Film: The Wraith

Before Charlie Sheen became known for his Winning, he starred in a film where he was death races.

The Wraith was made in 1986 starring, alongside Sheen, Nick Cassavetes (yes, that Nick Cassavetes), Sherilyn Fenn, Randy Quaid and Clint Howard.

Sheen plays Jake Kesey, who is a mysterious motorcycle-riding drifter who catches the eye of local girl Keri Johnson (played by Fenn), in an Arizona town that runs afoul of a group of Road Pirates led by Packard Walsh (played by Cassavetes). They make their living by challenging locals to drag races, using their cars as collateral. Packard himself is a Crazy Jealous Guy that everyone fears and claims Keri as his property. An unidentified car and its armor-clad driver challenge the gang, one by one, to a race to the death. Sheriff Loomis (played by Quaid) investigates these deaths not only in hope of catching the killer, but also as a means of catching Packard in the act. It all begins to unravel as the connection among Keri, Jake, Packard and that driver becomes more clearer as Packard is the last on the chopping block.

Tropes Associated with The Wraith

  • All There in the Manual: According to Mike Marvin, the reason why the Wraith's braces disappear after every kill is that he is getting stronger.
  • Animated Credits Opening: The entire scene in the beginning of the film, building up towards The Wraith's first appearance, is animated.
  • Agent Scully: Loomis even though he seen first hand what The Wraith can do, does not believe that he's Jamie Hankin's spirit.
    Loomis: Bad feelings don't lead to resurrections.
  • The Alleged Car: Billy's Triumph Spitfire 1500, it barely starts and when it does, Packard and the gang are already surrounding him before he could move a few inches. Jake gives him the Turbo Interceptor, much to his glee.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Regarding Oggie's death. Deputy Murphy even get's called out on it.
    Murphy: You think he made it?
    Stokes: You gotta be kidding me. Local kid?
    Murphy: Used to be.
  • Berserk Button: Played with, Billy Hankins' get's his pushed when he tries to save Keri from Packard. Packard makes light of his dead brother which causes Billy to snap and pick a fight with Packard. He doesn't even get one hit on him, as Packard mercilessly beats Billy senseless and kicks him when he's down.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Wraith shows up in time, just after Packard was about to kill Keri.
  • Big "NO!": Rughead get's one when The Wraith removes his visor prior to shooting up the garage. The face is somewhat hidden, but Rughead is the only one to recognize the man as Jamie Hankins, who is supposed to be dead. His reaction also counts as Go Mad from the Revelation, as Skank and Gutterboy's deaths finally break him and make him confess his knowledge of the murder to Loomis.
  • Body Horror: The Wraith's victims, despite their car exploding and burning, come out intact. The exception being that their eyes are no longer in their sockets.
  • Brick Joke: There are two. The first is whenever Loomis confronts Packard and his gang, they invoke some legal knowledge, specifically warrants. Later on Loomis does have a warrant to question Packard regarding Minty's death. The second one is when The Wraith confronts Packard and the gang at their garage, Packard warns him that his shotgun might set off the Ether and Acetylene. The Wraith later crashes his car into the garage killing Skank and Gutterboy and destroying the garage in a big Ether and Acetylene fueled fireball.
  • Broken Bird: Keri was this when Jamie died, which was one of the reasons she stayed with Packard despite her dislike of him. Jake makes it his life mission to break her out of that funk.
  • But Now I Must Go: Played with, after Jake reveals himself to Keri, he goes to say goodbye to Billy and then leaves him the Turbo Interceptor as a replacement for his Triunph. Instead of just outright leaving everyone behind, he takes Keri with him out of town.
  • Came Back Wrong: When Jake finally reveals himself to Keri, that he's the ghost of Jamie Hankins. He lampshades this trope. As both characters were played by two different actors.
    Jake: This is as close as I could come, to who I once was.
  • Cool Car: The movie has a list of cool cars, but the most prominent are The Wraith's Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor and Packard Walsh's 1976 Corvette.
  • Covers Always Lie: As seen in the above poster, not one of those people looks remotely like the main cast.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Packard Walsh is the poster child for this. He is violent against anyone who even looks at Keri. He even killed her boyfriend, Jamie as the result of said jealousy.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Each race, especially ones involving The Wraith, are these.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Wraith is clad in dark armor and drives an all black car, but he only goes after Packard's gang.
  • The Dreaded: The entire town fears Packard Walsh, with the exception of Billy, The Wraith Jake and Loomis.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Skank has a few moments of these. The most prominent one is when Packard tries to shoot the Wraith's car, but Skank stops him.
    Packard: Skank, why is it that you continue to question my authority?
    Skank: Come on, man, you got a big audience with Rughead out here; it'll be first-degree murder.
    Packard: You're right.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Every time The Wraith runs someone off the road, they blow up. Despite being engulfed in flames, see Body Horror above.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Packard's hobbies include, stealing, abuse, murder and cutting himself, but he cannot stand it when Skank is getting high off car fluids.
    Packard: Get rid of that zombie piss you're drinking before it turns you into a mushroom.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Rughead is able to make new fuel injection plans for the gang's car and blow up The Wraith's car with a digital radio killer. All that did was slow The Wraith down.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Jake is an all-around nice guy, who just so happens to have gruesome knife scars on his back and neck. They were from his previous death as Jamie Henkins.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Although he's only after Packard's gang, it doesn't stop The Wraith from doing some collateral damage to Loomis' cars, since they are only in his way.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Rughead was already packing up and leaving after Minty's death not wanting to deal with the gang anymore. But after The Wraith obliterated Skank and Gutterboy, destroying Packard's garage in the process; he confesses his knowledge of the gang's murder of Jamie Hankins to Loomis. He's the only one in the gang that was spared by The Wraith, because despite his knowledge, he didn't have anything physically to do with the murder.
  • He's Not My Boyfriend: Despite Packard saying otherwise, Keri insists that Packard isn't her boyfriend. The only reason she sticks with him, is because she's scared of him. She flats out says it to him after Oggie's death.
    Keri: I don't love you. I've never made love to you and never will.
  • If I Can't Have You: Packard says it almost word for word to Keri. It's why he killed Jamie Hankins in the first place.
    Keri: You think you own me, that somehow I'm your private property.
    Keri: That's because everybody's scared of you.
    Packard: If you're not gonna be my girl, you're not gonna be anybody's.
  • Inspector Javert: Sheriff Loomis was this for Packard, and later The Wraith.
  • Magitek: The Wraith car's engine is a strange blend of supernatural and quasi-futuristic technology that is never explained. It almost looks alien.
  • Nice Girl: Keri is this when not dealing with Packard Walsh. She's good friends with Billy Hankins and despite her fear of Packard, goes on various dates with Jake.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: All Billy was doing was offering a tired Keri a ride back home, yet Packard sees it as Billy making a move on Keri. Their standoff halts briefly as The Wraith shows up, prompting them to go race The Wraith instead.
  • No Kill Like Overkill: On top of beating him and stabbing him to death, Packard finishes poor Jamie off by putting his body in the trunk of a car, pushing the car over a cliff, then blowing it up with a shotgun.
  • Oh Crap!: When Rughead connects the digital radio killer to The Wraith's car, he gets a glimpse of what the Turbo Interceptor's engine looks like. His look is a combination of super-impressed and scared. Packard doesn't even care enough to look for himself, more obsessed with the ongoing race.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: In this case, they come back with a technologically advanced car and race people to their deaths.
  • Painful Transformation: The Wraith's transformation into Jake, show's that although nothing physically painful happens to him, the expression on Jake's face shows that it hurts when he does it.
    The Wraith /Jake: I can't do that again.
  • Police Are Useless: Zigzagged. Loomis would very much like to bust Packard and his gang, but he never seems to be able to get enough evidence. You'd think if he talked to the couple from the beginning of the movie, or maybe actually did a little, you know, detective work...
    • Justified in their pursuit against The Wraith. Despite all their efforts they honestly had no clue what they were dealing with.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Sheriff Loomis, he's still willing to try to find The Wraith even though he doesn't see a big deal about him offing Packard's gang only. He gives up the search after Packard dies.
    Loomis: There's a kid out there usin' his car to kill people, not that it's such a big deal since it seems to be your gang he's got it in for... so, if you guys try to take the law into your own hands, and that killer turns up dead, I'm gonna see you all sniffin' cyanide in the Arizona gas chamber.
  • Resurrected Romance: Jamie came back from the dead as a spectral entity to exact revenge on his killers. He also rekindles his prior romance with his girlfriend, and they drive off into the sunset (okay, the moonlight...) at the end.
  • Rule of Three: There are only 3 Races between The Wraith and Packard's gang. First is Oggie, second is Minty, third is Packard.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Rughead decides to bail when he can't take the killings anymore. He's the only one that survives, because he wasn't involved in Jamie's murder.
  • Shout-Out: Skank has one after The Wraith shoots up their garage with his gun.
    Gutterboy: Skank, who is that guy?
    Skank: I don't know, but whoever he is, he's all weird and pissed off.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: The Wraith has a modified Spas-12 that shoots lasers, which he uses to trash the gang's cars. Packard himself has a double-barreled one he planned on using in retaliation. Skank tries to use it on The Wraith, but it backfires.
  • Smug Snake: Packard is determined to race The Wraith and win his car despite seeing what The Wraith can do.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Packard intentionally causes an accident, to keep the cops from interfering with his race against The Wraith.
  • The Stoner: Skank takes it Up to Eleven, by getting high off car-related chemicals, such as washer fluid, brake fluid and WD-40.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Skank and Gutterboy. Their humor almost makes you forget that they are cold blooded murderers that helped murder Jamie Hankins.
  • Title Drop: Rughead is the only person to refer the Wraith by its name.
    Rughead: This gang thing was cool when we had the edge, but now that there's that Wraith out there, that killed Oggie.
    Skank: A what?
    Rughead: A Wraith, man, a ghost, an evil spirit and it ain't cool.
  • Unfinished Business: Jamie/Jake was murdered by a local gang of criminals because their leader wanted his girlfriend for himself. He comes back from the dead in a different body, and travels around in a cool car wearing a black suit with a motorcycle helmet. Jake kills his murderers one by one, gives his car to his younger brother, and moves away with his girlfriend instead of passing on afterwards.
  • The Voiceless: The Wraith never talks, with the exception of leaving a note on Packard's dashboard and making a headstone with Packard's name carved on it appear as a silent threat.
  • Vader Breath: The only sounds you'll ever hear the Wraith make.
  • Verbal Tic: Whenever Packard is intimidating someone, or doesn't know a person's name, he always refers to them as "Guy."
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: When Oggie is the first to get killed by The Wraith, the rest of the gang actually feels bad, even Keri who hates Packard, sheds a few tears for him because he was her neighbor. The only one who doesn't care is Packard, but he does show some concern when Keri is crying.
    Packard: What's the matter?
    Keri: I just can't believe Oggie's dead, he lives just up the street from me.
  • What the Hell, Townspeople?: Billy gives one after Packard beats him and kidnaps Keri.
    Billy: You bastard chicken shits!!! You let him take her!!!
  • Who Are You?: Surprisingly, Jake gets this question more than The Wraith. Not so surprisingly when it turns out they are one and the same.
  • Worthy Opponent: Packard sees the Wraith as this and even takes the time to warn him that Loomis is after him as well as the gang after The Wraith enters their garaged armed with his shotgun.
    Packard: Look, guy, Loomis is out looking to bust everyone. Now, losing Oggie ain't no big deal and that's a hell of a car you got.
  • Yandere The driving plot point to the movie and to why Packard killed Jamie.