The Wraith – The 80s Car Movie That is So Bad It’s Good!

“He’s not from around here!”

Welcome to another edition of ‘Movies that could only be made in the 80s’.

We’ve looked at some crazy 1980s movies in the past such as Mannequin, Tuff Turf, Moonwalker, Bachelor Party, Thrashin‘, and Halloween III, but we’ve been saving this one because it’s so goddam ridiculous. If I said “think of the stupidest idea for a movie” I’m sure you still wouldn’t come close to the plot behind this movie. It’s the kind of story you’d write for a school essay when you were twelve years old.

What is it all about?

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This 1986 movie was written and directed by Mike Marvin and produced by John Kemeny. The Wraith tells the story of an Arizona teen who mysteriously returns from the dead as a supernatural, or possibly alien-created, street-racer driving an invulnerable supercar. His intent is to take revenge on the gang who murdered him. Yes, that is the plot. You kill me, I come back as an alien supercar and street race your ass, yeee-ah!

Who’s in it?

Charlie Sheen, Sherilyn Flynn, Randy Quaid and Nick Cassavetes.

Let us begin…

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The film starts off with four orbs of light flying across the Arizona desert and they eventually collide to form a black Dodge M4s Interceptor supercar with a mysterious driver wearing some kind of futuristic spacesuit. No explanation of why?

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The story is set in the town of Brooks, Arizona, Packard Walsh (Nick Cassavetes), is the leader of a gang of really dumb car thieves. The gang are so dumb they’re almost like cartoon characters. Their names include Oggy, Minty, Rughead, Skank and Gutterboy and sound like they should be in the Ninja Turtles! The gang coerce people with fast cars into racing for pink slips. At the start we see him and his cronies block the road and force a guy to race for his car like the road pirates they are. He controls everyone through intimidation, including Keri Johnson, whom he views as his property. Keri’s boyfriend Jamie Hankins was mysteriously murdered, leaving no trace; Keri, who was with him, was hospitalized with no memory of the traumatic event.

He’s not from around here

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We cut to Jake Kesey (Charlie Sheen) riding into town on his motorbike (no helmet needed!) who pulls over and asks Keri Johnson (Sherilyn Flynn)  for directions and she offers to show him if he gives her a lift on his bike. She is instantly smitten with Jake who she’s never met before and could be a complete serial killer! Her “boyfriend” Packard turns up tells Keri to get in the car and Jake rides off.

Packard is a typical 1980s bad-guy

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We’ve said this before with other films but Packard has all the 1980s tropes of a bad guy

  • Black leather jacket or waistcoat
  • Flick knife
  • Muscle car
  • Scowl when you look at their girl
  • Looks like he’s in his 30s, but dates teenage girls.
  • Evil snigger even when somebody nearly gets killed
  • Treats everyone like shit but girls still seem to love them
  • A stupid gang that shouts the “yeah” backup comment when the leader makes a threat to a rival

Oh oh, there is a new racer in town

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Packard’s control of the illegal races comes to a sudden end when the Turbo Interceptor appears, seemingly from nowhere. The mysterious driver of this supercar is wearing some kind of black body armor complete with a black race helmet. The armor is completed with a collection of metal braces resembling those worn by victims recovering from severe physical trauma.

The first race is on

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Packard and his gang are throwing their weight around at the burger joint when the driver wordlessly challenges Packard’s gang to race.

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The first race is on which results in the explosive death of Oggie Fisher. For some reason, Oggy’s body is untouched except for his burned-out eye sockets. One douchebag down, four to go!

Sheriff Loomis (Randy Quaid) turns up at this point and demands to know the driver of the mysterious car. The gang unfazed by Oggie’s death says they will get revenge.

“Whoever he is, he is weird and pissed off!” – Skank

The wraith disguised in his high-tech suit and carrying some kind of space shotgun intercepts Parkard’s warehouse garage where they mod their vehicles and shoots up the place up including the gang’s cars.

The second race

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Although we just witnessed the wraith shoot up all the race cars, the gang seem to be back in their vehicles the next day at the burger joint to harass Keri. While the gang is busy harassing Keri and Billy the wraith leaves a note on Packards steering wheel with the address of the next race venue. The second race involves another gang member Minty.

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Rughead demands that the wraith install a digital radio killer on his engine and is amazed by the futuristic engine under his hood. The race once again ends in a high-speed, fiery crash which leaves Minty’s body untouched except for the burned-out eye sockets.

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The Turbo Interceptor then mysteriously reconstructs itself and speeds off. Two down, we’re halfway there!

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Sheriff Loomis and his lawmen who were in hot pursuit, notice the Turbo vanishes in a cloud of glowing light.

Two more down

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Two more gang members, Skank and Gutterboy, always high on drugs, are later obliterated when the Wraith races the Turbo through the gang’s isolated warehouse garage, causing a huge explosion. With Packard’s gang now destroyed, Rughead, the gang’s tech-geek, who alone among them had not participated in Jamie’s murder, realizes, too late, why the gang had been targeted. When Loomis arrives at the scene of the destruction, Rughead tells him everything. Only one left.

The final race

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After Packard witnesses Keri kissing Jake, he kidnaps her from Big Kay’s, beating up Billy when he tries to intervene. When Packard tries to drive Keri to California, she stands up to him and says she will never love him. Just as he gets out of the car and draws his knife on her, the Turbo arrives ready to challenge Packard to a race; a challenge he readily takes up.

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However, Packard is finally killed in an explosive head-on collision with the Turbo the same fate of to the rest of his gang.

It’s all over

Loomis calls off the hunt for the mysterious driver, observing the futility of such hunt and reasoning that Packard’s gang are all dead. Case closed. We don’t need to do the paperwork on this one!

As Keri arrives home that night, the Turbo pulls up, and the armored driver emerges, revealing himself as Jake. Keri then realizes that Jake is actually a revived form of her dead boyfriend Jamie (rolls eyes), who had returned for a chance to rekindle their past relationship. He then asks her to wait for him because he has one last thing to do.

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Jake startles Billy by driving the supercar to Big Kay’s and handing him the Turbo’s keys while extolling its special features, saying that his work is finished, but then Billy asks who he is. Bearing in mind this is car is a one of a kind that has been hunted by the police for serious traffic offenses and linked to five deaths. Jake says that Billy already knows and as he rides off on his dirt bike, Billy realizes he is actually Jamie. Jake picks up Keri, whom Loomis is watching from a distance. Together they ride off along the desert highway into the moonlight. The end.

It’s your typical 80s schlock but it’s worth a watch just to see how mental the movie actually is and you gotta love that car!

Written by Jay

A caffeine-based life form with a love of the 80s and pop culture.

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