Horror Movie A Day: THE WRAITH (1986) Forget it, Murphy. Roadblocks can’t stop something that can’t be stopped.
Published at: Oct. 14, 2008, 1:15 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[The regular A Movie A Day list has been frozen in order for me to do an all-horror line-up for October. I’ve pulled many horror titles from my regular “to see” stack and have ordered many more horror and thriller titles to make sure we have some good stuff. Like the regular AMAD column all the movies I’m covering are films I have never seen, but unlike the regular AMAD column I will not connect each film to the one before it. Instead I will pull a title at random every day and watch whatever the movie Gods determine for me.]
So, maybe I should have listened to you guys.
Yeah, the movie blows. It’s not good, but you know what? It still has a rather high entertainment value.
And I will say it does squeak by as culty and sci-fi/horror-ish enough to be included in this list. I mean, The Wraith is a vengeful ghost… dressed up in a dominatrix outfit and motorcycle helmet, but still… his victims die in fiery wrecks, but their bodies remain unscratched minus their eye-balls. And Clint Howard is in it. He’s so horror he even makes APOLLO 13 a horror movie.
I mistakenly referred to this film as having aliens in it at the end of yesterday’s HMAD and I’m still trying to decide if I actually did make a mistake or not.
Essentially, you have a small Arizona town (which is supposed to be Tucson, but it’s way too small to be Tucson) that is controlled by a road gang that likes to force people with cool cars to race for pinks, so they can legally steal the cars.
Nick Cassavetes (who went on to become director of THE NOTEBOOK and ALPHA DOG) leads these road punks and I guess they can get away with this because the cops in the town are worthless. Cassavetes is a real mean son of a bitch in the movie, but I never really bought his threat and found myself just waiting for the bully to be shown as the emperor without any clothes.
That leads us to Charlie Sheen. This film falls in-between his incredibly memorable appearance in FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF and his star-making turn in Oliver Stone’s PLATOON, so I can understand why he took it. We have a lead role in a fun, crazy little low budget sci-fi/horror/I-don’t-know-what-genre movie. He gets to make out with a 20 year old Sherilyn Fenn and ride around on a motorcycle for the majority of the movie.
I see why he did it. He probably didn’t know he was going to land an Oliver Stone movie directly after. No worries. He’s not bad in it… not good, either, but it’s not a career-killer.
And he gets to have some screentime with Randy Quaid, who I can’t imagine was happy with the dialogue he had to spew in this movie. The words in the subhead came out of his mouth and he looked like he was in pain delivering them.
Quaid plays the dickhead, cowboy hat wearing Sheriff trying to catch the road punks in the act, get them thrown in jail for good, while at the same time investigating them getting picked off one by one by this mysterious rider in a futuristic car (really a Dodge Pace Car, the M4S), leaving eyeless bodies in the burning rubble.
But it’s the gang around Cassavetes that really make the movie worthwhile. First you have the double-trouble combo of Skank and Gutterboy (played by David Sherrill and Jamie Bozian respectively) who are always tweaked out of their mind… chugging WD40 or shooting up the nose. If they were any more over the top they’d literally be cartoon characters walking around in a live action movie.
But the MVP of the movie is, of course, the great Clint Howard sporting a hairdo that’d make Eraserhead nod in approval.
He’s the spazzy gang member, the brainiac who pimps out the others’ cars, but doesn’t get his hands dirty if he can’t help it.
His performance is vintage Clint Howard, but I can say it doesn’t come anywhere near topping his work in TICKS, but then again… what can? “I’m in-FEST-eeeedddd!”
The movie hangs on the re-romance of Charlie Sheen and Sherilyn Fenn, who is the object of Cassevetes’ obsession. He’s of the mind that if he can’t have her no one can, but she doesn’t like assholes, so she doesn’t like this dude.
In fact, her last boyfriend died mysteriously… while fucking her. She was knocked out and he was cut up… We’re told this, no shit, within 2 sentences of the same character outlining that Cassavetes’ Packard Walsh would kill anybody that flirts with this girl and then expected to see it as a big reveal that it was Cassavetes behind the death of her old boyfriend.
Oh, and, spoiler, that old boyfriend is really Charlie Sheen who is The Wraith. Why doesn’t he look like his old self? He apparently got as close as he could, whatever that means.
They don’t explain much of this movie. They really just want you to enjoy some crazy car chases, a cool-ass Turbo Interceptor and some fun genre people doing crazy characters. They’re not worried about any of it making any sense. Is Charlie Sheen a revenge seeking ghost? An Alien being that's somehow been infected with his murdered soul? I don't know what the hell it is, but it's definitely not your typical revenge-from-beyond-the-grave character.
So, yes. Writer/Director Mike Marvin’s script is bad, but at least fun enough to make the bad stuff enjoyable. The budget is low, the production values aren’t very high, but at the same time you have a great, recognizable cast and a soundtrack that would cost $20 million today, featuring Ozzy (Secret Loser), Motley Crue (Smokin’ In The Boys Room), Robert Palmer (Addicted to Love) and Billy Idol (Rebel Yell).
Final Thoughts: Ridiculous, unbelievable, poorly constructed, under-budgeted and just over-all sloppy… but still entertaining. It’s so very ‘80s, which gives it enough of a kitsch factor that you can just roll with it. I can’t say it’s unintentionally hilarious because I guarantee the number one point of the movie was be fun and it can’t help but be enjoyable, if only on certain levels. And I will say that Nick Cassavetes is a much better director than actor. Sorry, dude.