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Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Wraith

Well, here we go again! This week, we have a pre-"Winning!" Charlie Sheen as a mysterious drag racer with a score to settle. Buckle up, adjust your seats, and let's get revved up for The Wraith! SPOILERS around the curve....

Okay, so the movie opens up with a bunch of lights streaking across the desert horizon at night. They're moving at such a high speed that we see them slice through cacti and melt street signs as they pass through them. As the strange beams collide at one central point in the desert, a bright light flashes, and a black sports car appears out of thin air. A driver, clad in black leather and wearing a helmet to cover his face, manifests next to the car.

Then we get a cheesy 1980s rock song, along with the credits. Wow, this thing has a pretty decent cast! Besides Sheen, there's Sherilyn Fenn, Randy Quaid, and my favorite target of mockery, Clint "How the Hell did I wind up being the uglier brother?" Howard. This could actually be a moderately fun movie to watch!

Now we switch perspectives, as we meet a young couple driving down the dark road. A handful of other cars pull in behind them, and the boyfriend, George, seems pretty rattled by their sudden appearance. His girlfriend screams when he hits a bump, and they skid to a halt in front of a barrier in the road.

The "barrier" was more vehicles. Yikes! A thug with long hair slowly approaches George, and one of his cronies identifies him only as "Packard". Nice name. Packard and his gang intimidate the couple, insisting that George must race his vehicle against Packard's before he can leave. Oh, and if he loses the race, Packard's gang will take the car. If George attempts to drive away before the race is complete, Packard promises to assault the girlfriend.

Clint Howard's character, Rughead(swear to God, look it up at the IMDB....), explains the rules to the racers, and off they go. This time, the song in the background is sung by Ozzy! The cars swerve around each other on the road, and Packard forces George's car into a guardrail. As George tries to catch his breath, Packard indicates that he better finish the race...or else!

At the end of the race, George angrily tells Packard that if he had raced fairly, then George would have won. Packard just responds that he and the girlfriend are lucky not to be hurt, then orders them to walk back to town. He pulls out a switchblade to put an end to the argument.

The next day, a stranger named Jake roars into town on a motorcycle. He quickly meets local hottie Keri, who offers to show him to the local dam, which is apparently a good thing. Unfortunately for them, Packard pulls up. Jake rides away, while Keri answers Packard's's questions about the stranger. Packard seems to think that he somehow knows the guy, but he isn't sure.

Packard drives Keri to the damned dam, where the local teens apparently like to sit around and get tans, and warns Keri that she "belongs" to him. Jake is already there, and another kid sees a series of long scars on his back. The kid introduces himself as Billy, and he notices that Jake seems quite interested in Keri.

Billy admits that he also finds Keri to be quite beautiful, then mentions that she used to date Jamie, Billy's brother. But then Jamie was murdered, and Packard put the moves on Keri. Both Keri and Packard notice that Jake is watching her, and Packard seems to recognize him again.

Then we get a flashback: Keri and Jamie are being intimate, when Packard's gang breaks in on the couple. They murder Jamie, while making Keri watch. The scars on Jake/Jamie are from the weapon that Packard used. Okay, sure, but why did he come back looking like Charlie Sheen???

Anyway, end of flashback. Now we meet a tougher-looking punk by the name of Skank. Packard gets up to have a chat with Skank and his sidekick Gutterboy, and Skank laughingly says that the hangout is a prime location for "duckbutter". Charming. Something tells me that I wouldn't want to smear that on a bagel...

Packard(or "Pack", as Skank refers to him) asks the punks to do a little bit of surveillance on Jake. If he tries to approach Keri, Pack wants to be informed. When Skank hesitates, Pack threatens him with the knife.

Keri and Jake find a pair of inflatable rafts, and decide to float together in the cold water. Keri apologizes for the way Pack drove him off, but Jake doesn't seem to mind. Pack does though, and he yells at her to get back on dry land. Before she drifts back to the sand, she suggests that Jake could meet up with her at the burger joint where she works.

At "Big Kay's Burgers", they're actually playing a good song: Addicted to Love, by Robert Palmer. See? A movie with that song on the soundtrack can't be all bad. The waitresses are all on rollerskates, and they seem to like the song as much as I do. They're all also wearing outfits that would make a Hooter's girl blush, which is not so bad either.

Billy is busy grilling up burgers and hot dogs, and he seems to be getting swamped with orders. At some point, he and Keri slip out the back, but Pack's gang of hot rodders block their exit. While Pack orders Keri to get into his car, Rughead is seen getting jittery in the background. His hair is a mile high, it's like he's channeling Eraserhead or something. Just think: this movie is old enough to exist in a time when Clint Howard(and Ron, too) had lots and lots of hair. Amazing.

Skank's buddy Oggie threatens Billy, but Pack puts an end to it. When he asks Billy where he and Keri were going, and Billy insists that he was just driving her home. When Pack threatens to take Billy's car in a drag race, Jake shows up in his supernatural vehicle.

They all decide to forget about Billy's car, and take Jake's instead. Good idea, but he races away in a cloud of dust. They all chase after him, even Billy, and find the car a short distance down the road.

As usual, Rughead is the official referee. He explains the rules once again, and Jake revs his engine in agreement with the terms of the competition. Pack decides to take part in the race as well, and it begins.

They travel at excessive speeds, threatening more than once to collide into each other. The curves in the road make driving that much more challenging, and both drivers seem to struggle to keep on the road. Then Jake's car pulls waaaay ahead, drawing the attention of a couple of cops.

With the cops now on his tail, Oggie increases his speed. Too late to stop, he sees the black car blocking the road ahead of him, and he swerves to avoid it. Oggie crashes into the other car, seems to pass right through it, then his own car rockets down an embankment and explodes.

The burning wreckage is so fierce, it can probably be seen from space. As the smoke from the car wreck gets thicker, Jake's car reappears on the road again, then drives away. Then the cops arrive on the scene and call for paramedics. When one cop asks if the victim is a local kid, another one replies, "Used to be..." Heh.

A homicide detective named Loomis is called to investigate the accident. I wonder if he had an older brother who lived in Haddonfield? Anyway, he confronts Packard and his group with angry accusations, while Jake watches from a cliff high above the scene.

Loomis tries to get the group to tell him who the other driver was, but no one will admit to anything. A paramedic finds an interesting sight though...Oggie's eyes look they were burned out of their sockets, but his corpse has no other damage from the explosion.

Loomis promises the teens that he'll be issuing arrest warrants to question them further, and leaves the scene as swiftly as he arrived. Jake remains at his vantage point, but a metal brace on his right arm suddenly glows, then vanishes. Packard asks Rughead to make some alterations to the engine of his car, then he finds Keri crying.

He brings out the switchblade yet again, and asks Keri why she was in Billy's car. When she tells him that Billy was just taking her home early, he squeezes his hand around the blade until he bleeds, then licks some of the blood off of his other hand. It'll make a cute story to tell their grandkids someday.

Pack and his, uh, pack head back to their garage to work on those engine mods. As they work on various parts, Jake arrives with a funky-looking shotgun. Rughead sees part of his face behind the visor and freaks out, then Jake starts shooting at the various cars.

He makes his way through the room, firing rounds at each vehicle he passes, and generally causing a lot of chaos. When he reaches Pack, he aims the barrel right at the gang leader's forehead, then decides to shoot past him instead. A series of small fires start, but the assailant vanishes before their eyes.

Loomis drives out to an airplane graveyard, to see a guy named Redd. He asks to speak to Skank and Gutterboy, and Redd happily obliges. When Skank sees the cop, he asks to see a warrant.

While Loomis interviews the thugs, we discover that Skank's real name is Maurice. I'll bet some people call him the space cowboy, while some call him the gangster of love. When Loomis leaves, Skank takes a swig from a bottle labelled as "Hydraulic Fluid". That explains a lot about his character.

Loomis grabs lunch at the burger joint, where he sees Pack pull into the parking lot. He calls in for back-up, then we see Pack and his group discuss the mystery driver. Despite a day of searching, none of them know where he keeps his car. After shouting over to Keri that he'll return to pick her up, Pack finds a note on his steering wheel. Jake wants to have a meeting.

The hot rodders all follow their leader, and Loomis does likewise. They all get to the rendezvous point, as do a few police vehicles, and Jake arrives right on their heels. Skank wants to challenge Jake in a race this time, and Jughead...uh, I mean "Rughead"...insists on looking under Jake's hood before the race. The engine glows with little bolts of electricity surging throughout, and Rughead looks perplexed.

As the race begins, 2 squad cars arrive. A chase ensues, and we discover that Skank wears fuzzy pink socks. I shit you not. The 80s was a very strange decade, it would seem, a time of muscle cars and pink socks.

Jake pulls ahead, and blocks the road again. This guy only knows one move. Skank's car flips over, and we get a second fireball. Also, another metal piece aqppears at the crash site, glows, then goes away just as quickly as it appeared.

The cop cars are still in hot pursuit, and they're chasing the black car right into a roadblock. When Jake stops, the officers behind the barricade lift up their guns. Loomis tells everyone to wait until Jake makes a move.

The car barrels through the police cars like they're made of tissue paper. Loomis and the remaining vehicles resume the chase, but he has a good head start. There's a boom of thunder, a bright light, and the car vanishes from sight. The cops pull over and just gape at the scene, and the light eventually fades away.

After work that night, Keri sees a streak of light move across the sky, which she assumes to be a falling star. She decides to walk home, and Jake pulls up on his motorcycle. Skank's pal Gutterboy spots them, and another chase begins. Rinse, lather, repeat. I never thought I'd miss a good ol' fashioned foot chase, but there you have it. On the other hand, they could do a decent remake of this, if they added some gore and made the car sequences like the ones in the Fast and Furious franchise. Say that last part 10 times fast!

Skank and Gutterboy swerve into several bins of trash, and Gutterboy turns into a crybaby. Skank orders him to load a shotgun, and they head through a tunnel. On the other side, Gutterboy accidentally shoots out Skank's steering column, and the car veers out of control. It flips over, but doesn't blow up. Wow, some variety. Skank and Gutterboy agree not to tell Packard that they let Jake get away with Keri.

Jake gets Keri to her house in one piece, and they share a kiss. Pack is watching from down the street, and he looks pretty pissed off. Then Jake tells Keri that guys like Packard prey on weakness, and that you have to stand up to them. They make a date for the following night, then Keri goes into her house.

As Jake rides down the street, Pack follows from a distance. He sees the bike turns into a spark of red light and fly away, and watches in stunned silence. Then he tracks down Skank and Gutterboy, and asks why they weren't following Keri. Before they can respond, Jake shows up in the black car, and rams into Pack's rear bumper. The impact is hard enough  to send him sailing through several yards, before he crashes at a graveyard.

Jake looms in front of his car, and he and Pack stare each other down. Then the 2 punks show up, and Packard orders them to shoot Jake until he's dead. The gun's barrel explodes, sending them sailing to the ground a few feet away. Jake is unharmed.

Jake is also gone, and Packard approaches the spot where he was standing. He sees that the headstone has his own name on it, and he freaks out. He and the punks beat a hasty retreat.

Back at the garage, Pack is busy screwing some blond girl. Loomis bursts in with a warrant, and Packard is placed under arrest. Before he leaves, Loomis throws some clothes at the naked girl.

Jake picks up Keri for their date, and they go to a secluded body of water. Keri tells him that she had a dream about Jamie last night evening, and that Jake reminds her of her dead lover. Then he has a memory of their last night together before he died, and they end up having cold dam sex. Or is that "dam cold sex"? Either way, they're at the dam, it's cold, and they're screwing. If you ever wanted to see Sherilyn Fenn do a nude scene in her prime, this is pretty much it.

At the Sheriff's office, Loomis has Pack and his buddies hanging out. Loomis cuts out a bunch of paper dolls and decapitates them with his scissors, while he tells Pack and his gang that they're going to die either at the hands of the vigilante biker, or in prison. The others start to cry and moan, but Pack just stares at the cop. Then we see Jake bring Keri home, where they kiss and plan to go out again.

When Packard and his crew are finally allowed to leave the sheriff's office, they return to the garage. Pack leaves to find Keri, and they guys grumble about her when Pack isn't around to hear it. Oh, and Rughead tells the other guys that he's leaving town, before the mysterious driver kills him too. They care about as much as I do. But before he leaves, he explains what a wraith is.

Rughead sees the black car almost as soon as he leaves the garage in his pickup. Jake hurtles into the garage at breakneck speed, ramming into the 2 punks so hard that the building blows to smithereens. Well, at least that murder was slightly different!

Rughead watches as the explosion forms a mushroom cloud, and a lone tire rolls out. The killer car drives out of the smoke, but passes him. Damn, I was kind of hoping his death was a sure thing.

The cops arrive, and Rughead tells Loomis that he saw the whole thing. Then he also relates the story about the night that Jamie was murdered, and his belief that Jamie is back as a wraith, a sort of vengeance demon, in Buffyspeak. Rughead starts to cry, and Loomis takes pity on the kid, telling him to go home and hide until the killer is caught. Another weird piece of metal glows and vanishes at the garage.

Back in the restaurant, Loomis decides to ask Billy some more questions about his deceased brother. During the scene, watch Randy Quaid fix himself a cup of's a damned riot. He pours about half a container of sugar into the cup. He also learns that the night Jamie was murdered, Keri was found in a different location, wrapped in a blanket and suffering from memory loss.

Keri goes to work with Jake, and tells him that she's not sure that she can confront Pack on her own. Then Jake tells her that Pack knows who he is, and that his time to confront the killer and set things right is nearly over. She STILL doesn't get all the hints and foreshadowing!

Packard sees them together, and waits for Jake to leave before he makes his presence known. Then he tries to literally carry Keri(heh) away over his shoulder, in spite of a crowd of witnesses being there. Billy hears the commotion and tries to stop Pack, but gets himself beaten up for his troubles.

Pack tells Keri that he's taking her to California, and she finally tells him off. He gets sick of her insults, so he pulls the car over to the side of the road, then threatens to kill her. She calls his bluff, and he realizes that he's no longer as intimidating as he once was. Then the black car shows up.

Packard vows to finish what he started with Keri, then he's off to engage in his final race. Pack starts out strong, but Jake's supernatural vehicle is too much for him. They both keep passing each other, until Jake's car suddenly lurches forward with surprising speed.

The local cops soon get involved, and Loomis wants in on the action. A truck hauling cars appears up ahead, and the racers cause a crash that slows down the police officers. Well, all but 2 of them, at least.

With their speed soon becoming dangerous on a ludicrously insane level, Pack spots the leather-clad biker on the road in his path. He hits the figure, and his car, as you probably already guessed, explodes. Keri hears the blast from wherever the hell she is, but sees nothing.

One final metal brace appears, then the cops get to the scene. Packard's body is hanging half out of the frame of his car, but he appears unscorched, like the others. Another cop points out that there's no second body, and wants to set up another roadblock. Loomis refuses, telling him that the vendetta is over now that Packard is dead, and there won't be any other weird vehicle deaths.

Jake meets Keri in front of her home, and she watches as he transforms from the leather driver back into Jake. She finally knows his true name, and they embrace. Then he promises to come back to be with her, and drives away.

He meets up with Billy one last time, and gives him the magic car. As Jake rides into the night on his motorcycle, Billy suddenly knows the truth and begins to cry and call out to his brother. Then Loomis sees Keri hop onto Jake's motorcycle, and does nothing to stop them. THE END

This was an odd choice. It was cheesy, yet somehow very easy to sit through. And Sherilyn Fenn. And Clint Howard in all of his Clint Hardling glory. I think this might be THE most 80s movie I've ever seen. It's some kind of genius-level cheese at work here. My brain could actually explode after this. This may just be the drugs and porn talking, but I'm giving this one a rare SIX out of 5.

And what did The Wraith teach me?

-Well, on the day I decide to stop doing this, I'll need some serious counseling.

-Angels and devils drive cars and bikes from the future. That glow and sparkle.

-Kids in the desert have no parents, and just raise themselves.

Next up is Miner's Massacre. Sounds a little more traditional than this one was. See you next week!