The Wraith

The Wraith movie poster

The Wraith (1986)

A group of misfit drag racers is terrorizing the town until a mysterious figure in a souped-up car appears with deadly justice on his mind.

Charlie Sheen plays Jake, the new kid, who has his eye on Keri (Sherilyn Fenn).  Unfortunately, Packard (Nick Cassavetes) has already claimed her and he doesn’t like competition – neither do his misfit band of drag racing thugs.  The sheriff (Randy Quaid) is powerless to stop their high octane piracy and most of the town is scared to death of them.  Until a mysterious figure in a supernatural car arrives and wreaks vengeance upon them.

This is one of the great overlooked sci-fi b-movies of the 80s.  It’s got everything: Sherilyn Fenn in a bikini (before she hit the wall), Charlie Sheen being Charlie Sheen, a ridiculous switchblade-sporting villain and his ragtag group of followers (you know, a brain, a drugged-out punk, a preppy guy and a moron – the sort of guys who usually hang out together) and of course, bumbling impotent cops.  It’s also got fast cars, neon splashed randomly around the set and a ghost…err, wraith!

The acting is what it is.  Nobody got an Oscars but nobody embarrassed themselves – this is a movie about a ghost killing people with his car and a crazy laser-powered shotgun, not “Citizen Kane”.  The effects are passable for a 1980s sci-fi/fantasy flick.  And for the artsy people, there are some beautiful shots of the Arizona desert.

Is it cheesy as hell?  Yes.  Is the “twist” regarding Sheen’s character obvious about five minutes into the movie?  Yes.  Does the entire film follow an overly simple formula that makes it completely predictable?  Yes.  But an hour and a half later, you don’t care, because it was fun.

 

Stars: 4/5

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