The Wraith

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For other uses of the term Wraith and The Wraith, see Wraith (disambiguation).
The Wraith
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mike Marvin
Produced by John Kemeny
Written by Mike Marvin
Starring Charles "Charlie" Sheen
Sherilyn Fenn
Nick Cassavetes
Randy Quaid
Music by Michael Hoenig
J. Peter Robinson
Cinematography Reed Smoot
Edited by Scott Conrad
Gary Rocklen
Distributed by New Century Vista Film Company
Release dates November 21, 1986
Running time 93 min.
Country  United States
Language English
Budget $2,700,000
Box office $3,500,000

The Wraith is an independently made 1986 action/supernatural film produced by John Kemeny, written and directed by Mike Marvin, and starring Charles "Charlie" Sheen, Sherilyn Fenn, Nick Cassavetes, and Randy Quaid.[1] The film was released theatrically on 288 screens in the U.S. by New Century Vista Film Company (later New Century Entertainment Corporation).

The Wraith tells the story of a murdered Arizona teen who mysteriously returns from the dead as an all-powerful drag racing wraith intent on taking revenge on a gang of car thieves and its leader, who murdered the teen so the leader could then take control of the teen's girlfriend.


Bright lights descend from the night sky, tracing routes over four desert highways, eventually converging on an isolated crossroads. Lightening flashes and blue smoke are the result of their high speed collision, revealing a sleek, all black Turbo Interceptor, driven by a black-clad and helmeted figure.

Packard Walsh (Nick Cassavetes) is the leader of a gang of car thieves in Brooks, Arizona that coerce people with sporty cars into racing for pink slips, cheating them in order to win; he terrorizes and controls everyone through fear and intimidation, including his object of obsession Keri Johnson (Sherilyn Fenn), whom he views as his property. Keri's boyfriend James "Jamie" Hankins (Christopher Bradley) was mysteriously murdered, leaving no trace, while Keri was hospitalized with no memory of what happened.

Jacob "Jake" Kesey (Charlie Sheen) arrives in Brooks riding a Honda XL350R Enduro dirt bike. He stops and asks Keri Johnson for directions; for reasons Keri doesn't yet understand she is attracted to the stranger. Jake soon befriends both Keri and Jamie's brother William "Billy" Hankins (Matthew Barry), who works at Big Kay's, the local burger drive-in; they later meet up at a sun-and-swim gathering on a local river (while there, Jake is seen to have multiple scars on his neck and back).

Packard's control of the illegal races is suddenly over when a Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor and its phantom driver (referred to as "The Wraith") suddenly appear out of nowhere. The mysterious driver of this supercar is covered head-to-toe in futuristic black body armor and a black race helmet. The armor is adorned with bright metal braces resembling those worn by victims recovering from severe physical trauma. The car and driver challenges Packard's gang to race, explosively killing them one at a time in high-speed, fiery crashes, which leaves their bodies untouched except for burned out eye sockets: First to race is Oggie Fisher (Griffin O'Neal) and later Minty (Chris Nash). Skank (David Sherrill) and Gutterboy (Jamie Bozian) are obliterated when the Wraith drives the supercar at high speed into the gang's isolated warehouse garage, causing a huge explosion. Sheriff Loomis (Randy Quaid) and his lawmen are always close behind and in hot pursuit during each deadly encounter, but the sleek Turbo Interceptor and its phantom driver vanish in an electric cloud of glowing light streaks after the violent death of each gang member.

With Packard's gang having been destroyed by the Wraith, Rughead (Clint Howard), the gang's tech-geek, who alone among them did not participate in the murder of Jamie, realizes that his gang was targeted because of the murder. After Rughead talks over all the recent strange events with Sheriff Loomis, the Sheriff learns that Packard murdered Jamie Hankins, Keri's boyfriend; Packard wanted Keri strictly for himself. Loomis cannot arrest him because of the absence of Jamie's body.

Keri becomes suspicious of who Jake actually is, and after she confronts him he tells her to ask Packard, explaining that he knows why Jake is here; Jake also tells Keri he has come a long way for her and that "my time is just about over."

Packard, now the sole survivor of his gang, forces Keri at Big Kay's to leave town with him. When Billy attempts to intervene, Packard savagely beats him and then kidnaps Keri, telling her they are going to California. When she confronts him about murdering Jamie, he admits to the killing and stops his Corvette and pulls out a switchblade, just as the Turbo Interceptor pulls up. Packard challenges its phantom driver to a final road race. Sheriff Loomis and his lawmen are again in hot pursuit, but the racers are soon far ahead; the supercar suddenly reverses its direction, and Packard dies in the fiery head-on collision and explosion that follows. His body is left intact just like his dead gang members. With this destructive outcome, a frustrated Sheriff Loomis is forced to abandon his investigation. He observes "You can't stop something that can't be stopped," which leaves him with no rational answers for these violent events.

As Keri arrives home that night, the Turbo Interceptor pulls up, and the all-black-armored driver emerges; enveloped within flashing bolts of bright light, the figure then transforms into Jake. Keri realizes that Jake is actually a returned version of her dead boyfriend Jamie, who says "this is as close I could come to who I once was." He then asks her to wait for him because he has one last thing to do...

Jake drives the Turbo Interceptor to Big Kay's, startling his brother Billy. Jake hands over the keys to the supercar, noting '"It's the only one in existence; it does very special things." He then tells Billy that his work here is finished. Billy asks, "Who are you, bro?" To this, Jake wryly replies, "You said it, Billy. The instructions are in the glove compartment." As Jake rides off on his dirt bike, Billy comes to the grief-stricken realization that Jake is somehow his returned older brother Jamie.

Jake picks up Keri, who has been watched from a distance by Sheriff Loomis, and together they ride off into the night, leaving the desert city and the past behind them forever.



The Wraith is dedicated to the memory of Bruce Ingram, a camera operator who died during the filming of one of the car chases; another crew member was seriously injured. According to supplementary material on the DVD, the camera car was overloaded and overturned while traveling at high speed.[1]

Following its theatrical run, the film was featured on television in an episode of Cinema Insomnia.[2]

Turbo interceptor[edit]

The Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor seen in the film was a pace car built by Chrysler Corporation and PPG Industries. 6 copies were made for use in the film: 2 stunt cars made from molds of the original car and 4 non-drivable "dummies" that were destroyed during filming. During production, the real Dodge Turbo Interceptor was used in close-ups. That original is located at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, MI.

Other cars used[edit]

Packard Walsh drives a late-1970s Chevrolet Corvette with a custom paint job and nose clip; Oggie drove a 1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z; Minty drives a 1977 Pontiac Firebird with a highly-visible (but apparently non-functional) supercharger; Skank and Gutterboy drive a beat-up 1966 Plymouth Barracuda; Rughead drives a late-70's GMC pickup truck. The couple who are cheated out of their car are driving a 1987 Dodge Daytona Shelby Z (distinguished by its' pop-up headlights, unlike the exposed headlights of Oggie's 1986 model). The police drive a variety of mid-1980's Plymouth Caravelles and Plymouth Gran Furys, as well as early-1980's Chevrolet Malibus; Sheriff Loomis drives a "civilian" Plymouth Caravelle.

Shooting locations[edit]

The film was shot entirely in and around Tucson, AZ; shots of the hilly road leading into the fictional "Brooks, AZ" were filmed on Freeman Road on the city's south side; Keri's (Sherilyn Fenn) home is located at 2128 East 5th Street; "Big Kay's Burgers" was a set built especially for the film at 2755 East Benson Highway and no longer exists; Sheriff Loomis (Randy Quaid) goes to talk to Skank (David Sherrill) and Gutterboy (Jamie Bozian) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base; the film's swimming hole is located in Sabino Canyon, off North Upper Sabino Canyon Road; the curvy mountain road where Packard (Nick Cassavetes) and his gang challenge other cars to deadly races is the General Hitchcock/Catalina/Mount Lemmon Highway that winds through natural stone monoliths north of the city; Skank and Gutterboy chase after Jamie and Keri down North 4th Avenue at East 7th Street. The portion of the chase that leads into a tunnel is the since-redone tunnel on North 4th Avenue, where it crosses under railroad tracks; Jake and Keri are seen riding down the road through Sabino Canyon Recreation Area (near Sabino Lake Dam) NE of Tucson.


The score was composed and performed by Michael Hoenig and J. Peter Robinson, two famous synth composers of movie and TV series Soundtracks. The soundtrack was recorded by Rick Hart and entirely played on a NED Synclavier II; it has never been released.

Many famous 1980s rock music hits are included on the film's soundtrack:


The film received negative reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gave at the film 27% positives reviews based on 11 reviews.

Video releases[edit]

In 1987 the film was released to VHS video by Lightning Video and then on LaserDisc by Image Entertainment; it was then released in 2003 on DVD by Platinum Disc Corporation (now Echo Bridge Home Entertainment). In spite of having no special features and only being available in the pan-and-scan format, there is missing footage on the original VHS and LaserDisc releases. LionsGate released a widescreen Special Edition DVD on March 2, 2010, which includes this footage.[3]

See also[edit]


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