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The Wraith Revisited

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One of my favorite films of all time is a spooky supernatural revenge thriller centered around a cursed car. We discussed this film a few years back in one of our first blog posts, but I felt that it was high time we gave this excellent piece of ‘80s cinema a second look. In 1986, Charlie Sheen, Sherilyn Fenn, Nick Cassavetes, and Randy Quaid starred in the little-known film,The Wraith, a story of illegal street racing, tragedy, and vengeance from beyond the grave.

The plot sounds a lot like aFast and the Furiousmovie with a haunted twist, but it’s really so much more. It centers around the new kid in Brooks, Arizona, Jake Kesey, played by Charlie Sheen. Around the time that Sheen arrives on scene, a mysterious black Dodge Interceptor shows up to some local illegal street races and literally blows a few bullies off the road. This is all because Nick Cassavetes’s character, Packard Walsh, is a cunning car thief who also stages street races at night along the winding Arizona highway for pink slips. The problem is that Walsh never loses; he’ll even kill for the win, and Randy Quaid’s sheriff is unable to put a stop to the car-nage.

This is where, in my opinion, the true main character of the movie comes into play. The wraith of the title is a Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor. “Interceptor” must have been a really popular name in the car scene of the ‘70s and ‘80s because not only did Jensen Motors of England produce a performance car named Interceptor, but most police vehicles in the US and Australia were called Interceptors, the most famous of which is probably Mad Max’s V8 Pursuit Special Interceptor.

This particular model was a prototype that was built as a pace care for NASCAR races, and unlike many concepts and prototypes, it was built to specifications and could reach over 200 mph. Lee Iacocca insisted that it come back with no damage, so it was only ever used for still scenes, while a kit car was built for the actual driving scenes. It’s a real shame that the M4S turbo interceptor never made it into production; it would have bridged the performance gap between the Golden Age of Hemis and the modern Renaissance of extreme power and handling that Dodge is putting forth today.

I won’t give away the plot twist at the end of the film, but it’s a real treat. If you’re interested in car culture, and you’ve already watched Christine and Maximum Overdrive for your Halloween season, then put the pedal to the metal and find a copy of The Wraith to rent or stream this week. You will surely not be disappointed.

-Trey Fennell



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