Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Wrath of The Wraith

I can't believe I went through the entire decade of the 1980s without ever watching the movie The Wraith.

You know the one I'm talking about: the goofy flick about a ghost sports car and its mysterious black-clad driver that challenges the members of a gang to street races. Every video store open during the 80s was required to have this movie's poster pinned up on its walls.

Charlie Sheen drives the movie's well-worn plot of a murdered man who comes back from the grave to avenge himself upon his killers. It's like High Plains Drifter but with Clint Eastwood trading his spotted pony for a Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor (according to Wikipedia, a "technology demonstrator vehicle").

The movie opens with a couple of animated balls of light coming down from the night sky (because 80s), zooming across the Arizona highways before colliding to form...The Wraith, an all black sports car, with a black-helmeted, black-jumpsuited asthmatic driver - seriously, as the camera is pulling into a closeup of Mr. Helmet Guy, we hear labored breathing; I guess coming back from the dead is strenuous work. His getup looks like a lovechild of a stillsuit from the movie Dune and a Borg from TV's Star Trek: The Next Generation. Then H.R. Giger puked on it for good measure.

The gang of killers is a hilarious assortment of 80s weirdos and wasteoids: lanky leader Packard Walsh, played by lanky Nick Casavettes, who races hapless motorists for their pink slips (heads up: he always cheats); a strangely coiffed Clint Howard is Rughead (Eraserhead must have been his hairdresser); rounding out the gang are Skank and Gutterboy, a couple of perpetually high tweakers who looked like they were ported over from another 80s' gem, Class of 1984. Note: The Crow, another murdered man returns from the grave for revenge flick also has a gang member named Skank. What are the odds?

This is all just silliness writ large. A pre-Tiger's Blood Sheen makes a good pretty boy, but nothing more. His role requires no acting, just show up, look at prettier Sherilyn Fenn (girlfriend of the murdered boy, and now Packard's "property"), and drive a dirt bike. Spoiler: yes, at the end, we see Mr. Helmet Guy take off his helmet to reveal Charlie Sheen, but, between you and me, I don't believe for a second he drove the sleek ebony Murdermobile in all those races.

Speaking of races, don't expect any true fast or furious action from those in this film. The Wraith's races against the baddies always end with an explosion, and those were fairly decent, but the camerawork and race choreography leading up to the kaboom were substandard: I've seen more intense car chases on the local news.

The movie appears to have been a co-production with a local Dodge dealership because every single car - that's EVERY. SINGLE. CAR - is a Dodge automobile. In this town, Ford spells f-i-g-h-t.

I don't know if I could truly recommend a supernatural car chase movie where the sleazy villain has the name of your grandfather's old sedan (remember the Packard, ya'll?) but I guess if you are sufficiently drunk - and NOT driving anywhere - you could do far worse than to let your eyeballs melt to the sights and sounds of The Wraith.

 (Clint Howard from The Wraith from

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