1986 was not a good year for me. In January my classmates and I saw the Challenger explode on live tv. That March, I was suspended and nearly expelled from school for a stupid thing I did. Then in July, my cousin (and best friend growing up) was in a horrific car accident from which she never recovered, and she died in September while undergoing another surgery.
Her death was a loss that shook me to my core, and as an 8-year-old, had a hard time dealing with. By the time November 1986 rolled around, I was just ready for this awful year to be over. Since I was still dealing with my cousin’s passing, my family did their best to get me out of the house and back to doing normal kids stuff. One day, one of my other cousin’s said he’d take me and my neighbor to the movies. He even said my friend and I could choose the movie, so off we went to see the acion film, “The Wraith.”
Truth is, neither my friend nor I knew anything about this movie. Our sole reason for going to see “The Wraith” was because we saw the above image on a billboard. The image of a guy in a futuristic suit and a sleek-looking car was more than enough for us to try this flick. My cousin didn’t know much about the flick either, and today most people have forgotten about it. For a quick refresher course, the movie plot goes someting like this:
Packard Walsh (Nick Cassavetes) and his motorized gang control and terrorize a small Arizona desert town where they force drivers to drag-race so they can win their cars. But the gang isn’t above escalating their criminal activities. At one point, Walsh beats a teenager named Jamie Hankins to death.
But death is just a step as a mysterious power creates Jake Kesey (Charlie Sheen) from Jamie’s remains. This power also arms Jake with a car that is all but invincible. Jake then befriends Jamie’s girlfriend Keri Johnson (Sherilyn Fenn), and manages to do what Sheriff Loomis (Randy Quaid) couldn’t; eliminate Packard’s criminal gang for good.
Anyways, the three of us go to see the movie and let me tell you, we laughed our heads off. “The Wraith” was just so damn awful. The plot is razor thin, while the acting is either wooden or way over the top. The Wraith’s car was a let down, as was the Wraith himself. Basically, this movie didn’t know whether it wanted to be an action, horror, thriller, sci-fi, or a romance movie.
Charlie Sheen plays the part a little too cold. I know he’s supposed to be resurrected or whatever, but it should okay for him to show some emotion here and there. Meanwhile, the villain played by Nick Cassavetes is just soooo 1980’s, you can’t help but laugh at his shenanigans. I don’t even remember what his plan or motivation in the film was.
The supporting cast includes Randy Quaid as Sheriff Loomis. Too bad he wasn’t crazy back then, because that would have made the character more enjoyable. But the funniest role in “The Wraith” came courtesy of Clint Howard who plays Rug head. His hair alone deserved a supporting actor nomination. Whenever he shows up onscreen, it’s all you focus on.
The saving grace in the cast was the lovely Sherilyn Fenn who was just drop dead gorgeous in this movie. To me she was the most believable character int he film, and one of her scenes made my cousin and I laugh out loud. This wasn’t due to Fenn’s acting, it was because during a scene where she goes topless, my friend shouted out loud “Boobs!”
Hey, don’t judge. We were both eight, and I don’t think either of us were expecting them to make an appearance in this stupid little movie.
We went into the theatre thinking “The Wraith” would be like a superhero movie. Well, the movie is many things, but a superhero actioner it is not. This could have been a decent action movie, it could have been Fast & Furious for the 80’s, but I think the filmmakers focused on the wrong stuff. However, I will always be thankfull I saw this movie in 1986.
Seeing “The Wraith” that November day caused me to laugh again for the first time in a long time. Leaving the theatre I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I knew that I would be okay. I guess you could say this was the movie I needed at the time.