Horror 365, Movie 152: The Wraith

Every now and then, fortune smiles upon me in such a way that I run across something so uniquely terrible that even I’m brought up short and forced to say “Wait…what the fuck?” It’s always a fork in the road kinda moment because the cinematic endeavor in question can lead to either anger and dismay like Bloodsucking Freaks or elation and joy like Manos: The Hands Of Fate.

But sometimes fortune toys with me, and I’m stuck in some kind of Frostian hellscape with no clue which path to choose. Such is the case with that fine 1986 Charlie Sheen cinematic vehicle known as The Wraith. And I mean vehicle literally.

See, our little tiger blood, failure is not an option boy plays a mysterious new kid in town named Jake who almost immediately raises the suspicion and ire of the local bully/gang leader Packard Walsh. And if you think that’s a great name for the leader of a car gang, just wait. They get better. So. Much. Better.

See, Packard likes to race guys for the pink slips to their cars, and he apparently never loses. Then one night a Dodge M4s Turbo Interceptor shows up (that’s gonna mean something to somebody somewhere. Not me. I remain breathtakingly ignorant about all things internal combustion). Oh, did I mention that this car appeared out of the Arizona desert? Yeah. A bunch of glowing orbs descend from the night sky and collide to reveal the aforementioned vehicle.

Right. So the driver of this not-for-first-time-car-owners machine is clad in black body armor, black gloves, black boots, and a, you see where this is going, black helmet. Ooooo. It’s also got all kinds of wires and tubes and metal braces and stuff, I guess because he and the car are one or sympatico or something. Either that or the FX department shopped mainly at AutoZone. So Racer X shows up to challenge Packard and instantly turns his world inside out. He accomplishes this by eliminating Packard’s gang in a series of fiery car crashes and explosions.

You might be wondering what’s so bad about this movie? For one thing, lots of unresolved plot points. The most distracting of these is that every time The Wraith causes another death, some piece of his ensemble disappears. It’s never made clear why this is or what, if anything, it’s supposed to mean.

The acting varies. Nick Cassavetes (yep, son of John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands) musters some swagger and cool as Packard except when he tries to boss his underlings around. Conversely, Randy Quaid totally phones this one in as Sheriff Loomis (Loomis? That can’t be an accident).

Ultimately though, I think the good substantially outweighs the bad. For one thing, there’s a pre-Twin Peaks Sherilyn Fenn Her character is unfortunately written as an objectified slab of female flesh to be contended for by Packard and Jake. She’s also routinely ogled/commented on by two of Packard’s henchmen, Skank and Gutterboy (told ya the names were gonna get even better). Still. Audrey Horne.

Oggie (Ryan O’Neal’s son Griffin) gets blowed up early on. Oh and Clint Howard rips some Jaws-worthy chunks outta the scenery as Rughead the geek/techie whizkid (all the while looking like the bastard love child of Jack Nance in Eraserhead and Thomas Dolby).

Somehow Randy Quaid snags possibly the script’s finest line: “Time to drain the drug overdose sloshin’ above your eyebrows and tell me who the dude was drivin’ that other car.”

Speaking of drug overdoses, Skank and Gutterboy may just be the big standouts of The Wraith. They’re total comic relief caricatures of gear head punks. Skank in particular does stuff like snort WD40 and drink hydraulic fluid, usually exclaiming how whatever automotive chemical he’s abusing “has some kick.”

Incidentally, The Wraith was released in The Philippines as Black Moon Rising Part 2. Yeah, they were both centered on cars but had absolutely zero to do with each other. Kinda like the tragic history of Troll 2, but that’s another discussion for another post.

BODIES- 6 onscreen
Stream- IMDb TV, Plex, Prime, Tubi, Vudu, YouTube
Rent- FandangoNow, Google Play, iTunes

Horror 365, Movie 151: Witchboard

Right, so here’s what happened yesterday. I had to go pick up my kid from college which is only a couple hours away. I left at 10am, figuring on 2 hours to drive up, an hour to pack, an hour for lunch (kids…they wanna eat Every. Day!), 2 hours back, plus an hour for unforeseen circumstances. Figured I’d be back well before 630pm. Plenty of time to dash off a quick blog post.

This was an unreasonable assumption.

Let’s just say that was very optimistic on my part. But I had to post something, and it had to be fast because my brain was turning into oatmeal. And not the hearty Irish steel cut kind either. That’s when I realized it was in fact the 150th post of my little endeavor, so I thought, okay, let’s do something fun.

Well, instead of fun, I came up with what I posted last night. But hey, I tried. Thus far, though, nobody has come forth with the answer but I remain hopeful. On to Witchboard.

My movie palate being refined as it is, sometimes it only takes a couple words to sell me on a flick. Two of those words are “Tawny Kitaen.” Another two would be “Ouija board.” The combination of all four is nigh irresistible. So, gather ’round kiddies whilst I unfold a tale of headier times in the foul year of 1986.

I’d already been aware of Ms. Kitaen’s flowing locks and towering acting skills from 1984’s god awful Bachelor Party, so I was more than ready to plunk down some hard earned lucre to see Witchboard when it hit the theater. Add Stephen “Patch from Days Of Our Lives” Nichols and I even got my then girlfriend to come along. Let’s just say Witchboard’s disappointments did not and do not disappoint.

It all starts innocently enough as Ouija board possessions so often do. Linda (Kitaen) is persuaded to try a Ouija board by her ex, Brandon Sinclair (Nichols) which sounds like a name out of some really bad vampire porn fiction.

Understandably this is much to the chagrin and dismay of her current boyfriend Jim (Todd Allen, apparently the result of a cloning accident involving Rick Springfield and Huey Lewis). Well don’t y’know Brandon and Linda contact a spirit named David and well don’t y’know that good ol’ Brandon has communicated with David before. Of course. What could go wrong?

At this point, if you were to consult your own Ouija board to see if this review has any spoilers, your planchette would fly to “Yes” possibly of its own accord. So there’s that. David, it turns out, isn’t David. He’s the spirit of Carlos Malfeitor who’s now trying to possess poor, hapless Linda. Why such attachment to her? Well, Malfeitor (Portuguese for evil doer by the way p.s.) was an axe-murderer y’see. He was killed in his home by police in 1930–the very home that, gasp, Linda and Jim live in now! Ahh…ain’t nuthin’ better than a movie luggin’ out Ye Olde Clubbe Of Ironye in order to dole out a few konks on the viewer’s melon.

Lots of lighthearted injuries and lethal hijinks are sprinkled throughout Witchboard’s 98 longish minutes. Highlights include the weird way Jim opens a whiskey bottle, bad demon voice dubbing, the Ouija board being shot, and not one but two count ’em two defenestrations. It’s always a joyous day when I get to legitimately use that word in a post. Oh and Rose Marie shows up. For reals. She does.

Streaming- Pluto, Prime, Sling, Tubi, YouTube
For rent- Apple TV, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu

Horror 365, Movie(ish) 150: Fangoria

Actually made it to 150 Posts! Damn. I figured I’d last a couple weeks. Maybe a month. So, in honor of such a stellar benchmark, I’m celebrating with a small contest. See, I renewed my subscription to Fangoria magazine, largely for two reasons. First, cuz the guy who used to run Videoscope passed away, so Videoscope is no more, and it was the go-to mag for genre flicks. Second, if I renewed my Fangoria subscription, I got a nifty t-shirt with this on it for free.

So here’s the contest part. This image references a specific anthology movie. The first person who can give me the movie title, the specific segment this refers to, and the star of that segment–that poor, misguided soul will have the unenviable “honor” of assigning me a horror movie to review. Yeah it ain’t much, but we’re on a shoestring no-string budget around here. Plus it seems fun, so drop your responses in the Comments.