The Wraith 1986 Movie Scene A mysterious man in a cyberpunk suit and a helmet standing in front of a futuristic car that's actually Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor

The Wraith – A revenge love story with aliens and cool prototype cars

Do you like movies featuring cool prototype cars? I know, me too. Nothing like a sleek black supercar gliding across smooth asphalt. And how do you feel about a bit of romance? A bit of romance, revenge, resurrection, aliens, post-apocalyptic gangs, and a whole lot of racing? I know, me too. And exactly in that order. I think you already figured out that the movie we’re going to be talking about today is a bit weird. And that’s perfectly fine because we here at Rabbit Reviews love weird. I hope you do too because off we go!

The Wraith is an eighties science fiction fantasy action movie about a young man who comes back to life to avenge his own death and finish having sex with his girlfriend. Although you can’t tell that from an opening scene that looks like a car commercial. However, trust me when I tell you that you’re going to have a lot of fun with this movie. And I’m not talking just about the car. It’s got loads of other interesting moments, characters, and details. The car chase scenes look amazing and in the lead role, we have none other than Mr. Charlie Sheen.

Origin Story

It was the year of our lord Cthulhu 1986 and Mike Marvin just finished directing his masterpiece Hamburger: The Motion Picture. A perfectionist, he felt that he could do better and that same year wrote and directed the movie we’re talking about today. The Wraith was released in the US on November 21, 1986. Only 88 theaters had the pleasure of showing it, but The Wraith had other plans. Just a couple of months later, the video stores were looking for extra copies of the movie as it quickly became a hit. Everybody was talking about it and you were lame if you didn’t see it.

It’s got violence, humor, groovy cars, and a tasteful amount of nudity, what more to want from a movie? Perhaps a PG-13 sticker, you got it mate. Marvin cites Mad Max I and II along with High Plains Drifter as influences although I would throw in Starman and Star Wars as well. There’s also this weird connection to the 1974 movie The California Kid starring none other than Martin Sheen. The plot is awfully similar as Charlie Sheen’s dad also returns after being killed. He arrives in a hot-rodded black 1934 Ford three-window coupe to be more precise.

Moving on, the original title of The Wraith was Turbo Interceptor as they were trying to milk that car to the max. Speaking of titles, the movie was released in the Philippines as a sequel to the completely unrelated Black Moon Rising. Starring Tommy Lee Jones, that movie features another prototype car, Wingho Concordia II but that’s a story for another time. Right now, you can purchase The Wraith on Video Cassette, DVD, and Blu-Ray. Additionally, it’s available on Amazon Prime and Apple TV+. 

This is one of those movies you can watch almost every year, spreading the circle of friends who finally broke down and decided to check it out with you. It’s a great party movie although I did initially watch it alone. And I did enjoy every last bit of it. Shot in just 29 days, it also has a sad note to it. The Wraith is a movie dedicated to Bruce Ingram, a camera operator who died while filming one of the chase scenes. The car he was in was overloaded and this was the cause of the accident. I’d like to think that at least the movie he was working on brought a lot of joy to the people.

The Cast of The Wraith

Did you know that Charlie Sheen, who plays the lead role, shot all of his scenes in just one day? It’s a fun game to try and figure out how they went about achieving this. He was actually on his way to shoot Oliver Stone’s Platoon when he made a “pit stop” in Arizona. When the filming was over, Stone went to see Charlie’s strange new movie. He was completely terrified when he exited the cinema, afraid that the movie was going to tank the Platoon’s performance. Sheen here gives a disinterested and flat performance that’s still somehow serviceable.

Johnny Depp, who almost ended up in the movie, was hanging out with the rest of the cast almost daily. This brings us to Sheen’s love interest in the movie. So, if you’re wondering who’s that girl from The Wraith, it’s Sherilyn Fenn, best known for her performance in Twin Peaks. All of them lived in the same hotel during the production. Of course, you can’t have a good guy if you don’t have a bad guy. And oh boy do we have a bad guy here. Nick Cassavetes plays Packard, a badass gang leader with an impeccable style and a penchant for safe driving.

That’s why he only drag races while wearing a helmet. He went on to become a highly successful director making such classics as John Q, The Notebook, and Alpha Dog. It’s interesting to note that Nick is the son of John Cassavetes, a famous actor and director while Charlie is Martin Sheen’s son. To make things even more funnier we have Randy Quaid and Clint Howard, trying to emulate the success of their brothers Ron Howard and Dennis Quaid. I told you this movie was weird. 

The Wraith car is going to blow your mind!

The Wraith car is a dazzling Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor, a prototype sports car that could reach a top speed of 200 mph (322 km/h). The M4S stands for MidEngine, 4 cylinder, Sport. Speaking of engines, Turbo Interceptor has a Cosworth-headed 16-valve I4 cylinder twin-cam with dual Garrett T25 turbochargers. It could go from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 4.1 seconds. This is quite impressive considering that it has just a 2.2-liter 4-cylinder engine. The price tag was just as impressive, a mere $1.1 million.

Since this is a prototype car, only four were ever built and one of them ended up on a set of The Wraith. That’s the car you see during the close-up shots and some of the “safer scenes”. All the rest of the cars are not originals. There were actually six cars that looked almost like the original. The two of them stunt coordinators drove during the action scenes. They used dune buggies with a shell of Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor because it was easier and cheaper that way. And there were four replicas that had no engines or anything.

Their only purpose was to look pretty for the explosion scenes. However, if you’re a car enthusiast, the fun simply doesn’t end here. Mostly because we have a lot of cool cars appearing in the movie The Wraith. Packard drives a 1977 Chevrolet Corvette with a lot of modifications. I think that my favorite is Minty’s 1977 Pontiac Firebird with a highly visible (but apparently non-functional) supercharger AKA blower. If you want to see it in action, just check out Mad Max: Fury Road

If you’re more of a motorbike person, Charlie Sheen’s character drives a nice little 1984 Honda XL 350 R. It looks especially cool with Sharilyn Fenn riding on the back wearing a miniskirt. That’s not the only cool car she’ll be riding as Billy drives a vintage yellow 1975 Triumph Spitfire 1500. With the top open to let a cool nice Arizona breeze go through your hair, it’s a perfect fuckmobile. Well, apart from that Dodge Turbo Interceptor that stole the show here.

So, What’s The Movie Actually Like

With that out of the way, it’s time to really dig into this eighties oddity. The Wraith opens, as I’ve said, with a scene that looks like a car commercial. Four light orbs race each other across the Arizona desert before colliding and forming something extraordinary. After a lightning bolt strikes, to make sure that everything is cool, a unique car appears before our eyes. A car that you want to make love to, cherish, merry, and happily grow old next to. In front of the car, however, a man wearing a cyberpunk suit with braces all over his limbs appears. Each time he takes a life, one brace disappears. How did all of this happen and how it actually works, we’ll never know.

Some questions are better left unanswered. After all, we don’t have time for that as a young couple driving another sleek-looking car is about to be ambushed. You see, Packard and his gang are stopping anyone who drives down this section of the road before making them race for their car. And make no mistake, the race is rigged, so they’re basically giving people time to come to terms with the loss of their car. Packard is a stickler for rules and he’s not just going to straight-up steal your car from you. The Wraith features everything you would want from a cheesy and yet also fascinating eighties B movie. And we will now go over all the things I loved about it starting with its main attraction.

Excellent Chase Scenes

Do you know that almost a third of this movie consists of chase scenes? And I’m not talking about that bitchass Fast and Furious CGI fake shit. I’m talking about good old eighties stunt work that looks dangerous and awesome at the same time. Most of the chases will be straight-up one-on-one drag races through the winding Arizona roads. And all of them will end in the same way, with a big bang. No seriously, our homeboy Wraith will park his Dodge Turbo Interceptor in the middle of a road and just wait for the sucker he’s racing to run into him.

After a huge explosion, during which he will suck the life out of the said sucker through his eyes, the car will simply reassemble itself and drive on. Not even the completely real and functional “digital radio killer” that remotely fries the car’s “electrical system” can stop it. I think we’ve already established that you shouldn’t ask too many questions so I’ll skip my theories on why this is happening. Although you have to ask what kind of an electrical system does a car from the early eighties have?

The Wraith Features True Americana Filming Locations

The Wraith filming locations might actually surprise you as the movie was shot in and around Tucson, Arizona. Brooks is a fictional town and all the city scenes were filmed in Tucson. However, that’s not the only cool place we’ll be visiting. One of the more visually impactful scenes is the one where Sherriff Loomis visits Skank and Gutterboy at a huge airplane graveyard. That airplane graveyard is actually a fully functional Davis–Monthan Air Force Base that’s still operational. I don’t know what was it with the eighties and these airplane graveyards. It seems like we end up there in every other movie. The beach scenes were filmed in the Sabino Canyon, off North Upper Sabino Canyon Road.

You can actually go on a hike there and refresh yourself in the cold waters of Sabino Creek. You should know that there’s also a pretty cool Sabino Dam nearby. It features a waterfall and a whole lot of other activities. The first words out of Charlie Sheen’s mouth were actually: “Is this the road to Crawford Dam?” Finally, if you’re wondering what’s the location where all those drag races in the movie The Wraith took place, you’re about to find out. North of Tucson is a Mount Lemmon Highway continuing into General Hitchcock and Catalina areas and this is where they were racing. The entire area is full of natural stone monoliths giving it an otherworldly look.

Memorable Villains

While Packard definitely stole the show as the gang leader, who can forget such cool characters as Skank and Gutterboy? Both of them are literal grease monkeys who drink antifreeze, oil, and other car-related liquids to get high. Their over-the-top performances were obviously there as comic relief, to take the edge off Packard’s meanness. Apart from them, we also have Clint Howard as Rughead, whose appearance is actually a tribute to David Lynch. His movie Eraserhead features a character with an almost identical haircut. It’s so funny to think that in just twenty years attractive girls will be starting drag races while the eighties had Rughead. And I wouldn’t change him for anyone.

Too bad Packard was such a monumental asshole that we didn’t get the chance to better meet the rest of the gang members. And yet his character is quite fascinating. First of all, I thought that he and his “girlfriend” Keri, played by Sherilyn Fenn, had sex but nope, they didn’t. Poor homeboy has to resort to desperate teenage antics like cutting himself to make a blood pact or something in order to get laid. I’m sure that blood-brother pacts turn girls on. Towards the end of the movie, he was just about to do it but then Sherriff Loomis appears and fucks up everything. Not to mention the fact that he looks much older than everybody else.

The Glorious Eighties Fashion

Do you know an image of a guy wearing white shoes, knitted red socks, and beige pants still occasionally pops into my head? I have no control over this event as The Wraith apparently broke me. We can talk all we want about style and fashion but nothing comes even close to Packard and his looks. First of all, notice the bright white necklace that goes perfectly well with his cool leather jacket. His additional Tiger tooth necklace makes this combo just shine.

Of course, you need to have a bunch of turquoise rings because that makes it even more cool. And if you have a matching turquoise watch, well, then you’re the real deal. In fact, that turquoise watch is so good that even the sheriff of this little town has it! The rest of the gang is just as immaculate. First, we have Oggie wearing a stylish Leopard bandana, a white crop top, a Hawaiian shirt, and on top of it all a trench coat just for shits and giggles.

Next up is Gutterboy, who’s obviously the poorest of them all but he doesn’t let that prevent him from looking like he just crawled out of the gutter. Rughead is the brains of the operation and he makes that known by sporting a bizarre haircut. Finally, the best of them all is Skank, a man who will change his make-up more times than any other actor or actress on the set of this movie. And he’ll also test out at least three different hairstyles.

The Bitchin’ Eighties Soundtrack

It simply doesn’t get any better than this. We first open with Ozzy Osbourne’s Secret Loser, one of his more underrated songs before moving on to the heavy stuff. Mötley Crüe’s Smokin’ in the Boys Room and Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell might be the two of the most popular songs on The Wraith soundtrack. Okay, okay, I’ll include Robert Palmer and his immortal masterpiece Addicted to Love on that list as well. You have to have some romance after all. And yet there’s one song that’s going to stay with you long after the movie is over. It’s a song that perfectly captures every aspect of The Wraith and its title is Where’s the Fire by Tim Feehan. It’s an eighties theme song through and through.

The snare drums will tickle your balls and the keyboard will tickle your heart. As soon as it starts you feel compelled to start moving your hips. Your hands are already reaching for a beer and a cigarette while your mind is thinking about that baggie of coke you’ve got in your pocket. Power rockers Lion have two pretty groovy tracks, Power Love and Never Surrender. I don’t want to bother you with every single song so I’ll stop here. You can find the entire soundtrack online and I highly recommend it if you’re feeling nostalgic not just about the movie but also about the eighties. It just puts me in a good mood and that’s a fact.

What the hell happened in the end?

Just like the rest of this awesome movie, the ending is as ambiguous and mysterious as they come. The Wraith ends with the hero of our story Jake AKA Jamie AKA The Wraith finally killing the last member of the Packard’s gang, the big man himself. If you look at that final explosion carefully you’ll see a fire tornado. The last brace disappears from his suit and he’s ready to continue where he left off. Remember, Packard killed him just as he was about to climax while having sex with Keri. He reveals to her his true identity and tells her that he just has one more thing to do before they hook up again. To be precise he says: It’s a short trip, pack light.

Is he talking about a short trip that he’s about to make as he plans to see his brother? But why would he then say to her to pack light? Moving on, he tells his brother that he’s got a present for him and that the present is the car itself. Yes, Billy will get the Turbo Interceptor although I’m not sure how that works seeing as the car and Jake, I mean Jamie, are supposedly one thing. Moving on, Charlie Sheen just leaves his brother wondering what the hell is going on while he leaves on that sweet Honda motorbike. He picks up Keri and the two of them ride into the moonset. The End.

The Wraith – An Eighties Gem You’ll Keep Coming Back To

Imbued with the spirit of the eighties, The Wraith will find a special place in your heart. It’s full of memorable scenes, great songs, and soon-to-be familiar locations. I mean, after the third time, you’ll feel like you’ve eaten at Big Kay’s Burger at least a dozen times. The stony creek full of youngsters enjoying a sunny day will make you think of your youth and such shenanigans. It’s funny to think that this movie was shot in the middle of winter, during January and February. So, it was really cold on the set and that water must have been freezing.

There you go, just another tidbit that makes this movie even more interesting. We also glossed over all the teen romance in the movie. A tragic teen romance, something that The Crow will take to new heights just several years later. The Wraith also features an awesome garage scene where Charlie Sheen appears wearing his futuristic suit and wielding a futuristic shotgun. A futuristic shotgun that’s actually a Franchi SPAS-12 shotgun, a strange weapon that can work both as a pump and semi-automatic shotgun.

1986 was a big year for movies featuring a lot of driving and chase scenes. Apart from the above-mentioned Black Moon Rising, we had the pleasure of watching Maximum Overdrive and The Hitcher. If you want to learn more about the car, you can start with this WikiPage. Now here’s a recent development you might have missed: somebody actually bought this car! Yes, you can check out this The Wraith Interceptor! POV Ownership Impressions right now!

Mike Marvin wrote not one but two sequels to the movie The Wraith. Instead of selling the rights, he’s still hoping he’ll be able to make them happen. We have faith in you Marvin, you can do it! I bet you could get all the cast members to come back as well.