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Horror Movie A Day: THE WRAITH (1986)
Forget it, Murphy. Roadblocks can’t stop something that can’t be stopped.

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.

Here are the titles in the drawing pool for the rest of October: Wednesday, October 1st – Friday, October 31st: H-MAD! Horror Movie A Day! Check out the list here! Now’s the the time to pull the next HMAD! Next up is:

A Christmas horror movie with Paul Bartel and Roger Corman regular Mary Woronov. Sure, why not? See you folks tomorrow for that one! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die

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