3waystopsign takes a look at the script for this 1986 revenge classic!
(And don’t miss Part 1: The Wraith movie Review here.)
I did not read CP’s review prior to posting this. I will be doing so now, but wanted it to be as independent as possible. I considered doing a structured thing like Hank does, but then decided I would just do a free-writing type-thing and see how it worked out.
The script was a damn good time. For those who have not seen the movie or read the script, it’s basically a supernatural revenge tale centered around drag racing. I have to imagine most of the budget was spent on filming the racing scenes since other than that there are barely any other locations besides the highways. I’m talkin’ a burger shop, the beach, a chop shop and the exterior of a house. I feel the town would be beyond boring if not for the gang of murderous car thieves and ghost rider aka The Wraith.
It felt like appropriately 80s cheesiness right at the beginning when Packard and his gang are pulling up behind a kid and his girlfriend.
GIRL: MY GOD, GEORGE, WHO IS THAT?….MY GOD, WHAT’S HAPPENING??? WHO ARE THESE GUYS???
Yes, in all caps and all question marks. I couldn’t completely explain why that screams 80s cheese to me. But it did. In a great way.
Just about all the boxes were checked with characters. Sure, the hero is a bit one-dimensional, but he’s a ghostly revenge-seeking speed demon. You don’t really need more than that in someone if we’re being honest. You’ve got Keri, the lonely girl who lost her boyfriend and is now caught up with the wrong crowd. Packard, the cold and brutal leader of said wrong crowd. Packard’s flunkies, who exists to be…well, flunkies and dead bodies when needed. Billy, the brother of Keri’s old boyfriend who just doesn’t fit in. And then, of course, the sheriff trying to nail the gang of car thieves. What we do not seem to have any of is any parents. In a story revolving around teenagers, there are none to be seen. Ever. An odd choice, but I liked it.
The description of The Wraith’s Turbo Interceptor first appearing was cool, and allowed me to easily picture what was happening.
A strange SIZZLING light spirals across the screen, twists, turns, and cuts a right angle! Another light, like a laser, streaks and swirls – – these illuminations, wispy ethereal, begin to construct the outline of an automobile!
I do wish the mystery of who this mysterious driver was had played out for a little while longer. I mean, Page 11 is where we see the car materialize. And it’s obvious pretty much immediately that Jake, the new kid in town, is also the driver of the Interceptor. Even the question of who he is and why he’s there is clear pretty early on. That’s minor quibble, though, as it’s more than entertaining enough to just sit back and watch him exact revenge on Packard and his crew.
For all you Blake Snyder enthusiasts out there, Page 12 is when The Wraith first challenges Packard and his gang to a race, setting the rest of the plot in motion. Though in this case it’s the antagonist – Packard – who is pulled from his normal world instead of the protagonist. Either way, Blake would have been proud!
In his first race against Packard’s group, he goes against Oggie, who is described as “a cretinous gang member with butch hair, wide eyes and corncob teeth.” The race ends with the fiery death of Oggie, but when his body is pulled from the wreckage, there are no visible injuries other than his eyes being burned from their sockets. Honestly, I can’t say I’m totally sure what meaning the writer was going for, as this becomes a recurring theme with other gang members as they get killed. Though I did find this on a dream-interpretation website:
Dreams of injured or closed eyes can symbolize a refusal to confront the truth about something you have been hiding from.
Probably not the original intent but I think it works pretty well in the context of this story.
As for overall structure, it seems a bit different, as there is never a time you feel justice will not be served. Jake is a goshdarn ghost…he’s not at risk of being killed. And that is clear early on. Other than some angst Keri is going through, you never have a sense that things are going to go wrong for the bad guys once Jake shows up. All you really have is a sense of inevitability. This is where I feel it is a bit different (not counting Steven Seagal movies). In most scripts, you should at least present the possibility of the hero losing. This…tension, I guess…is not present at all. So by the most standard analysis, it should not work. At one point, when there is still a decent amount left in the story, Keri and Jake have this exchange:
KERI: I’m afraid.
JAKE: Of what?
KERI: That he’ll kill me.
JAKE: He won’t, I’ll promise you that now.
It’s great comfort for Keri, but since we already know who Jake really is, it takes away even more tension. Basically, everyone we like here is gonna be OK!!!
And there are still 40 pages left in the script.
So this is a hard one for me. I really enjoyed reading the thing, but it does almost nothing that it is assumed should be done in a screenplay.
I absolutely cannot figure out why this story works. But it does.
The car races are cool. The descriptions are fun and certainly bring clear images to your mind:
The engine pulsates, and like the transparent membrane of a giant squid, the internal mechanisms visibly whirl, spin, pound and drone. Strange lights skitter up and down wires in glittery, unearthly patterns…
MINTY’S TRANS AM –
Slams into the side of the car. EXPLODES, smashes into the wall of rock on the right, shears off metal, blows off wheels, cartwheels across the pavement in a shower of metal and concrete sparks and…
I can easily picture these scenes in my mind. I certainly think it is worth checking out the descriptions used by the writer.
So when all was said and done…besides the prose of the writer, it seems actually hard to figure out why this thing worked.
But it did.
To give a shout-out to Hank….read this script if you want to find something that does its own thing but still works. Also read it if you like this car.
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