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Road Kill 2 - Dead Ahead (2008)
26th Feb 09
Rusty Nail is back on the road with a crap new voice and America’s most slap-worthy emo to murder horribly.
Director Louis Morneau’s C.V. includes the slick but needless The Hitcher 2 , a belated sequel to a movie that heavily influenced the original Roadkill , an efficient thriller co-written by J.J. Abrahams and directed with skill by John Dahl. There was nothing original about that movie but it was executed with finesse; somehow, there’s even less that’s original about the straight-to-DVD follow-up Dead Ahead . Since Roadkill (or Joyride as it‘s known in the U.S.), unrated DVD horror and sadistic Saw sequels have made plenty of moolah, so this sequel opts for exploitation. Its intent is clear from an old-school prologue in which a hooker gets her tits out in Rusty Nail’s truck before losing her head to an oncoming truck after getting trapped in the passenger’s window. Ah tits ‘n trucks ‘n decapitations…life is good.
That’s Rusty Nail, the unseen part time trucker / full time nutter played memorably by a typecast but effective Ted Levine in the original. He’s still on the prowl and up to his old tricks in Dead Ahead though a key difference is that Ted Levine has been replaced by an equally unseen but substantially less frightening voice actor who merely sounds like he took the Talk Like Ted Levine acting class at film school…and failed.
Pretty young Laura Jordan is on the road - en route to Vegas - with her big sister (Nicki Aycox), Aycox’s dull fiancee (Kyle Schmid) and her own internet-spawned boyfriend (Nick Zano). The group break down, take refuge at an abandoned house that turns out to be owned by Rusty Nail and - as surely as night follows day or Chlamydia follows a nice night out - discover that (doh!) they have absolutely no signal. Naturally, they “borrow” the psychopath’s car with the intention of returning it later, but Nail torments them via C.B. radio and - clearly influenced by the screen shenanigans of Jigsaw - sets them a series of unreasonable, brutal challenges after kidnapping Schmid.
This movie is a whole lot better than most of these DVD knock-off sequels, though it’s hard to forgive a movie relying on a menacing central vocal performance for having a, um, feeble central vocal performance. While the weak new Rusty Nail is a hard hurdle to mount, the flick also annoys with its one-note main characters. The girls are acceptable but almost torpedoing the whole enterprise is Zano, clearly meant to replace the endearing Steve Zahn as the comic relief figure.
This OTT emo fuck-hole is fond of scaring people and then chuckling like a retard, and he just might be the most annoying character in a genre movie this year. He seals his doom early on by loudly slating truckers at a truck stop and he takes part in an unwittingly hilarious interlude late in the film in which, at Rusty Nail’s request, he is challenged to score some crystal meth from drunk, leery truckers…while dressed as a wholly unconvincing “woman”. For those that stay the course, the whole movie is worth sticking with for Zano’s show-stopping demise : a deservedly nasty fate involving a sharp thing rammed through the top of his head that exits through his chin in the fine tradition of 80’s slasher The Prowler .
Morneau’s Saw -inspired emphasis on torture and suffering gives this movie some welcome (if par for the course) edge and leads to some diverting unpleasantries including a ripped-off jaw and a bravura table dice game between two brutalised captors. CG fire rears its unwarranted head amidst some over-cooked multi-angle slo-mo shots of exploding trucks, though the script throws up some amusing contrivances (our heroes steal a finger from a corpse in a funeral parlour with consummate EASE!!) and the occasional intended laugh (a pat on the back to the trucker who laments the heroine’s small boobs and expresses a fondness for “circus tits”).
Don’t expect much and the movie may pass muster, though switch the DVD off before a lazy epilogue, of the kind that already seemed old-hat back in 1981. Cheeky bastards.