College freshman Lewis Thomas (Paul Walker) is on his way to pick up his dream date Venna (Leelee Sobieski) for a cross country road trip, but detours to collect his older brother Fuller (Steve Zahn) from gaol. Fuller buys a cheap CB radio and goads Lewis into playing a practical joke on a truckie (known only by his handle Rusty Nail), whose voice they hear on one of the frequencies. Pretending to be a pretty blonde called Candy Cane, Lewis makes a date with Rusty Nail, but gives the motel room number of an obnoxious traveller they had met on the road. The joke quickly turns sour and laughter dissolves into terror when they discover that Rusty Nail is looking for the last laugh as well as revenge.
Review by Louise Keller:
It's what we don't see that terrifies us in Road Kill, a blistering good thriller that keeps us uneasy and perched on the edge of our seats. Director John Dahl (Red Rock West, The Last Seduction) is expert at the art of unsettling us. There is a juicy build up of tension, and what starts out as a silly prank with a CB radio (pre-historic internet), becomes a deadly horror trip.
It's a good script and Dahl uses all available tools - the pitch blackness of night, isolated locations, the anonymity of road-side motels; all we see and hear of the predator is a deep voice and a massive truck that creates its own evil personality. The set up takes place in the first fifteen minutes of the film, and during that time the central characters are thrust from trick to trepidation.
As the story unfolds, it's not only the characters that jump every time the phone rings, it's also us, the audience. We can smell the fear, and suddenly our hearts are pumping and we can't bear to look away even for a second.
Square jawed heart-throb Paul Walker teams effectively with Steve Zahn, whose clown antics alter readily into angst-ridden apprehension. Zahn is a real scene stealer; he mimics the gasping noises heard in the motel room to the police, displaying great comic control and delivery. Yet, all the while, he is totally credible, and his wide-eyed response is a far cry from his goofy games. Leelee Sobieski is a welcome presence and the dense music score is at its most prolific when Lewis, Fuller and Venna are desperate fugitives lost in a maze in a vast, overgrown cornfield.
Although there may be a few loose ends that are far-fetched, Road Kill is a superbly crafted, thoroughly enjoyable popcorn chiller, that will make you delve into the dark abyss of your own imagination.
Published: July 15, 2004
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ROADKILL: DVD (MA)
CAST: Steve Zahn, Paul Walker, Leelee Sobieski, Matthew Kimbrough, Brien Varady
DIRECTOR: John Dahl
SCRIPT: Clay Tarver, Jeffrey Abrams
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: None
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: July 21, 2004