One particular horror movie that we don’t really hear too much about anymore is 2001’s Joy Ride. Starring Paul Walker and Steve Zahn, the film tells the story of a pair of brothers and their friend on the run from a vengeful trucker following a practical joke gone awry. It wasn’t exactly a smash hit, but the reviews were mostly positive, as this simple story churned out an interesting thriller that was certainly a lot better than most were expecting it to be.
2008 saw the release of a follow-up film, Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead. The scorned trucker from the first film, Rusty Nail, returned to terrorize a new group of youths after they borrowed a car from a seemingly-abandoned house. What an unfortunate coincidence it was to have picked Rusty Nail’s house of all places to steal a car from. In the end, the door was left open for another sequel when the trucker miraculously survived an explosion.
Finally, that option of a third movie was fulfilled when 2014 brought about Joy Ride 3, which I finally was able to check out after it showed up on Netflix. Rusty Nail is evidently still driving big rigs around, and goes back to his old tricks when our new protagonists cut him off on the road. After the disappointing sequel that was Dead Ahead, would Joy Ride 3 be able to capture some of the excitement of the original?
Sadly, it did not. The third film of the Joy Ride trilogy was full of problems, and I’ll start with the biggest one that bothered me. We simply saw way too much of Rusty Nail this time around. The two biggest factors that made the trucker so creepy in the original film were his distinctive voice and the fact that we hardly even knew what he looked like. There’s really no effort to keep any mystery around him this time around, and the more I saw of him, the less intimidating he got. His voice also sounded much different, making it harder to connect that it was indeed the same character.
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I was also asked to stretch my suspension of disbelief quite a hell of a lot. For starters, Rusty showed no visible burn wounds, causing a continuity error right from the start (he was burned alive at the end of 2). Rusty and his truck would always conveniently materialize out of thin air far too often; I know that Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers have also made habits of doing this, but they weren’t in giant, noisy trucks. The film was just chock-full of little, implausible things like this that bothered me.
The ending in particular was pretty annoying (SPOILERS in this paragraph). The heroes finally had Rusty Nail trapped in his vehicle near a car crusher. One of the characters uses a crane to pick up the truck and drop it into the crusher. “How about you go in the crusher!” shouts the protagonist, before he just ends up walking away with the girl, assuming Rusty Nail was then dead. So he drops Rusty’s truck into the crusher but doesn’t turn it on?! Even after that threat about how he was going to crush him? That made absolutely no sense beyond going for the cliche ending with how Rusty Nail implausibly escapes death or capture yet again, this time somehow squeezing out of a mangled big rig without any injuries and escaping the area without being seen or heard by any of the dozens of cops around (they showed up immediately when Rusty was placed in the car crusher).
Sometimes, you don’t realize how good a movie is until a couple of abysmal sequels come along to show you how much worse the concept could have been executed. That is definitely the situation we have here. Joy Ride 3 will only barely keep you entertained, but you’ll end up walking away from it with more of a fondness for the original thriller.