you that you may or may not be entertained. See? Gambling! That’s fun…right?
3.5 out of 5