5/15/11

A Zoltan Review: The Wraith (1986)

The Wraith
Any movie that features a dirt bike in the story is totally worth watching.  I realise that is a bold statement, but I’ll bet you can’t prove me wrong.  It is a constant of the Universe, like gravity, terrible Michael Bay horror remakes, or Julianne Moore’s ginger bush (I just watched Short Cuts and that image is haunting me in a very real manner).

With the “Law of Dirt Bikes” in mind, I thought I would review The Wraith, starring Chuck Sheen, Sherilyn Fenn, Nick Cassavetes, Randy Quaid, and the aforementioned dirt bike.

The film begins with Packard (Cassavetes) and his terrifying gang of illegal street racers bullying a small town in Arizona.  No one seems to be able to stand up to him and his thugs.  His kept woman, Keri (Fenn), is helpless before him and the poor sheriff (Quaid) is just at a loss.

Suddenly, the naughty racers are targeted by a spectral looking black stealth car (Dodge M4S I think). Unbeknownst to them, it has materialised out of pure energy on the highway at night.

 About the same time a strange drifter named Jake (Sheen) rolls into town on a killer dirt bike, rocking a faded jean jacket and aviator shades.  When Keri spots that he doesn’t have a shirt on under the jean jacket, she is smitten.

In fairness, if Charlie sheen showed up in my town not wearing a shirt while doing sweet cat-walks on his bike I would rip my shirt off and hop on the handle bars.

As Jake continues to put the cool groves on Keri, we learn that her ex-boyfriend was recently killed.  Her boyfriend’s feckless retard of a brother is still in town and befriends Jake when they meet at a beach party.  Jake has some gnarly scars on his back so that is a good ice breaker.

Now, as this all is going down, Packard realises that Jake has eyes for his special lady friend and quickly puts some nefarious plans into action to get rid of the newcomer.

While Jake and Keri fall in love, the radical racers in Packard’s gang are being eliminated one at a time by the wraith-like car.  In the quarter mile, the car speeds ahead, parks across the lanes and forces its opponents to crash.  Not very sporting.  In one scene, a black clad driver emerges with a futuristic shotgun (just a Franchi SPAS-12 with some blinking lights glued to it) and shoots up Packard’s garage.  How can this mysterious car and maniac driver be stopped?

We find out through some exhausting flashbacks that it was actually Packard that killed Keri’s boyfriend.  In a mind blowing scene we see that he was stabbed in the back while he was fornicating with Keri!  Holy cow!  Keri was later found out on the highway wrapped in an old Navahoe blanket suffering from amnesia.  What does it all mean??  The suspense was killing me.

The Wraith appears for a final race with Packard and blows his doors off… literally.  In the dénouement, the car pulls up to Keri’s curb and reveals Jake is the driver.  She realises that he is in fact some incarnation of her dead boyfriend.

If I was in Keri’s shoes and my undead boyfriend rolled up after killing a dozen or so people I would probably bolt into the night, but she accepts that he has swam back across the Styx for her and she vows to leave with him.  He has one more stop to make first.  Jake meets up with his brother and gives him the car finally revealing its name: The Turbo Interceptor.  It really doesn’t get any better than that.  The film ends with Jake and Keri driving the dirt bike off into the desert sunset.

First off I gotta say, I frickin’ loved this movie.  Killer soundtrack featuring Ozzy, Robert Palmer, Honeymoon Suite, Mötley Crüe, Lion, and Billy Idol?  Check.  Wacky performance by Clint Howard?  Check.  Awesome custom automobiles?  Check.  Dirt bike?  Double check!

The icing on the cake for me was Sherilyn Fenn.  I have been head over heels in love with her since I first spotted her in Thrashin’.  She also dominated Twin Peeks during my adolescence.  Seeing her in bikinis and roller skates was like a dream and to top it off, she put in a pretty darn good performance.  The same can’t be said for misters Sheen or Quaid.  Both were exceeding dull.

Some real heroes in the cast were two of Packard’s henchmen; Skank (David Sherrill) and Gutterboy (Jamie Bozian).  They provided the comic relief by guzzling hydraulic fluid and snorting WD40.  They tried their best to thwart the Wraith but came up short in the end.  Just good stuff.

The themes in the story are obvious and fairly tired.  High Plains Drifter, Pale Rider, or The Crow all spring to mind as parallel stories.  With that said, I didn’t fall asleep and was thoroughly entertained.  The special effects were very artfully done.  Never once did I balk at bad cinema trickery.

One last thought before I go.  Here is the dirt bike “ballet” scene from Ruckus (1981).  It should seal the deal for you about the “Law of Dirt Bikes”.

Movie Rating 4/5
Dirt Bike Rating 4.5/5



Later.

21 comments:

daniel said...

Awesome blog. Following.

Solsby Kid said...

This looks pretty cool, will ahve to watch some time!

Bart said...

wow, look at all that unbelievable hair.

Kicking Rocks said...

lol i noticed that hair as well.....lol

Alphabeta said...

Looks great - although I'm a bigger fan of boobs than dirtbikes.

Flodström said...

Charlie :) I just might watch this, thanks for sharing!

ed said...

makes me wanna ride a dirtbike

BigMike said...

I loved this movie. and it was just a few seconds away from being a great T&A film also! Great for a young boy ;)

Nik Mekeena said...

looks excellent. Your right I have been gone for a couple months. Was studying for the mcat but took it a week ago.

thenitefalls said...

It seems like Jake is winning once again! haha XD

Astronomy Pirate said...

That guy with the face paint and dyed mohawk is trying look hard, but he just looks kinda retarded. Looks like a good film though.

Colin Biano said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob said...

This film is a damn classic! Excellent post!

AllenTesch said...

Why have I never heard of this?

Major.Mack said...

this was a superchannel classic

The Angry Lurker said...

Have seen this a couple of times and it's not bad because it fulfills my love of revenge movies.

Colin Biano said...

that hair.. :x

Dave said...

Great pics and a great review.

BTN Hip Hop said...

this film is WINNING

Jack said...

WINNING!

Nicole_Tee said...

I just watched this movie last night and I loved it! Sheen looks great and what a great town to have all these sweet rides just driving through for the stealing- lol. I work at DISH Network and I keep up on movies new and old, and this wins my fav for the week. Since I rid myself of my VCR somewhere back in the 90’s the only way I’ve been able to catch these old flicks is on DISHonline.com. This is definitely a winner:) http://beta.dishonline.com/movies/213163

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