If you are frequenting this website, there is a strong possibility that you have seen The Crow (1994), Brandon Lee’s final picture about one man raining supernatural vengeance upon those that so thoroughly wronged himself and his girlfriend. The Crow takes itself very seriously almost to the point of turning into an emo-filled parade. However, if you’re less of a Hot Topic person and more of a Dick’s Sporting Goods guy, you may want to watch Mike Marvin’s The Wraith, the story of Charlie Sheen raining supernatural vengeance upon those that wronged him…..with car racing.
Packard Walsh (Nick Cassavetes) and his gang of “road pirates” (an actual term used in the film) stalk the highways of Arizona, strong-arming unwilling muscle car drivers into racing for pink slips and then chopping up the cars to sell the parts on the black market. The gang comes across as The New Kids on the Block equivalent of black marketeering. There is the leader (Packard), the preppy one Minty, the nerdy one (Rughead played by the one, the only Clint Howard), the gay one (Oggie), the redneck one (Gutterboy), and the so-addicted-to-drugs-he-snorts-transmission-fluid one (Skank). Their hideout/garage looks like the modern version of The Monkees’ old house adorned with neon and even sporting a pinball machine!
Packard’s frustrated. Sheriff Loomis (Randy Quaid) is giving his gang a hard time just because of all the violence and destruction they cause. The woman he loves (Sherilynn Fenn) will not put out no matter how many people he bludgeons to prove his undying love to her. And now, this kid on a motorcycle (Charlie Sheen) has ridden into town to steal his thunder. What’s a road pirate to do?
What does this have to do with Charlie Sheen wreaking his supernatural vengeance? Well, not a lot which is why the narrative is so confusing. Charlie Sheen is in the film for maybe 15 minutes all told and his scenes involve either him spouting philosophical nonsense that would even make Kwai Chang Caine grimace or taking Sherilynn Fenn’s bathing suit off. For all intents and purposes, Packard is the main character of the story of a ghost coming back from the dead to get revenge on Packard. Now, this would not be a downside if this were an extended episode of Tales from the Crypt. However, in an 80s movie that plays out more like Better Off Dead (1985) with race cars, it gets a little confusing as to for whom the audience is meant to root.
These are all the questions that will bother you if you can make it past the fact the plot is there only to service a 90 minute car commercial. And what fancy cars they are! The titular Wraith drives a one of a kind “Turbo Interceptor,” which comes across as the most interesting character in the film. Which, for the NASCAR crowd, will show that Mike Marvin was not a bad filmmaker, but was actually ahead of his time.