The Wraith (1986) Review

“Hey, has this guy been wormed
or is he just a naturally gifted child?”


A film who’s VHS case I remember seeing in the rental shop but never did rent myself.
I always dismissed it as some really cheap straight to video, Sci-Fi, man in a cheap looking super suit, action film.

I don’t know why that would make me dismiss it as those were exactly the sort of films I loved to watch.
Only years later did I find out Charlie Sheen was in it and how wrong I was in my assumptions so then I decided I wanted to finally see it.

Opening with two orbs from space flying through some American rocky lands before settling outside the typical small town America these sort of films are set.
They turn into the man in the suit and car seen in the poster giving off Automan vibes.

The film quickly and effectively introduces us to the villains of the piece, Nick Cassavetes as Packard Walsh and his street (desert country road?) racing gang as they blockade and then force an innocent driver to race for his car whilst they hold his girlfriend captive.

Naturally Packard cheats to win.

Packard has (unhealthy) feelings for Keri Johnson (played by Sherilyn Fenn of Twin Peaks fame) and it is here we see just how vile he is. Obsessed with Keri he outright controls and orders her around just the worst abusive boyfriends you seen on celluloid only they aren’t and have never dated.
I found this character completely despicable to watch, one of the baddies you hate even to look at so when Charlie Sheen appears and shows a complete disregard for Packard’s warnings and takes a shine to Keri he isn’t pleased, but I am.

It also doesn’t help Packard that Keri very quickly responds in a positive way to Charlies affections.

More problems arise for Packard when Automa… a mysterious car appears and starts taking out his gang whilst avoiding the police one race at a time.

Aw diddums.

The Wraith Dodge M4S with Driver

The car itself is a Dodge M4S, a concept car that could reach 200MPH and do 0-60 in 4 seconds.
Packard’s gang never stood a chance against it and that isn’t taking into account how the car can rematerialise after blowing up, something it does many times in the film.
I don’t normally like invincible heroes. Well apart from the classic Stallone, Schwarzenegger et al macho heroes from the 80s, but since then I don’t tend to like them as they are just too good up against enemies that are too useless and pathetic.
The Wraith however manages to have the mysterious racer never put a foot wrong without cheapening the villain to a useless joke that makes you wonder why anyone ever feared them.

A hero needs an effective antagonist.

This is 80s through and through from the look of the futuristic car despite being constructed 5 year prior to the film being made to the rocking soundtrack and the small town, high school gang that doesn’t work, yet not only has a fleet of super-charged sports cars but also their own fully stocked garage.
I’m assuming they are high school pupils.
Why don’t these idiots ever just open a business modifying cars. They could make far more money and probably live past 18 just like the actors playing them had 10 years earlier.

The racing scenes are good; a bit shaky in places but you are given some very nice chasing shots. The cast is great and also includes Randy Quaid and Clint Howard (I would watch anything with Clint in even shite like Sex in the City) with easily identifiable characters including two that really stand out, the simple minded Skank and Gutterboy who is consuming every chemical to hand in the garage and both played as completely over-the-top as needed.

Some of Charlie’s delivery seems rushed or like he has other things on his mind in places but it is Charlie Sheen and even at his worst he still has that charisma.

Well worth a watch but probably will be more for fans of the 80s as I doubt it tackles societal issues enough like climate change seeing it has too many petrol powered polluting cars for most people under 30 to enjoy it.

Some notes clearing up points in the film.
The arm and leg braces that disappear when the Wraith kills someone is to symbolise him getting stronger.
The dead bodies surviving in tact with only their eyes missing is supposed to be the opposite to how a body completely burns away when it spontaneously combust yet doesn’t damage the surround area.
Everything around is destroyed apart from the bodies.
Also as the eyes burn out there is a flash frame inserted as they die and this is the last thing they see which explain why the eyes are gone.