For my money, 1986 gave us Charlie Sheen’s best movie. That was the year we were blessed with the best ghost/action/adventure/revenge/car movie ever made – The Wraith.
The story starts with one of the coolest cars ever put on film materializing out of the night. What is this about? We find out. In a small town in Arizona, a gang of car enthusiast mooks bully the locals by forcing them into car races for pink slips. The winner gets the loser’s car. The leader of the gang is a nutcase and is obsessed with a local girl named Keri. She is still trying to get over her murdered boyfriend. We learn she was with her boyfriend at the time he was murdered, but was so traumatized that she can’t remember what happened.
The next morning, the gang is challenged by the mysterious stranger in the Turbo Interceptor that appeared the night before. Desperate to win this car, the gang starts the races. One race ends in a fiery crash that takes out both the Dodge and the gang member… but the Interceptor then suddenly reappears and drives off.
About this time a new kid is in town and, Keri takes a liking to him. He reminds her of her dead boyfriend. The gang leader, still obsessed with her, takes this about as well as you’d expect and becomes even more abusive and threatening. Meanwhile, the Turbo is taking out the gang members one at a time through suicidal car crashes. It’s impressive and violent. It doesn’t take long for the local detective (Randy Quaid) to realize something is funky and these are not just normal car wrecks.
In the least subtle way possible, the film tips its hand that Sheen’s new kid in town is the dead boyfriend, the Wraith. Somehow he has come back from beyond the grave for his revenge. Packard, the psycho leader of the car gang, killed him while he was having sinful pre-marital sex with Keri. With the help of the gang, Packard disposed of the body and no one knew what happened or could pin anything on them. The story climaxes in a very satisfying 1980s action movie way with a surprisingly poignant ending, featuring the little brother of Sheen’s character.
This is a really fun movie. Is it a masterpiece? No. Who gives a shit? It is a solid gold blast. For a B-flick it has a damn solid cast. A pre-AIDS Charlie Sheen, Randy Quaid, Nick Cassavetes as the gang leader, the beautiful Sherilyn Finn as Keri, with Clint Howard along for the ride.
Vestron released a collectors edition BluRay of The Wraith last year and it is worth buying. It looks great all churched up. Much better than my old VHS copy from years ago. Instead of a trailer, I recommend watching this spoiler-filled video of it made by a good friend of Last Movie Outpost, GoodBadFlicks. If you don’t want spoilers, the trailer can be found elsewhere on YouTube.
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