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Roadkill 2: Dead Ahead
cast: Nicki Aycox, Nick Zano, Laura Jordan, Kyle Schmid, and Mark Gibbon

director: Louis Morneau

87 minutes (18) 2008
widescreen ratio 16:9
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
There was some confusion as the screener bears the title Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead whereas we know the precedent film as Roadkill and indeed Roadkill 2 this is. Roadkill was an entertaining road-movie horror-show that saw a carload of young people terrorised by a psychotic trucker called Rusty Nail. The format returns with a new cubic capacity of terror as four Vegas-bound youngsters banter with one another and are tormented by the bafflingly alive killer CB buddy from the first film. Sisters, the blonde Melissa (Nicki Aycox) and redheaded Kayla (Laura Jordan), are accompanied by Melissa's beau, the quip-contagious Bobby (Nick Zano). Three become four as they are joined by "third-wave emo punk" Nik (Kyle Schmid). The new passenger is an Internet correspondent of Kayla's, out from Salt Lake City, and the meeting is by prearrangement between the two, to the horror of Melissa, Kayla, after all, as a boyfriend awaiting her in Vegas.

Nik is not as cool as his bedroom mirror tells him he is and is so irritating that he ought never be more than ten seconds from a beating. The last handsome boy on planet Earth he immediately goads Bobby and then, more perilously, slags off the local truckers in the diner. When their car malfunctions they continue on foot until they come across a remote and rundown ranch that appears to have been unlived in for a couple of months. In the shed they remove some covers to reveal a 1971 Chevy Chevalle hardtop and democratically elect to borrow it. The conscientious Melissa leaves a note and mobile number pinned to the door which promises to return the car with some remuneration.

Unfortunately for them the owner of the vehicle is the unreasonable Mr Nail, fresh from a kill on a rainy truck-stop car park where he has seen off a prostitute credited as 'Lot Lizard'. It is a fascinating if short-lived performance by Krystal Vrba, a cross between Juliette Lewis and P.J. Soles, and she could be an interesting fixture in the genre if anyone happens to be taking note. Rusty Nail visits his own brand of the ironic on the foursome. Melissa left her mobile number, so he will use her as the point of contact for the torments to come. Bobby agreed to borrow the classic car, Rusty Nail would borrow Bobby. Kayla gave him the finger, he would demand her finger. Then there is Nik. Unbeknownst to them, Rusty was one of the diners when Nik idiotically taunts the eatery truckers. Hearing Nik claim that truckers could only obtain sex from disease-ridden hookers, Rusty demands that the teenage loudmouth doll up in the clothes and blonde wig kept as souvenirs from the Lot Lizard. The dialogue is fresh and the set-pieces playful while the ugly deaths come to others. At the point at which Bobby loses a finger, one is reminded that this was the horror visited on the 'untouchable' heroine of the remake version of House Of Wax which changes the mood of the film. It is a device that revives the threat.

One hour in, and any special allowances made for the teens are now off, and unpleasantness is rained on them. Death comes with it. Rusty Nail is one of cinemas scariest homicidal maniacs because not only is he vicious and cruel but the citizens band radio gives him a voice. More than a voice as he verbally interacts; and it pulses him with a terrifying omniscience, puppeteering their movements and anticipating their circumventions.

That is to say it would be terrifying were it not for overindulgent comic tone that runs through the first hour. From then on in there is little to laugh about and yet, because the end stunt will look better in daylight, the night-time is bled out and suddenly there is a dawn. Night becomes day during a brief truck ride reminding us that a lot of what we have been watching is plain nonsense. Roadkill 2 tries to have its gateau and eat it. Louis Morneau previously made Bats in a similarly confused comic horror vein and seems unable to shake it off, though in 2008 he has had to inject the demanded quota of torture porn making him less of a sop filmmaker. Roadkill 2 is funnier and more fun than Bats but the split tones can adversely leave one sensorially befuddled on departure.

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