The Captain takes a look at one of his childhood favorites from the 80s…The Wraith!
(Part 2 is the a follow-up from our newest mod, 3waystopsign, reviewing the script!)
Easter time is here and I think it’s time we celebrated the greatest resurrection story ever told. I’m of course referring to The Wraith!
I love this movie. I pretty much grew up watching it. Which I’m sure is true for anyone growing up in the 80’s. And boy is this film filled with 1986 goodness. At one point I think the female lead is just wearing a very large shirt with a belt around it.
Just a long shirt with no pants. Oh 80’s fashion, how I love thee.
I also love the fact this is an 80’s PG-13 too. Meaning you get tits. Lots and lots of tits.
I’ve always found The Wraith to have a weird tone. It’s basically this rape revenge story, but it’s also reminding me a lot of Mad Max. With some Christine tossed into the mix. Maybe toss your favorite teen 80’s film in there for good measure as well. It’s a teen, rape revenge ghost story. The Fast and the Furious meets Savage Streets?
One thing that occurred to me while rewatching this was just how little Charlie Sheen actually shows up. He’s maybe only in a handful of scenes, more so towards the end, but for the most part you just get that awesome fucking car.
That’s right, the Turbo Interceptor. That awesome purple supercharger. Maybe the coolest car to ever be put on film. Yes, that even includes The DeLorean. Sure, it can fly and go through time. But is it indestructible and driven by a ghost? I think not.
The Turbo was built just for the film. I think, that could be a lie. I know they only had one real Turbo Interceptor for the film and the rest were bodies to make it look like it. The ones that get destroyed were just dummies.
Another thing this film has going for it were the real car crashes. Someone actually died on the filming of this. He’s dedicated at the end credits. Though I’m realizing now I’m making his death sound like a positive. Moving on!
I also really love the setting. No, not the 80’s, though that’s cool too. I mean the location. I don’t think it says specifically where this takes place, but it was shot in Tucson, Arizona. A whole lotta nothin’ but sand and paved roads. It gives the film this Mad Max wasteland feel.
I guess it’s time to get down to the plot.
Charlie Sheen plays Jake, a mysterious stranger that comes to town riding a dirt bike.
He rides up on Keri, played by Sherilyn Fenn, who I might add looks gorgeous in this. She’s headed for this creek, a hangout for the local teens to come and try to brush off some of this dry heat.
Keri is being stalked and harassed by psychopath Packard, played by a young Nick Cassavetes. Who is mostly a director now. But he plays his role perfectly here. Packard is a true villain in this.
Packard, aside from being a total creep, runs a road pirate gang, hijacking random people’s cars, racing them for it against their will. He also runs a chop shop where he supes up his trademark thunderbird.
Everyone in town is afraid of this guy, he’s the kind of guy you look at wrong he’ll stab you. In his gang are Skank and Gutterboy, two methheads in the making. They’re really into drinking hydraulic fluid and god knows what else. At one point it looked like Skank was gulping window cleaner.
Also on the team are Oggie and Rughead, who is played by Clint Howard. Clint gets the best line in the film. You lose the race, you lose your car!
Rughead is the gang’s motor head. You need something built, he’s your man.
Oggie? Well, he’s mostly there to be dead meat.
Also arriving in town is this mysterious supercharger. It’s basically candy for the road pirates. But before that, Packard has to mark his territory with Keri. He doesn’t even like seeing her talk to other guys. And with this new dude Jake coming around, hitting on his woman is unacceptable.
So dating advice for you guys, I’m not an expert or anything, but if you have to constantly remind the girl you’re into with a switchblade, that you’re dating, maybe just maybe that isn’t the healthiest relationship to be seeking. Also, ladies, if a guy has to whip out his switchblade to remind you they’re dating, maybe… I don’t know… TELL THE COPS!
While at the creek, the teen hangout, we get a look at Jake’s back. He’s covered in long deep scars. Also at the hangout, Jake runs into Billy. He flips burgers at Big Kay’s. The local hangout for the teens aside from the creek. He also works with Keri, who is a waitress.
She dated Billy’s brother a while back, but I’m not sure how far back. Billy’s brother was murdered one night, taken and stabbed to death by Packard’s gang. Packard doesn’t like seeing Keri even talking to other guys, but sleeping with them? Well, they get stabbed in the back. Jamie, Keri’s actual boyfriend is murdered and dumped in the trunk of a car. Now his spirit has returned as The Wraith, a vengeful spirit out to kill the ones responsible.
The Crow meets Mad Max! See, I got a ton of these.
The design of the actual Wraith is also pretty damn cool. He’s mostly dressed like Mad Max, but with a giant racing helmet.
His body is covered in car parts, almost acting as braces for his limbs. The parts come off after each soul he takes. Almost like his spirit fused with the car his original body was burnt in.
So this is the part of the film that never made a whole lotta sense to me when I was younger. Like I mentioned, how much time has passed since his murder? And Keri never once suspected it was Packard? You know, the violent guy who is obsessed with her. I know she got a pillow shoved over her face during the attack, but still. It doesn’t take a detective to piece this mystery together. Also, they never found a body, Jamie’s body, but everyone just assumes he’s dead. I mean, he is but they don’t know that. I also didn’t really get Keri and Packard’s relationship. I was young when I first saw this, so I didn’t get how possessive he was towards her. Even though she says many times, WE AREN’T DATING! It never clicked with me.
Okay, a supercharger shows up at the burger shack everyone is at. And seeing a car like this was just too much for the gang. Immediately they chase after it.
Oggie is itching for a race. We don’t really learn much about this character, just he dresses kind of like a gay pirate and tries his best to look tough in front of Packard.
He challenges the turbo. And it’s a pretty cool race. The supercharger is way too damn fast for him, speeding off a head. But as soon as Oggie makes it around the corner, he spots the supercharger parked right in the middle of the road, waiting for him. But at the speeds he’s going, Oggie crashes right into it.
Now we’re introduced to the sheriff of this small town, played by the star whackers’ number one target Randy Quaid. Who gets some pretty funny lines in this. He can’t understand how Oggie’s body they pulled out of the wreckage could be cold, completely clean, just minus his eyes.
You done got wraithed!
Not yet finished with Packard’s crew, The Wraith shows up at his chop shop, armed with a pump action shotgun… with lights on it, so you know it’s futuristic.
The Wraith goes after their cars and engines, blasting away until he disappears. The Wraith really wants to stretch this thing out.
About this time Jake finally shows up on his dirt bike. I mean, you drive a kick ass supercharger, why does your motorcycle have to be a dumb dirt bike? I remember thinking as a kid the bike could transform into the car, seeing as they gave the bike the same engine sounds as the turbo. But at the end, Jake gives Billy the turbo as he and Keri ride off into the sunset together. So I guess they were two different things.
That’s another thing about this, the ending. I know I’m skipping ahead a bit. But I never really liked the ending to this film. Mainly because films like this, don’t really end the way this does. Normally, like say The Crow. He comes back to get revenge on the ones who killed him. And when he does get his revenge, his purpose for being there is no longer needed. So he vanishes, or dies… but for The Wraith, he just rides off with his girl into the sunset together.
I guess if it were me, I’d have Jake vanish once his mission was over, handing off the car keys to his brother, maybe even his girl. Because it’s pretty clear Billy is madly in love with Keri, yet it is never once addressed. Billy needs love too! Plus he has a kick ass car now, Keri has to notice him then.
Plus! Why give the car away? Give the stupid dirt bike to Billy, and drive off in the damn supercharger!
So now the plot basically boils down to The Wraith taking each member of Packard’s gang down, killing them the same way he did Oggie in. That is until I guess he gets bored and just rams his turbo into their chop shop, killing Skank and Gutterboy instantly in a giant explosion.
Rughead says fuck this and takes off before he’s next. But I guess since he wasn’t directly involved with the murder, The Wraith leaves him alone.
Now it’s just down to Packard, who loses the race and his life, ending up like the others, cold and eyeless. I’m not even sure Packard knew who The Wraith really was. I doubt he even really cared. But you’d think if you were getting revenge you’d want the people you were getting revenge on to know why and who was doing the revenging. So maybe in a small way Packard kind of had a small victory. Sure he died, but chances are this guy would one day die in a car crash regardless.
And that’s The Wraith. One of my favorite 80’s films. That surprisingly still stands up today. Sure, it is oversaturated with 80’s slang and clothing. Not to mention some questionable CGI work, but add in that kick ass car, the awesome REAL car chases and explosions, this thing is a must see. It’s a fun ride, I found myself grinning quite a bit during this. It’s been several years since I’ve seen it and was slightly afraid it wouldn’t still hold up. But thankfully it’s as great as I remember.
As of right now it is streaming on Netflix, so take some time and check this one out if you never had the chance or if you’re like me and grew up with it. Time to rediscover this classic!
Want more helpful screenwriting tips and movie/script reviews? Follow this link to our Discussion Forum.
And be sure to check out our Notes Service, where I give my detailed thoughts and suggestions on your script.
This is one of my favorite 80s movies. I watched it whenever it came on TV, I bought the VHS and DVD.
But even as a kid there was one huge hole that bothered me.
He gives the car to his brother at the end… and then what? The police know this car killed a bunch of people and he’s just going to drive it around town? That part never made sense to me. But I love the movie so much, I also don’t care. 😉
Thanks for sharing this wonderful synopsis.
One of my favorite quotes was when Packard tells the gutter boys to stop drinking the zombie piss. And when Randy Quaid says “bingo” in the airplane grave yard… it made me think of Christmas Vacation when he said bingo up on top of the sledding hill.
It wasn’t Randy Quaid that said “Bingo”. it was the airplane mechanic that “Skank” & “Gutterboy” were “working” for, that said “Bingo”, after he spit some chewing tobacco & I guess, hit the target he was aiming for?
But who cares. I love The WRAITH.
Packards Thunder Bird???
It’s a Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.
The Wraith was filmed on the roads just outside of Tucson AZ. There’s an old western “movie set” town, near there, called “Old Tucson” “Big Kay’s Burgers” was a real estate office. The building no longer exists. There’s a video on you tube of a guy who spent his vacation scouting out filming locations. He finds the spot where “Auggie Fisher’s” stolen red Dodge Daytona crashed down the side of the mountain. At that location, he finds red melted car parts.
At another location, where the Wraith car blasts thru the 2 police car road block at the end of the bridge, he claims he can see one of the green front fenders from one of those police cars in the brush but can’t get near it because of a “Hornets nest”. Need a drone.
oh yeah, I don’t know why I put thunderbird, I remember looking up what kind of car it was. oh well. thunderbird… stingray… both animals, so close enough.
Also on youtube, there’s a good 17minute synopsis of The Wraith. It’s part of a series called “Good, Bad Flicks”. So, look for that.
It’s packed with info that nobody knows about. It’s a great series covering more than 300, “B” movies”.