The Wraith (1986)

TheWraith“The Wraith” is goofy nonsensical eighties fun and it’s a childhood favorite that hasn’t aged much at all. The mix of punk rock and Mad Max gear head aesthetic has worked in the favor of “The Wraith” for a long time, making it a really unusual oddity of the mid eighties that embraces its absurdity. It has a good time as a revenge thriller with a supernatural bent that uses cars as a means of inspiring some chills. Whenever our avenging angel or “Wraith” comes rolling up in his supernatural black hot rod, it’s a surefire indication that no one is going to come out of the experience alive. I’ll be the first to admit that not a lot of “The Wraith” makes too much sense.

Do we ever get a real explanation why parts of the Wraith disappear every time he kills one of his murderers? Do we know why our protagonist is resurrected in to someone who looks completely different? And where did our two protagonists go off to in the final scene once the story is resolved? That said I still really enjoy “The Wraith” for its decade soaked narrative, and eerie revenge tale. Our avenging anti-hero is like something out of a Robocop movie, donning thick black leather, a huge sleek helmet, and a pumped up shotgun decorated with LED lights that twinkle whenever he’s about to lay waste to someone. Set in a small town in Arizona, the local population is terrorized by a gang member named Packer and his group of cronies and thugs.

The way they settle their disputes with others is by racing them on the roads and when beating them, they take their cars. Out the darkness a black hot rod with an enigmatic driver emerges ready to challenge Packer and his group, all the while murdering each of his crew when they dare to race the dark driver. We then meet Jake, as played by Charlie Sheen, who garners his own dark past and begins romancing local waitress Keri, a young girl dominated by Packer who stalks her and keeps her under his control. Along the way Packer and his group are trying to figure out how to beat the dark driver and outwit his seemingly supernatural hot rod, while Keri slowly realizes Jake and the avenging angel, known as a Wraith, might just be the same person.

Mike Marvin’s direction is criminally underrated, as he pulls off some truly stunning shots, as well as some engrossing car racing and chase scenes. He brings to life this supernatural racer, and makes him an imposing presence in a ton of establishing shots where he stands stationary among a neon blue or pink back drop. One of my favorite moments involves Randy Quaid’s sheriff vainly trying to chase him down, only to see him warp in to a white ball of light down the highway and disappear in to a pink and red starburst in the sky. Pair that with the excellent rock soundtrack, and “The Wraith” really is the kind of revenge B movie you can enjoy thanks to its eccentric tone and unique hero.