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Month: May 2017

RETRO REVIEW: The Wraith

Netflix is a goldmine of old 80’s direct to video films, many forgotten (and justly so). In this installment of Retro Reviews I wanted to re-examine one such film that I just re-watched on Netflix last night, the 1986 Charlie Sheen flick The Wraith, a weird amalgam of The Last Starfighter and The Crow by way of Mad Max.

In an otherwise quiet Arizona town Packard Walsh (Nick Cassavetes) runs a gang of car thieves who trick people into racing for pinks and then cheats to win and get their cars. But he’s also a murderer. One year earlier he killed a guy named Jamie Henkins for being with his girl Keri (played by the lovely Sherrilyn Fenn).

But now it’s payback time when a suped up Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor shows up, driven by a mysterious figure in futuristic armor and a black helmet. One by one he entices Walsh’s gang bangers to race and then kills them by speeding ahead and stopping in the middle of the road, letting them hit his car at hundreds of miles per hour. The Wraith-mobile reappears in a flash of light moments later, factory mint, while the other car is reduced to a burning wreck. There’s no marks on the bodies either, but their eyes have been sucked out.

Meanwhile, a new kid named Jake (Charlie Sheen) shows up on an eerily quiet dirt bike. Keri is attracted to him immediately, though she can’t put her finger on why (she puts her fingers everywhere else during a naked make-out session with Jake in the local watering hole).

This enrages Walsh, of course, and he goes from prototypical 80’s douchebag to jealous psycho in under a minute. Too bad he has his hands full with the mysterious driver killing off his gang. Cassavetes gives an air of real menace to what is on the surface a stock 80’s bad guy. You can almost smell the crazy coming off this guy.

Eventually Packard gets his, and Jake/Jamie gives the Interceptor to Jamie’s brother before taking off with Keri on his bike for parts unknown.

In the end, this conundrum of a movie raises more questions than it answers, least of all is, where the hell are the parents?! The only adult authority figure we see in this movie is tough-talking Sheriff Loomis (played by the always fun to watch Randy Quaid), who wants to catch the Wraith, but is also happy the deaths he’s causing are confined to Walsh’s gang of dirtbags.

We also never learn how Jamie was able to come back in a new body, with an indestructible car, or why Walsh and his buddies didn’t have a mark on them after their cars burned to a crisp. It all adds up to a weird, fuel-injected romp that could only have come from the 1980’s.

If you’re looking for a guy who comes back from the dead to kill the people who murdered him, watch The Crow (also currently streaming on Netflix). It’s so dark and goth its pee is bats, but you’ll get much more character development and a protagonist you’ll have sympathy for. If you want to see Charlie Sheen before all the winning and tiger blood, and you like to watch fast cars blow up real good, then check out The Wraith.

Getting Back to Writing After Vacation

It’s that time time of year again when those of us fortunate enough to have a disposable income and a job that gives us paid time off blow off work for at least a week and travel or head to the mountains or the beach.

I just got back from Walt Disney World, and while it wasn’t the most relaxing vacation (my idea of vacation is not going to the day job, sleeping late, and binge-watching Netflix), it was a fun and much-needed respite from the proverbial grind. It also put me in mind of what I as a writer need to do to not only successfully unplug, but to get back up to speed and start writing again once I returned. Hence this blog post.

Here then, are my Vacation Tips for Writers. As always, your mileage may vary.

If you can, finish your big project before you leave for vacation. This was key for me to not only actually enjoy my vacation, but to not have to regain lost momentum on a project I stopped in the middle of. I finished the edits on my latest novel, Ix Incursion, two weeks before leaving for Disney. This gave me a lot of time to decompress and work on the planning stages for something I planned on starting once I got back.

Rest. Don’t even think about writing while you’re gone.
This is very hard to do. I know, as this was one of the few times I’ve been able to do it. For me, unplugging creatively means having your last project finished and your next project existing as little more than an outline.

No laptops allowed.

Don’t bring your work with you. Trust, me, you won’t have time to work on anything anyway, and if you do you won’t feel like it. Leave that stuff at home. Really unplug. It’s the only way to refill the creative well. You’ll also get to focus on the really important stuff, like your family. During my vacation I got to hold my daughter’s hand in the ocean and see her react to all the wonderful things around us, and nothing is more important than that.

Create a to-do list for when you get back

This is key for getting back up to speed quickly and easily. When I got back, I was tired and still in vacation mode. I needed to rest some more, but I also knew I had some business-related things to attend to. Having a to-do list helped me remember exactly what those things were. I created a Scrivener file with a running weekly to-do list. This helps me stay focused on the business side of my various creative projects, and I updated it before we left.

Have a project ready to go for when you get back.

And last but not least, have something else you’re eager and ready to get started on once you return. In my case, a 30,000 word novella I’m contracted to write for a publisher. I’ve been planning it for over a month, and planned to start on it when we got back. Next week I start the actual writing, and I’m stoked. And recharged now that I’ve had a nice break away from everything.

Bottom line: your body needs rest, even from the creative work we all love. But a vacation doesn’t have to make you get behind. By following these simple tips, you can not only unplug and have a relaxing time with your family, you can come back refreshed and ready to get started on your next project.

What other vacation tips for writers do you have? Share in the comments.