The Wraith is an absolutely ridiculous movie. It makes no sense, but it’s actually pretty entertaining. It also has one of the most “80s” soundtracks ever.
The director, Mike Marvin, made Hamburger: The Motion Picture the same year, and is surprisingly still active. It’s also hard to believe Charlie Sheen made this the same year as Platoon! Apparently Oliver Stone was super concerned about the two films coming out so close to each other, thinking that if critics saw this first they would be unfairly harsh on his film and specifically Sheen’s performance!
The story is set in a small town in Arizona. Some kind of man-spirit comes out of the sky and apparently metamorphosis into the driver of a sports car. Is it a supernatural thing or an alien thing? It’s never clear. A mysterious man, Jake Kesey (Charlie Sheen), may or not be the same person as Keri Johnson (Sherilyn Fenn)’s dead boyfriend, in which case he’s back from the dead. Or maybe not. A whole lot of road-racing ensues as Kesey comes up against a violent gang of racers that has been terrorising the town. Dressed in a leather jumpsuit, the mystery driver encourages the gang members to get into dangerous races where they end up dying in a string of crashes trying to outrun his all-black Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor. Sheen’s character ends up wooing Fenn, who is in one of her first film roles here, while Randy Quaid appears as the sheriff who’s giving the kids a hard time. Clint Howard plays a teenager despite looking about 40 (he was 28 but was balding by his late teens) and Nick Cassavetes appears in one of his first film parts.
The film actually weirdly has some parallels to Under the Skin—but you couldn’t have two more different films. In the Philippines it was, weirdly enough, sold as a sequel to Black Moon Rising, a film that it is not remotely related to. I guess the cars look a bit alike.
The soundtrack includes big names like Ozzy Osbourne, Mötley Crüe, Robert Palmer and Billy Idol, all played at super loud volume. It’s almost like a teen Mad Max movie, which is what the director was aiming for (and no doubt pitched), but it lacks the dystopian aspect. They also missed a trick because they didn’t come up with a role for Johnny Depp although he was considered for many, he was on set for most of the shoot due to his relationship with Fenn.
It’s definitely not a great movie, but it’s still an entertaining if wacky mess. You will easily see why Marvin has not had a hugely successful film career, but it will be a fun watch nevertheless.
The disc comes with quite set of extras, including a new commentary with actors Dave Sherrill and Jamie Bozian, and a 2009 commentary with Marvin (who also wrote the screenplay). The isolated score is included, plus a new audio interview with composer J. Peter Robinson. Also on the disc are several short featurette on the film’s locations, interviews with Marvin, Clint Howard, the car coordinator and stunt coordinator and effects producer, as well as an alternate title sequence, theatrical trailer, TV spots and stills gallery.