The Wraith

1986

The Wraith

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

33%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 12

62%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 9,231
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Movie Info

This supernatural teen action film is about a strange reincarnation with the emphasis on "car." Young Jamie is killed by the evil Packard (Nick Cassavetes) and his gang of thugs because Jamie was caught romancing Keri (Sherilyn Fenn), Packard's girlfriend. Suddenly "the Wraith" -- a black turbo racing car shows up to challenge Packard (sounds like a Detroit auto duel) whose livelihood comes from stealing cars. What happens next is an endless series of car chases as Packard's gang of punks start to bite the dust, one by one. Then Jake (Charlie Sheen) comes into town on a motorcycle and makes a play for Keri, giving rise to old animosities one more time.

Cast

Charlie Sheen
as The Wraith/Jake Kesey
Randy Quaid
as Sheriff Loomis
Nick Cassavetes
as Packard Walsh
Sherilyn Fenn
as Keri Johnson
Matthew Barry
as Billy Hankins
Jamie Bozian
as Gutterboy
Clint Howard
as Rughead
Griffin O'Neal
as Oggie Fisher
Vickie Benson
as Waitress
Steve Eckholdt
as Boy in Daytona
Elizabeth Cox
as Girl in Daytona
Steven Eckholdt
as Boy in Daytona
H. Joan Reynolds
as Policewoman
View All

Critic Reviews for The Wraith

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (3) | Fresh (4) | Rotten (8)

  • The town (comprising one house, a burger joint and no citizen who isn't a teenager or a cop) is overseen by Sheriff Randy Quaid, who displays all the reverence the script deserves.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Mr. Cassavetes is effectively black-hearted, and makes a striking figure, and Randy Quaid does a lot with the underdeveloped role of a local sheriff.

    Aug 30, 2004 | Rating: 3/5
  • There is all too little of the quietly charismatic Sheen and all too much of Cassavetes, who is a dead ringer for the young Hugh Hefner.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…
  • The kind of revenge B movie you can enjoy thanks to its eccentric tone and unique hero.

    Oct 20, 2016 | Full Review…
  • A big glop of low-budget Hollywood cheese, sliced from half a dozen other movies. Still, as a piece of '80s zeitgeist, it offers something of a glimpse into the national psyche of the time - not to mention the feather hairdos and jean jackets.

    May 2, 2013 | Rating: 1.5/5 | Full Review…
  • A ridiculous mishmash of drag racing, ghosts, and science fiction.

    May 6, 2008 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Wraith

  • May 30, 2019
    A young lad comes back from the dead to take revenge against the ruthless gang (of slightly older lads) that murdered him. There is no crow to help this young man though, no this lad comes back from the dead as a supernatural highly skilled street racer so he can...umm...race the gang members one by one and kill them in bizarre car accidents. You wouldn't think it though as the start of the movie feels more like the arrival of an alien being more than anything. Anyway, [b]really[/b[ not too sure why he doesn't just come back and simply shoot them or whatever, but the gang are street racers themselves so I guess that explains it, kinda. So yes, the plot of this movie is your typical revenge thriller. Your typical supernatural tale of an innocent person coming back from the dead to avenge their untimely death at the hands of some baddies. But it is indeed strikingly similar to the bird-related graphic novel that sprouted from the brain of one James O'Barr that's for sure. One has a heavy rock theme whilst the other a heavy car theme. The genesis of O'Barr's supernatural tale started way back in 1981, with the graphic novel eventually coming out in 1989, and finally followed by the movie in 1994. Of course the similar plots could just be coincidental, but it does get you thinking. Anyway, as I said the very start of this movie is hella cheesy and looks more like the introduction of an alien being landing on a deserted desert highway, in a souped-up car. The effects are of course incredibly 80's lookin', naturally, but boy do they look good. Think of the speedy visuals from 'Tron' but set against a silvery full moon in a desert and finishing with a reveal shot of the mysterious hero clad in an all-black with a racing helmet. The whole sequence is gloriously goofy yet at the same time the epitome of retro coolness. The Baddies: Now these dudes are a small bunch of (five) young guys, probably in their early 20's, led by one much older guy named Packard (Nick Cassavetes). Not sure if he was actually supposed to be older or that was just down to the fact they cast Cassavetes as a young man in his early 20's when he clearly wasn't. Anyway these guys are, again, the epitome of the classic 80's gang. Nick the leader is a bit of a greaser with his hairstyle and black leather jacket. Whilst his young henchmen are a mix of drugged up punks, weasely rats, and your cliched high school bully type all with silly names. It's an odd blend really because Nick is shown to be quite mentally unhinged and perfectly happy to actually kill people. Whilst his cronies are often more light-hearted, acting as comedic relief being all goofy and dumb. Clint Howard (who looks too old for the part) plays the brains behind the gangs car mods and sports a weird haircut that's straight outta the 1977 film 'Eraserhead'. The bad guys are an interesting bunch. They mostly seem to be young adults that don't appear to do anything of use. Yet they seem to own this huge garage chock full of mechanical equipment for maintaining cars. We know they take part in crime, petty and serious. And we know they force people to race their souped-up cars and keep them when they win (by cheating). But we only see two of them with some kind of manual labour job, whilst Packard does nothing accept cruise around lookin' for fights, races, and watching his girl. So how do they afford to keep this large garage with all its gear? Do they actually run a service for people? Or do they fix up their victory cars and sell them? How have they not been busted by the cops yet?? The Girl: I did find it amusing that the sweet innocent girlfriend of Packard (Keri played by Sherilyn Fenn) actually continues to go out with him despite the fact he's clearly bad news. Don't get me wrong she knows he's bad news but never really seems too upset over it. She lodges some complaints here and there sure but she never really goes for it. The fact that he constantly threatens her and claims he owns her should really be an alarm bell to get the hell outta that relationship; nah she just protests a bit then carries on. I was like, girl go to the police for God's sake. The Hero: So Packard and his mates killed this poor kid Jake (Charlie Sheen). Luckily he comes back as a supernatural force to take revenge...in a supernatural super-powered car. Again don't get me wrong its a super cool concept but...really? Like why does he need the car? If you're able to come back from the dead (or given the powers to do so by a greater force), you don't need a supercar surely. Anyway we know this is just an excuse for fast car racin'. The bad guys steal and race cars so the only way to beat them is race them, apparently. Jake is decked out in an all-black tinted helmet with an all-black jumpsuit which is covered in metal parts which represent other victims. I didn't quite get this, were these parts supposed to represent former victims of Packard's gang? Another thing I didn't get was what Jake was supposed to be. For starters he comes back from the dead in a different body, he says it was the closest to what he used to look like. But what's going on with that? Why doesn't he come back in his original form/body? Who's body does he come with? Next up, is Jake a ghost or not? At the end Jake and Keri leave town together to start afresh. But is Jake actually alive? Is he a rotting corpse? A ghost? Reborn completely?? Immortal? Invincible? The Car: The car in question was a Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor. A high-performance supercar designed and built in 1981for demonstration purposes. It most definitely looks the biz in this that's for sure. All black, completely tinted all round, low to the ground, and with a very sleek curvy aerodynamic spaceship design. The car is very effective throughout the movie (much like the DeLorean was for 'Back to the Future') and certainly emits a mysterious, dangerous and speedy quality. Alas the actual races we get are clearly filmed at low speeds which spoils the fun but the sight of this car lining up against some other classic all-American muscle cars is a sight to behold (for petrolheads anyway). Another aspect the movie seems to hint at is the fact that Packard knows of The Wraith (never called that in the movie I think). When Jake turns up at their garage (in his all-black attire) and shoots up the place, Packard acts as if this has happened before. He doesn't actually seem particularly scared either, as if he's seen this black-clad vigilante before. All in all Packard is as cool as a cucumber when you'd think he'd be terrified like the other guys. So it kinda seems there's a history here which is odd because Jake only turns up in the area at the start of the movie so...what's going on here? This movie really is the quintessential naff 80's action flick. It has all the ingredients from the wacky villains to the wicked cars to the plot that really doesn't add up when you think about it. But somehow none of that really matters. The supernatural element isn't really that spooky or tense or anything, it's just quirky and fun. The special effects are actually pretty solid. The race and crash sequences are fairly well done in a Saturday morning cartoon kinda way ([i]Pole Position[/i]). Sheen's lifeless performance is odd but Cassavetes and his henchmen are clearly enjoying themselves while they chew up the scenery. Whilst Randy Quaid as the local sheriff pretty much plays a character we've seen him do before. If you like comicbook type flicks then you'll like this. In fact it does feel like an update of a 30's pulp comic character, kinda. Highly enjoyable fast food trash. 7/10
    Phil H Super Reviewer
  • Jan 26, 2017
    The reason I decided to watch this movie was, when I watched the trailer, I thought that I hadn't actually seen it. Then again, the trailer I found, on this site here actually, was the first scene of the movie. It didn't actually show anything else. I'm 100% positive that I could have found an actual trailer for the film on YouTube, but I just didn't look for one. But, really, this is a movie about a guy who comes back form the dead, who has access to a supernatural car, to take revenge of those who murdered him. Of course I was gonna watch this sooner or later. So, color me surprised, that I actually have seen this movie before when I was much younger, I just didn't remember the movie's name. I don't wanna say I have fond memories of this movie, because I can't even remember if I liked it or not. But I do have very vivid memories of this and some of its scenes. It was almost as if I had watched it multiple times. I don't remember specific dialogue or anything like that, but some of the racing scenes are burned in my mind for some reason. And the scene where Gutterboy and Skank are killed in a huge explosion, I certainly remember that one as well. If there's any reason to watch this movie, it's really because it's about as campy as 80s movies get. Over-the-top villain, ridiculous acting, 80s hair metal soundtrack. What else can one ask for??? This film mixes elements of Knight Rider, Robocop and Mad Max to tell its ridiculous story and, for the most part, it's an entertaining watch. Though, you may ask yourself why I gave it an average rating if I was entertained by it. And to that I say that the film felt a little too one-dimensional for it to get a better rating. Not to mention the fact that the racing scenes were all the same, regardless of who was involved. Another thing is the fact that the movie says that Charlie Sheen is the star of the movie, but there's a big chunk of the film where he doesn't appear. Almost as if he wasn't even on set for one reason or another. If I were to quantify how much Charlie actually appeared on-screen, I'd say it was around 40% and maybe that's even too enthusiastic of a percentage. That's not really that much of a problem, because Charlie didn't actually add much anyway. He just didn't really seem to care, if you look at his performance. The only reason he was there was to make out with Sherilyn Fenn, who is absolutely gorgeous in this movie. Not the best actress here, but thankfully she improved later in her career. And that's another thing, the romance between Fenn and Sheen's character is so underdeveloped it's not even funny. The characters have literally nothing in common other than the fact that they find each other attractive. They don't spend any time getting to know each other, they just get right down to business. And I get that, you have a very limited time to tell your story, but at least make some sort of effort to tell a believable romance between then two. Then again, the movie is about a guy who comes back from the dead, in another body, to gain revenge on those who murdered him while using a supernatural vehicle. Realism CLEARLY wasn't an important part of the story. Like I said though, even with that, I found the movie to be just some good, campy fun even with its flaws. I don't really know what else to say about this that hasn't already been said. The acting is so-so, the characters are stereotypes, the action is repetitive, but there's a charm to this movie that can't be denied. And that makes it far more watchable. I wouldn't recommend it, but it's a campy good time if that's what you're looking for. This is an average movie at best.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Mar 03, 2012
    Gotta love 80's acting at its finest paired with radically rediculous explosions, pop hits and car chases.
    wicked A Super Reviewer
  • Aug 24, 2011
    The Wraith is a supernatural action horror film that is surprisingly good. The film has gotten many bad reviews, and is considered pretty bad. But The Wraith is actually enjoyable entertainment. A group of thugs murder a kid, and suddenly a new guy shows up in town. A short while after, a mysterious car appears and hunts down the gang members. The plot is simple, yet effective. The film blends elements of action and horror perfectly. There are some eerie parts in the film, nothing ever really scary, but a tad uncomforting. This is an entertaining film that is quite underrated and it doesn't deserve the flack it has received. Sure the film is pretty silly, but it has enough good elements to make it an enjoyable film. The fact that the director is able to combine action and supernatural horror into one film makes it watchable. The film isn't perfect, but it definitely is a film worth watching if you enjoy awesome car chases, horror and vengeance spirits returning to settle a few old scores. The films' acting is questionable, but this is a B movie, so what do you expect? The Wraith may not be the best supernatural horror flick around, but the fact that it combines action elements makes this an interesting film to watch. Add to that, a pretty good hard rock, pop and heavy metal soundtrack; and you have an entertaining film. A good addition to the supernatural horror genre.
    Alex r Super Reviewer

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