Student Lewis and his irresponsible brother, Fuller, amuse themselves while driving across America with a CB radio prank, bringing down the wrath of a trucker whose handle is 'Rusty Nail'. When they pick up Lewis' potential girlfriend, Venna, the psycho pursues them, looking for gruesome revenge.
Though it's rarely a good sign when filmmakers can't decide on a title - 'Roadkill' was filmed as 'Squelch' then released in the U.S. as 'Joy Ride' - this is a solid little teen-themed suspenser.
Of course, the on-the-road menace business has been hashed over in the likes of 'The Hitcher' and 'Road Games', while any film featuring a psychopathic mothertrucker who is never seen close-up is automatically regarded as an homage to (aka rip-off) of 'Duel' - though here he gets a 'Scream'-like nasty voice.
Croaking his threats over the radio, the monster-villain (an unbilled Ted Levine) is still mired in the 1970s, while the rest of the country is now on the internet. This creates interesting friction between the three smart-ass kids in the lead car, when Fuller persuades Lewis to pose as a woman and entrap a trucker on CB by suggesting he'd have no qualms about doing the same thing in a chat room.
Top-billed Zahn, a hyperactive smart-mouth, brings out the wildness in good boy Walker, while Helen Hunt-look Sobieski lends a cool perspective as the tough, smart girl.
The characters are spikier than the teen suspense norm, credibly foolish and callous but weird enough to be likeable when it seems they're liable to suffer the fate of the last fellow who pissed off Rusty Nail (in a coma with his jawbone ripped off).
Director John Dahl is best known for movies ('The Last Seduction', 'Red Rock West') that depend more on surprise than suspense, but here he stages action scenes with the best of them.
Shiver as the monster truck comes close to squashing the hero's feeble car against a tree, or shines its eye-like headlamps over a cornfield where the kids are trying to hide.
While not the most blindingly original film of the year, this B-type picture delivers more value for money than many a hyped release. It's unlikely to bring CB radio back into fashion, though.