I saw 1986's The Wraith as a teenager. It was featured on TNT's MonsterVision, and I had a feeling that it was substantially annotated with a blue pencil. In other words (you simple layman, you), I knew it had to be edited. Well, I was kinda-sorta right. The other night, I watched it again for the first time since the late 90's, and I was lucky enough to see Sherilyn Fenn's boobs. And boy howdy, the gore. The gore was...non-existent. There was plenty of death; it's just that the fatalities croaked in explosions that would give Don Coscarelli a headstone. Y'know, a pillar. A ledger! A HARD COCK. Right, so that's that.
As we all know, drag racing was huge in the 80's. If you judge by movies and music videos, you were not with the cool kids if you didn't participate in at least fourteen drag races. Packard knows the deal. He's a high-handed bully who forces dudes to scuttle with him, and if he wins, he gets your wheels. Don't like it? Tough. Packard is the fucking man - until, that is, his crew is picked off in succession. By whom? A black-clad mystery man who drives a black mystery car. I mean, it's supposed to be a mystery, but it's not. I'll tell you what, kid. I dig the cut of your jibber-jabber, so I won't spoil it for you. Charlie Sheen. It's Charlie Sheen. Or is it???
This was one of Sheen's first lead roles. His character's age is never made clear, but his "girlfriend" (the girl he decides to fuck) can usually be seen wearing a backpack. Packard is in his mid-goddamn-30's, and that's an underestimation. They're all decent actors, but the best and most endearing of the cast? Look no further than Clint Howard. God, he's splendid. He plays Rughead, a bespectacled genius with eraser hair. I'm not being facetious when I say he's the most endearing chap brought to light. Rughead actually has more than one layer. Should I be so bold as to call it a character arc? Fuck it, it's my review. He has a character arc!
Writer/director Mike Marvin gives The Wraith a polished veneer. The prolific car chases are shot extremely well, and I'd be lying if I said they didn't give me any thrills or spills. You could argue that there were too many spills. A cameraman died on set while filming an action sequence. What is this, a John Landis production? Sorry, I tend to jest in poor taste. This b-picture is buttressed by a sprightly soundtrack. I heard Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crue and shitty dance-pop. Hey, it kept the energy burbling. So let's recap! In the next block of text!
The pace is kinetic and the cast is acceptable. At the shallow end of the pool, the plot is full of noticeable holes (where are the parents?) and the only villain is an annoying human. No bloodshed, to boot! However, you could do worse on a drizzly afternoon. My recommendation is to Netflix it. Robert Z'Dar says, "I wouldn't trust John Landis with my chin. Put him under the jailhouse. That's my fucking recommendation."
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 5:11 PM