Is there something more American than driving across the country to pick up your high school crush? Joy Ride is a very effective and entertaining “road trip from hell” thriller featuring an amazing cast. I’m a big fan of John Dahl movies as they capture this American atmosphere so well that you can’t help but fall in love with them. Red Rock West and Kill Me Again have that vibe while Rounders and You Kill Me feel a bit more modern.
In the decently saturated genre of road terror movies, you would think that it’s pretty hard to make a refreshing and engaging movie. However, Joy Ride is exactly that. The atmosphere is intense and full of suspense. And the pacing is just right. The entire movie feels cozy and familiar, like one of those eighties and nineties holiday action movies you play every other year. It’s a rusty and older model of an automobile that’s still sturdy and can leave some of the modern ones in the dust. And it feels really good to drive to continue with this car analogy.
What makes Joy Ride work is its commitment to reality. This is something that can happen to anyone and you don’t have to be a jerk to end in such a situation. When was the last time you were driving on some deserted road and thought to yourself that if anything happened to your car now, you would be fucked? And when was the last time you saw someone in traffic who was clearly unhinged and were happy you won’t have to see them again? It’s a fucked up world we live in folks.
Lewis Thomas is a young man who’s in love with his childhood friend Venna. So in love that he’s willing to drive all the way from California to Colorado to see her. While traveling, he bumps into his older brother, a kindhearted prankster who’s always getting himself into trouble. Fuller’s latest prank involves a CB radio and a trucker that goes by the name of Rusty Nail. However, Fuller will soon realizes that he made a terrible mistake.
Paul Walker and Steve Zahn were excellent as Fuller and Lewis along with young Jessica Bowman as Charlotte. Joy Ride may seem a bit tame in the beginning but as the story progresses, it becomes more and more fucked up. Thirty minutes in, we have our first nasty scene that I wasn’t ready for at all. It’s the scene in the hospital when Fuller and Lewis visit Rusty Nail’s first victim… And the whole Candy Cane thing was a cherry on the top. If there’s one thing you’re going to remember from Joy Ride it’s the Candy Cane thing. 2001 was a great year for road horror movies as it also saw the arrival of Jeepers Creepers. Three years later we got Highwaymen although nineties Breakdown and eighties The Hitcher are much better movies.
Joy Ride is one of those movies you accidentally stumble upon and then they freaking blow you away. They prove to you that there is such a thing as an engrossing B movie with a familiar plot. And they bring you back the faith that there are more good movies out there, you just have to find them. Rabbit Reviews is a site that will help you in that quest for movies worth watching. So feel free to check out our other movie recommendations.
Director: John Dahl
Writers: Clay TarverJ.J. Abrams
Cast: Steve Zahn, Paul Walker, Leelee Sobieski, Jessica Bowman, Jim Beaver
Fun Stuff: Ted Levine plays the killer trucker Rusty Nail. You might remember him as Buffalo Bill from 1991’s hit thriller The Silence of The Lambs. Ted was the Rusty Nail’s voice and Matthew Kimbrough plays him physically in the movie.