2018 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 27: The Wraith (1986)

Today’s Scarecrow Psychotronic challenge is 27. MODUM ONERARIIS: A movie about transportation methods. A car, rollerblades, a broom, flying saucer…whatever gets you there. I’ve been wanting to talk about The Wraith for some time, so this is the perfect opportunity.

In another version of our reality, The Wraith was the Top Gun of 1986. People are still wearing t-shirts of it, dressing up in costumes at cons and I have an amazing Jake Kesey action figure on my shelf.

As bright lights descend from the heavens — shades of The Visitor — an all black Dodge Turbo Interceptor comes to life, along with a black-garbed driver.

Welcome to Brooks, Arizona. This is where Packard Walsh (Nick Cassavetes, son of Gena Rowlands and John Cassavetes, exuding pure sexual menace) leads a gang of car thieves that race people for pink slips. Everyone and everything is his property, mainly Keri Johnson (Twin Peak‘s Sherilyn Fenn), who doesn’t remember Packard killing her boyfriend Jamie Hankins (Christopher Bradley).

That’s when Jake Kesey arrives on a dirt bike. He instantly befriends Keri and Jamie’s brother Billy, who both work at Big Kay’s, a local drive-in hamburger joint. One day, while they swim at a local river, they both notice huge knife scars on Jake’s back.

The Turbo Interceptor starts to take over Packard’s races, its driver’s face never seen, his body covered in armor and metal braces for reasons unexplained. Everyone who races the Wraith, as he comes to be called, is killed, including gang members Oggie Fisher (Griffin O’Neal, April Fool’s Day) and Minty. Me, I like Skank and Gutterboy. How can you not love gang members who drink gasoline for an entire movie? I love that they’re so high that they refuse to believe in the Wraith. Soon, they get blown up real good.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Loomis (a pre-freakout Randy Quaid) is in hot pursuit but never seems to get close. Rughead, the only gang member who didn’t help kill Jamie, goes to the police to try and save his skin. He’s played by Clint Howard and his amazing hair, a B&S favorite since Evilspeak.

Packard still has an iron grip on Keri, despite the fact that she won’t give him what he wants: sex. Isn’t that what all guys want? Well, once he sees Keri kiss Jake, he kidnaps her and says they’re heading for California. She stands up to him and says that she never loved him. The Wraith shows up and Packard finally pays for his crimes. As the police prepare to give chase, Loomis calls it off, as they could never catch him.

Keri gets back home and the Wraith pulls up, then transforms into Jake. He tells her that he is her dead boyfriend, but doesn’t look like him because “This is as close as I could come to who I once was.” In truth, Sheen was tied up making Platoon, so they filmed the early scenes without him.

But Jake has one last act before he can leave — he gives the Turbo Interceptor to his brother, revealing who he really is. He tells Keri to pack light for where they are going. Where, Jake? Heaven? Outer space? The planet or dimension that sent Tony’s dad in Xtro?

The Wraith is the very definition of bonkers. It’s like Ghost Rider meets The Car meets Rebel Without a Cause by the way of a punk gang from The Road Warrior. It’s so many movies in one, with something for everyone to love. It was written and directed by Mike Martin, who also brought us Hamburger: The Motion Picture and directed four movies under the pen name Jake Kesey. Yep. You guessed it. The Wraith himself.

You can check it out on Shudder, which you should do immediately.

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