And the award for most darkly ironic film title goes to…
Known as Joy Ride in the US, Road Kill is a 2001 horror thriller starring none other than Paul Walker. The jokes practically write themselves, although exactly how funny they are is up for debate.
Long before “Pablo” Paul Walker was teaching us all about the power of family while performing impossible stunts in really fast cars, he was pissing off truckers with a CB radio and then promptly soiling his underoos.
Walker stars as Lewis Thomas alongside Steve Zahn, who somehow convincingly plays his troubled older brother Fuller. After bailing his brother out of a legal scrape, Lewis heads off in the direction of the girl of his dreams, but along the way, the brothers begin using a CB radio to play jokes on truckers.
When their prank turns deadly, the pair find themselves pursued by the angry, unstable “Rusty Nail”, voiced by Ted Levine. Rusty is hell-bent on tormenting the brothers in order to get his revenge, and will stop at nothing to fulfill his evil trucker bloodlust.
Let’s start by addressing the obvious: yes, the premise is ridiculous. Not only is it incredibly and specifically convoluted, but it’s every bit as funny as it is terrifying, which isn’t always a great mix when it comes to horror.
Despite being two actors that you’d probably never have associated with the horror genre, both Walker and Zahn deliver pretty bankable performances, and with J.J. Abrams producing and writing the film, it actually all comes together surprisingly well. In spite of the premise’s comic implausibility, Road Kill/Joy Ride is actually remarkably coherent. Ted Levine’s voice lends a sufficiently menacing and creepy vibe to the film’s antagonist, and Leelee Sobieski also delivers a solid supporting performance as Venna, Lewis’ love interest that the Thomas brothers inadvertently drag into Rusty Nail’s quest for revenge.
It’s not a particularly clever film, nor does it do anything that you couldn’t have seen in countless other late ’90s/early ’00s horror flicks, but it’s surprisingly entertaining, all things considered.
Summary: Surprisingly well-made and interestingly conceived, this weird forgotten B-movie is well worth digging out, if only to see Paul Walker driving in a slightly different context than you’re used to.
Highlight: Steve Zahn’s performance as the charming/irritating older brother and the on-screen bro-chemistry between Zahn and Walker.