Starring: Steve Zahn, Paul Walker and Leelee Sobieski
Twentieth Century Fox
Certificate: 15
Available now

College freshman Lewis Thomas embarks upon a cross-country road trip to pick up the girl of his dreams, Vanna. But he also feels obliged to bail his older brother Fuller out of jail on the way. When Fuller goads Lewis into playing a practical joke using a CB radio, they incite the terrifying wrath of a trucker known only as "Rusty Nail"...

Roadkill might best be described as Duel meets Scream, since the demon trucker in this instance has a trademark sinister voice, which is heard over the CB radio that Fuller (Steve Zahn) installs. "Rusty Nail" is almost a supernatural figure, rather like Michael Myers in the Halloween movies, possessing an uncanny and unnerving ability to turn up out of the blue to terrorise the hapless teenagers. Like the trucker in Duel, we see very little of "Rusty" outside of his menacing vehicle, whose searchlights seem like the eyes of some great behemoth.

In fact, I don't actually recall seeing as much of "Rusty Nail" when I saw this film at the cinema as we do during this rental release. Perhaps the picture contrast was reduced during its transfer from celluloid to video.

The structure of John (Red Rock West) Dahl's movie allows us a few moments of respite in the very middle of the narrative, like the calm in the eye of a storm, before the director cranks up the tension once again. There are plenty of lighter moments, most of which involve the wayward Fuller (splendidly played by Zahn), such as when he attempts to seduce Vanna (Leelee Sobieski) while Lewis (Paul Walker) is asleep.

The screenplay by Clay Tarver and J.J. Abrams (creator of the series Alias) acknowledges the "rules" of the horror genre (for example, that characters of dubious morality tend to be placed in the greatest danger), but also plays with and circumvents those conventions to great effect. There's nothing rusty about this well-oiled machine, and this suspenseful movie will drive you to distraction.

Richard McGinlay