Charlie “Wheel Stud” Sheen, Nick “Spoiler” Cassavetes, Sherilyn “Trim Package” Fenn, Randy “Fender Bender” Quaid, Matthew “Hubcap” Barry, and Clint “Nut” Howard.
More details here.
Mysterious lights descend from the sky into the Arizona desert, race down a rural highway at light speed, and merge to form an enigmatic figure in black and his turbo-charged car. The sight is as baffling as the state’s preference for wacko governors.
“Just point me to the nearest Eegees.”*
Meanwhile on the same rural highway, teen psycho Packard (Cassavetes) leads a bunch of Road Warrior/Sid and Nancy rejects terrorize drivers, challenges them to near-death races, and steals their car when they’re run off the road.
You pay with a pink slip, but the lickin’s free.
Packard's punks also use words like “quif city” and “dick butter” and drink toxic Kool-Aid moonshine and hydraulic fluid. But on the plus side, they get to hang out with Clint Howard.
Clint Howard...heals the pain.
The following morning, a stranger named Jake (Sheen) arrives on a motocross bike into town.
The only winning here is by insomniacs.
He immediately stops to ogle town cutie-pie Keri (Fenn). And really, can you blame him?
A pre-Twin Peaks Fenn shows off her twin peaks. (I hate myself).
We soon learn that tinderbox-tempered Packard is dangerously obsessed with Keri and threatens to kill anyone who gets near her.
Billy Zabka and Rick Springfield mated and pooped this out.
In fact, we also learn that unbeknownst to Keri, he’s responsible for the brutal murder of her previous boyfriend, Jamie. Jamie’s brother Billy (Barry) befriends Jake and notices that the stranger shares the same scars and wounds as his dead brother. Hmmm.
This is the extent of the scary scenes in The Wraith.
So Keri and Jake begin a secret courtship (which I can only assume happens because Sheen disappears for most of the movie) while Packard and his mentally-challenged gang members pursue and race the mysterious Turbo and each meet fiery demises.
I’m assured that this car complies with Arizona’s Hands-Free Evil laws.
When the car takes a life, it not only ruins the exterior and serious degrades the resell value, it also takes the driver’s soul by removing their eyes ala Three Stooges.
So as the car offs the punks one by one, the town’s Sheriff (Quaid) finally gets involved not only because does he despises Packard but it’s also election season.
Back in the days when Quaid was still sane.
The Sheriff’s fleet of Chrysler K-Cars gets smashed by the ghost car and it appears that its vengeance is far from over until it delivers a final message to the vile Packard.
The Ghost of Carburetors Future
After Packard steps up his game and learns to remember his lines, he escapes the cops, kidnaps Keri, and challenges the Turbo to a final race. And this is all leading to the huge reveal of the identity of the Turbo’s vengeance-fueled driver. And you know how it will turn out but if you don’t, your movie-watching license should be revoked.
Longtime reader(s) of Tremendo Time might recall that I’ve variously mentioned that I grew up in a town that had no movie theater for most of the 80s. The Wraith is one of many movies I missed out on during this time and didn't catch later, not even on cable where this was a late night staple. While going through the research on evil car movies I at first disqualified this picture because I thought it was more of a sci-fi flick. But it does possess the essentials of an evil car as it's about a mysterious vehicle under an unknown power that kills people for revenge so that’s enough qualification for me.
One last pic of Sherilyn. (I need the hits!)
So let’s review. The Turbo was designed for the movie by Dodge and is pretty cool. It's got a sleek, futuristic design that recalls a Delorean or maybe the car from Black Moon Rising but smaller and lightweight. In several shots, you can see that it’s basically a frame on wheels. Sheen is barely in the movie, occupying a few minutes in the beginning to set up his character and then disappearing until the start of the third act. He did little that was memorable. Cassavetes insists on playing his villain role straight-faced which results in over-scowling with a constant non-reaction to anything, not even when he’s got a shotgun in the face by the Wraith’s driver. Packard’s gang is pure comic relief, at times unintentionally funny, at other just miserably inept. Fenn is given little to do but stand around, squirt a few tears from her diamond-blue puppy dog eyes, and look awesome. Quaid is wasted in a non-comic role and makes it really hard to take Cousin Eddie seriously as tough as nails Sheriff. Clint Howard was Clint Howard and that should be good enough for me or any of you all! But in the end, the movie plays out like a High Plains Drifter acted by my high school class drama club. So if you dig the 80s sound and feel, cool cars, explosions, a decidedly 80s soundtrack (Ozzy, Sammy Haggar, Motley Crue, and heavy metal gods Robert Palmer and Bonnie Tyler), bikinis, thongs, and requisite nudeness, greasy hamburgers, and phallic cacti, The Wraith should be your vehicle of choice.