The Wraith (Arrow Recommends)

The Wraith (Arrow Recommends)
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Arrow Recommends is a column that has my sorry ass advise older movies to your royal asses. I will be flexible in terms of genres i.e. I will cover whatever the bleep I want. For now, it will be the way to keep my voice on the site.

PLOT: An angry spirit comes back from the land of the dead, sexy supernatural car in tow, to eliminate the car thieves that whacked him. Jack up the volume on that Boom Box! It's THE WRAITH time!

Roadblocks won't stop something that can't be stopped. - Sheriff Loomis

LOWDOWN: I have a hard time imagining anybody watching and enjoying THE WRAITH (get the Special Edition DVD or stream it here) as much as I do if they weren’t raised in the 80’s. I honestly have zero idea as to how this film holds up without the nostalgia glasses forced upon you, "They Live" style. And I don’t really care! As an 80's kid, every time I revisit this flick, I get that gooey sensation in the pit of my stomach and a big stupid f*cking smile on my face. You know that sensation you get when you take that first bite out of a Big Mac after a hard night of drinking? Yeah that one. So good! And I’m not alone. THE WRAITH has become a sturdy cult classic over the years, developing quite the ardent niche fan base and it's easy to see why!

Inspired by the genius supernatural Clint Eastwood Western HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER and THE ROAD WARRIOR (as per director Mike Marvin’s own admission); THE WRAITH went on to inspire THE CROW (they even both have a villain named Skank) and to a lesser degree FAST AND FURIOUS. Moreover the picture cast so many “before they were famous” thespians and went on to act as a stepping-stone for their careers. A pre Platoon Charlie Sheen, a pre acclaimed directing career Nick Cassavetes, a pre Twin Peaks Sherilyn Fenn, a pre Christmas Vacation Randy Quaid and a pre "had a cameo in every Ron Howard film" Clint Howard. Yup, they all went on to do bigger things!

Little bit of trivia; Johnny Depp was up for the lead role in THE WRAITH, but the producers didn’t want him (the same happened to him on Near Dark). Depp was there for the whole of the shoot though – he was dating Sherilyn Fenn at the time (basterd) and was living in her Hotel room. Now you know and you’re all better people for it. All right enough vapid chit-chat… the movie!

For me, there are three main reasons to dig on THE WRAITH.

-The initial premise! Come on man, a ghost rider that comes back from he dead to kill the punk wannabe mooks who wronged him with a sleek and supernaturally charged car? SOLD! Hard to go wrong with that!

-The car chases and the stunt work! Even though I always thought the chases weren't as exciting as they should have been (for good reason, they had 3 weeks to shoot them at first, then somebody died on set, and they were forced to bag them in 8 days), they still delivered enough to please. Furthermore, the many explosions in this bad boy were eye-popping to say the least, with that shack kaboom wowing me every time. Somebody went overboard with that dynamite. Freaking epic!

-The thick 80’s coating! Everything about the film from the Tuff Turf-ish costumes, the big hair styles (Howard's Eraserhead fro was a thing of beauty) and the dated production designs screamed unmistakable 80’s. The non-stop barrage (yes barrage) of Pop/Rock tunes accompanying the action also branded 80’s on this sucka's behind! My favs ditties were: Where's The Fire by Tim Feehan, Secret Loser by Ozzy Osbourne and the beyond badass Never Surrender by Lion. NOTE: Hold On Blue Eyes by LaMarca during the love scenes resulted in CHEESE OVERLOAD level achieved. Loved it! 

Speaking of cheese, that was my main peeve with THE WRAITH. It could’ve been so much more than that if the serious themes i.e. the love story and the revenge angle were handled with depth and maturity (like they did with THE CROW). But alas that wasn’t the case. The only time I felt anything here was when actor Matthew Barry as Billy Hankins figured out who the stranger was and yelled out his name (always gives me goosebumps)... other than that NATHING. Charlie Sheen’s wooden performance surely didn't help bring emotional resonance to the piece (I can just imagine what a guy like Patrick Swayze could've done with that role and the film) while the resurrection angle was somewhat half cocked in terms of how it all worked.

I never say this, but I’ll say it here: THE WRAITH is one of those rare films that I enjoy as-is but at the same time I'd love to see it remade. Shit, if I were behind the remake, I’d set it in the 80’s and keep the same soundtrack but I’d just flesh out the human elements, beef up its novel ideas and up the ante on the chases. But that's just me.

On the whole though, even with flaws in its trunk, THE WRAITH once again made for a tight sit down. It had it all! A hot car (a Dodge Turbo Interceptor), effective humor, entertaining performances (Cassavetes and Quaid were awesome), clever dialogue, a banging soundtrack, taunt directing, an underused yet ethereal score (by Michael Hoenig and J. Peter Robinson) and a handful of really gnarly sci-fi/horror ideas (the vanishing braces, the organic car engine...)! I also dare you not to fall in love with Sherilyn Fenn here. The lass was simply entrancing!

If you were a raised in the 80’s and missed this one or if you’re an 80’s pop culture junkie and have yet to take a ride with THE WRAITH – correct that misstep ASAP and see it already! PS: If you're wondering what the word WRAITH actually means, here ya go: a spirit of a dead person, sometimes represented as a pale, transparent image of that person.



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