Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead (DVD)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Kyle Schmid, Mark J. Gibbon, Nicki Lynn Aycox, Laura Jordan, Nick Zano
Directed by Louis Morneau
Distributed by Fox Home Entertainment
2001's Joy Ride remains in my opinion one of the most underrated thrillers of recent years. While it had a smart script (co-written by J.J. Abram no less) that put more emphasis on psychological torment than that of the physical variety, Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead keeps the cruel mind games but puts a greater emphasis on physical pain and suffering. Though the original established that the mysterious psycho trucker Rusty Nail was capable of extreme brutality, the anguish he inflicted was primarily mental. This DVD sequel pretty much joy rides right into slasher territory.
Look no further than the film's opening minutes for a prime example of the more slasher-oriented mindset. Rusty Nail lures a truck stop hooker into his rig, traps her hanging halfway out the window, puts the rig into gear, and splatters her brains on the side of another parked rig. It's a scene that seems more appropriate for a sequel to The Hitcher remake than a Joy Ride follow-up. Coincidentally, director Louis Morneau previously helmed a Hitcher sequel (sequel to the original version), as well as a Carnosaur sequel and the notoriously terrible Bats.
Rusty Nail was also less a character than a presence in the original, a voice on the CB radio (not Ted Levine this time out and not nearly as menacing), a phantom driving a big rig whose appearances were few and almost always shadowy; we never even saw his face. Morneau here goes to great lengths to try and keep us from ever getting a full-on look at his face but we definitely see more of him out of his truck than in it interacting with victims. Rusty Nail this time around is essentially the fisherman from I Know What You Did Last Summer, his hook replaced with an 18-wheeler and a variety of trucker tools.
Following that unnecessary pre-title kill, the sequel gets off to a dubious start with a stock scenario of friends on a road trip to Vegas breaking down in the middle of nowhere and finding a seemingly abandoned home out in the middle of nowhere. For a moment I was wondering if the writers had gotten confused and thought they were doing a DTV Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel instead.
Sisters Melissa - or "Goldilocks" as Rusty will come to call her - and Kayla are headed to Vegas with Melissa's fiancé Bobby for some bachelor and bachelorette parties. Joining them is Kayla's date, Nik, a self-described "third wave emo-punk" she hooked up with over the internet.
This Nik is initially so obnoxious, so hate-inducing, so utterly repugnant as a human being, that it not only made me wonder what Kayla could possibly see in him, it left me wondering how he'd gotten this far in life without someone having already murdered him. He's got no problem breaking windows to get into another person's home or stealing their car. He's an insulting motormouth who doesn't hesitate to stand up in a truck stop diner and hurl derogatory slurs at all the truckers in a manner no human being alive would do without fear of being beaten to death in an instant. In that manner he reminded me very much of the hateful best friend from Monster Man, a character that remains the most repellent protagonist I've ever seen in a motion picture. Yet amazingly, before all is said and done, the movie somehow manages to make Nik a slightly sympathetic, if not pitiful, character.
Broken down in the desert, the foursome happens upon a single home next to a ravine, the only sign of civilization in this wasteland. They let themselves in. Nobody's home and the phones don't work but there's a classic muscle car in the barn with the keys in it. They decide to "borrow" it until they can find help. Even though Melissa leaves behind a note with her cell phone number trying to explain the situation, if I came home and found my house broken into and classic car stolen I would not be very understanding. Even worse for them since it turns out the homeowner is Rusty Nail. He follows them in his rig to a nearby truck stop where he abducts Bobby from the restroom and then calls Melissa's cell to let them all know they need to be taught a lesson about taking other people's things.
Unlike the characters in the original that riled Rusty Nail with a prank pulled over the CB radio, to a certain extent these four kind of have it coming, which is probably why this film ups the violence quotient - a bit easier to sympathize with someone when they're getting kneecapped. Another example, Kayla gave Rusty the finger as he passed by in his truck so now he wants her to chop off that finger and deliver it to him. The whopper though is what may be the world's first ever "torture porn" craps game. It's actually a surprisingly intense scene.
Although Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead remains an uncalled for sequel that doesn't hold a candle to its vastly superior predecessor, I still found it to be above average when compared to the questionable quality of most of these uncalled for DVD sequel cash-ins of late. It's an alright thriller with a theatrical feel to it missing from most sequels of this nature that delivers what little you expect from a made-for-DVD sequel despite still being a dumbed down, often cliché addled, slasher version of the original with an overemphasis of gore. I wasn't bored and aside from the hackneyed opening set-up and an intelligence insulting keep-the-franchise-alive finale, I was entertained. These days with this increasingly annoying DVD sequel trend that's not asking for too much.
Extras include one of those storyboard-to-film comparison reels, a few trailers for other DVD releases, your typical make-up effects how-they-did-it segment, and a bland making-of feature with plenty of talk about shooting on location in Canada and one noteworthy moment when star Nicki Aycox describes the sequel as being "more modern" than the original. In what sense? I mean aside from having been made in 2008, what makes this sequel more modern? Adding more bloodshed and brutality makes it more modern? What the hell was she babbling about?
3 out of 5
1 1/2 out of 5
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