The Wraith is a 1986 independently made American action-fantasy film, produced by John Kemeny, written and directed by Mike Marvin, and starring Charlie Sheen, Sherilyn Fenn, Nick Cassavetes, and Randy Quaid.[3] The film was theatrically released November 21, 1986 on just 88 screens in the United States by New Century Vista Film Company (later New Century Entertainment Corporation).

The Wraith
Theatrical release poster.
The tagline: "He's not from around here."[1]
Directed byMike Marvin
Written byMike Marvin
Produced byJohn Kemeny
CinematographyReed Smoot
Edited byScott Conrad
Gary Rocklen
Music byMichael Hoenig
J. Peter Robinson
New Century Entertainment Corporation
Alliance Entertainment
Turbo Productions
Distributed byNew Century Vista Film Company
Release date
  • November 21, 1986 (1986-11-21) (US)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
BudgetC$8 million[2]
Box office$3.5 million worldwide, $1,402,535 in the U.S.

The Wraith tells the story of an Arizona teen who mysteriously returns from the dead as a supernatural, or possibly alien-created, street-racer driving an invulnerable supercar. His intent is to take revenge on the gang who murdered him.


Four spheres of light descend from the night sky and collide at an isolated desert crossroads. Their collision reveals, in a bright flash, a sleek, all-black Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor, driven by a helmeted, all black-clad figure.

In the town of Brooks, Arizona, Packard Walsh, the leader of a gang of car thieves, coerces people with sporty cars into racing for pink slips. He controls everyone through intimidation, including Keri Johnson, whom he views as his property. Keri's boyfriend James "Jamie" Hankins was mysteriously murdered, leaving no trace; Keri, who was with him, was hospitalized with no memory of the traumatic event.

Jacob "Jake" Kesey arrives in Brooks riding a dirt bike. He befriends both Keri and Jamie's brother William "Billy" Hankins, who both work at Big Kay's, the local burger drive-in; they later meet up at a sun-and-swim gathering on a local river, where Jake is seen to have knife scars on his neck and back.

Packard's control of the illegal races comes to a sudden end when the Turbo Interceptor appears, seemingly from nowhere. The mysterious driver of this supercar is covered head-to-toe in black body armor and a black race helmet. The armor is adorned with metal braces resembling those worn by victims recovering from severe physical trauma. The driver wordlessly challenges Packard's gang to race, explosively killing Oggie Fisher and later Minty in high-speed, fiery crashes which leave their bodies untouched except for burned-out eye sockets; the Turbo Interceptor then mysteriously reconstructs itself. Sheriff Loomis and his lawmen are always in hot pursuit, but the Turbo vanishes in a cloud of glowing light.

Two more gang members, Skank and Gutterboy, always high on drugs, are later obliterated when the Wraith races the Turbo through the gang's isolated warehouse garage, causing a huge explosion. With Packard's gang now destroyed, Rughead, the gang's tech-geek, who alone among them had not participated in Jamie's murder, realizes, too late, why the gang had been targeted. When Loomis arrives at the scene of the destruction, Rughead tells him everything.

After Packard witnesses Keri kissing Jake, he kidnaps her from Big Kay's, beating up Billy when he tries to intervene. When Packard tries to drive Keri to California, she stands up to him and says she will never love him. Just as he gets out of the car and draws his knife on her, the Turbo arrives ready to challenge Packard to a race; a challenge he readily takes up. However, Packard is killed in an explosive head-on collision with the Turbo similar to the rest of his gang. Loomis calls off the hunt for the mysterious driver, observing the futility of such hunt and reasoning that Packard's gang are all dead.

As Keri arrives home that night, the Turbo pulls up, and the armored driver emerges, revealing himself as Jake. Keri then realizes that Jake is actually a revived form of her dead boyfriend Jamie, who had returned for a chance to rekindle their past relationship. He then asks her to wait for him because he has one last thing to do.

Jake startles Billy by driving the supercar to Big Kay's and handing him the Turbo's keys while extolling its special features, saying that his work is finished, but then Billy asks who he is. Jake says that Billy already knows and as he rides off on his dirt bike, Billy realizes he is actually Jamie. Jake picks up Keri, whom Loomis is watching from a distance. Together they ride off along the desert highway into the moonlight.


  • Charlie Sheen as Jake Kesey / The Wraith / Jamie Hankins
  • Matthew Barry as Billy Hankins
  • Sherilyn Fenn as Keri Johnson
  • Randy Quaid as Sheriff G.L. Loomis
  • Clint Howard as "Rughead"
  • Nick Cassavetes as Packard Walsh
  • David Sherrill as Maurice "Skank"
  • Jamie Bozian as "The Gutterboy"
  • Griffin O'Neal as Oggie Fisher
  • Chris Nash as "Minty"
  • Christopher Bradley as Jamie Hankins
  • Vickie Benson as The Waitress
  • Jeffrey Sudzin as "Redd", Skank's uncle
  • Peder Melhuse as Deputy Murphy
  • Michael Hundrtford as Deputy Stokes
  • Dick Alexander as Deputy Sandeval
  • Steven Eckholdt as George, Boy In Daytona
  • Elizabeth Cox as Girl In Daytona
  • Joan H. Reynolds as Policewoman


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.[3]

Shooting locationsEdit

The Wraith was shot entirely in and around Tucson, Arizona; 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; however, "Big Kay's Burgers" was a set built especially for the film at 2755 East Benson Highway, and it no longer exists.[4]

Sheriff Loomis goes to talk to Skank and Gutterboy at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, at the airplane graveyard where they both work. The film's swimming hole is located in Sabino Canyon, off North Upper Sabino Canyon Road. The curvy mountain road where Packard 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) northeast of Tucson.

Turbo InterceptorEdit

The Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor used in the film was originally a pace car built by Chrysler Corporation and PPG Industries. Six copies were made for use in the film: two stunt cars made from molds of the original car and four non-drivable "dummies" that were destroyed during filming. During production, the real Dodge Turbo Interceptor was used in close-ups. That original was located at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, MI until 2016, when the museum closed permanently.[5]


Original motion picture soundtrack on vinyl

The music score was composed and performed by Michael Hoenig and J. Peter Robinson, two famous synth composers of film and TV series Soundtracks. The soundtrack LP was recorded by Rick Hart and entirely played on a NED Synclavier II.

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


The Wraith was released in the United States on November 21, 1986. In the Philippines, the film was released as Black Moon Rising: Part-2 on April 29, 1987, connecting it to the unrelated film Black Moon Rising starring Tommy Lee Jones.[6] In Germany, it was released on June 11, 1987, under the title "Interceptor - Phantom der Ewigkeit" (Interceptor - Phantom of Eternity).[7][circular reference]

Critical responseEdit

The Wraith received mixed reviews from critics. Film historian and critic Leonard Maltin dismissed the film as "... for those who favor fast cars and lots of noise."[8] In the Time Out review, editor John Pym saw The Wraith having "comic-strip killer car thieves" with "...the best joke having one of the thugs knowing the word 'wraith.'"[9]

Following its theatrical run, the film was featured on television in an episode of Cinema Insomnia.[10]

Home videoEdit

In 1987 the film was released to VHS video by Lightning Video, 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 footage retained that was missing on the original VHS and LaserDisc releases. LionsGate released a widescreen Special Edition DVD on March 2, 2010, which included the previously missing footage.[11]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ This tagline is an in-joke referring to both Jake Kesey's outsider status and the suspected origins of the Wraith.
  2. ^ "Alliance feature film credits". Variety. July 18, 1990. pp. 58–59.
  3. ^ a b "After All These Years ... Mike Marvin Talks The Wraith." Dread Central, March 17, 2010.
  4. ^ "Big Kay's." Retrieved: January 12, 2015.
  5. ^ "Dodge M4S (Dodge PPG Turbo Interceptor; 1981, 1984)." Retrieved: January 12, 2015.
  6. ^ "Opens Today". The Manila Standard. April 29, 1987. p. 7.
  7. ^ "Interceptor (Film)".
  8. ^ Maltin 2009, p. 1567.
  9. ^ Pym 2004, p. 1338.
  10. ^ "Episode Guide." Cinema Insomnia.
  11. ^ "The Wraith Roars Back to DVD Courtesy of Lionsgate!" Dread Central, December 8, 2009. Retrieved: January 12, 2015.


  • Maltin, Leonard. Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide 2009. New York: New American Library, 2009 (originally published as TV Movies, then Leonard Maltin’s Movie & Video Guide), First edition 1969, published annually since 1988. ISBN 978-0-451-22468-2.
  • Pym, John, ed. "The Wraith." Time Out Film Guide. London: Time Out Guides Limited, 2004. ISBN 978-0-14101-354-1.

External linksEdit