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Viking Night: The Wraith

By Bruce Hall

March 16, 2017

It's a charming biopic.

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Remember when our nation’s most pressing concern was Charlie Sheen’s public decline into madness? It was a simpler time, and one I now recall with melodramatic fondness. I’m not sure what kind of times we’re living in, but the last time I felt this way was back in the '80s, when the only thing we worried about was the constant threat of nuclear annihilation. My God, what a glorious time. And it is to those days that my mind drifts whenever I feel uncertain about the future.

What I mean to say is that as I sat around contemplating the the end of the world, an image of Charlie Sheen popped into my mind.

I’m not sure why. I’m not claiming that this means anything, so don’t start stocking up on bottled water just yet. Or rather, it shouldn’t mean anything to you. What it meant to me was that this week’s column was fated to be Sheen related. Unfortunately, the image held in mind was one from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Great movie, but one I’ve already covered here (for the record, get yourself a copy). But then, for some reason, my apocalyptic reverie led me to another film from the same period.

A Charlie Sheen film.




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The Wraith is the kind of dated, low-budget dreck that today might make for a borderline acceptable made-for-TV movie. And then, Randy Quaid shows up. I need to point out that I hadn’t seen this film since forever ago, and had completely forgotten the presence of Quaid the Elder. Prior to his appearance, The Wraith was going over about as well as an ingrown toenail. Think of it as a poor man’s, Reagan-era Fast and Furious knockoff. Quaid, in his prime, brings a certain swagger with him and it brings the movie to life.

It’s as though he personally convinced the movie around him to cast off its inhibitions and embrace its own insanity. It’s been a long time coming, but once again I understand why I was completely obsessed with this movie (for a few weeks anyway) when I first saw it. Yes, I was young and yes my standards were low. Perhaps they still are, because damn, was this a lot of fun. But look at me, giddy as a child and forgetting that I’m supposed to be writing a review. So how should I describe The Wraith, other than “a 90-minute revival of my gleeful childhood spirit”?

Imagine the first Fast and Furious film, except replace Dominic and his crew with evil meatheads. And instead of meeting Paul Walker, they meet a vengeful spirit from beyond the afterlife (I’m sure there’s a name for that). Obviously, you’ll want to add surprisingly little Charlie Sheen, a heaping helping of Randy Quaid, generous onscreen drug use and a just a dash of the supernatural. I understand that my description makes little sense, but The Wraith is something you just have to see in order to understand.


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