Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead (2008)

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Picture the scene: you’re Rusty Nail, the murderous truck driver, fresh from your antics with Zahn, Walker and Sobieski in the first movie. You’re just pulling into your strangely remote house, ready to relax, when you discover that your house has been broken into and your car stolen. Is there no rest for a faceless psychopath? Sorry, poor fella, you’ve got to drag yourself back out onto the roads for another round of hostages and forcing people to take their clothes off and (eventually) murder; more fake-outs, creepy-looking people actually being nice, and so on.

 

In this low-rent cover version of the first movie, we’re back to the more traditional way of doing things, with a Final Girl and her cannon fodder friends. Melissa is getting married to Bobby, and the two of them, along with her sister Kayla, are driving to Las Vegas for a joint stag/hen event. So far, so ordinary, until they pull into a petrol station in the middle of nowhere and meet Nik, a “3rd wave emo punk” and Kayla’s online boyfriend. From the off, he’s an obnoxious douchebag, and one of his early contributions is that, rather than use the interstate (basically, the motorway), they ought to use the back roads, because there’s no cops around and they can break the speed limit, getting there quicker. This, at least, attempts to correct one of the more glaring problems of the first movie, and even though it’s still a stupid idea, at least it’s an idea and not just “why aren’t they on the interstate? Ah, who cares”.

 

So, they break down, find a house in the almost literal middle of nowhere (a good hour’s drive from the nearest civilization of any kind, if I’m remembering right), break in, steal the car (which has been sitting there untouched for at least three months, but the battery works fine) and would be away scot free were it not for Melissa’s pesky moral code. She leaves an apologetic note with a promise to return with payment for the damage…and her phone number, which is all Rusty Nail needs.

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Let’s talk about Rusty for a second. He gets no backstory of any kind (which I like, kinda), and in the first movie it just seems like he’s a normal, if slightly sad, trucker, who escalates to murder extremely quickly after he gets a prank played on him. The implication that they’d pranked a psychopathic murderer was there, but never really elaborated on. By part 2, he’s got his own torture cellar – almost certainly an attempt to hew closer to “Hostel”, which had been released in the intervening years – and there’s the first stirrings of turning him into a Jason Voorhees-style super-psycho. Is it that difficult to write a horror sequel? Also, his powers of tracking and manipulation of his environment are on a level we mere mortals couldn’t touch.

 

This movie has a grand total of one funny moment, when Rusty Nail’s truck starts acting. He’s outside his own house and can see the damage that our “heroes” have done, and the truck starts belching out black smoke, like a bull in a cartoon (the rest of the movie, it’s normal smoke coloured). Well done, movie! Unfortunately, this puts the truck ahead of several cast members in the acting stakes. The weird and pointless moments are far more numerous – stealing a finger from a morgue is treated like a wacky prank; and there’s a sort of trucker party in the middle of nowhere which takes ages to set up and is then dispensed with in a matter of minutes.

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As has been established over the course of these 600+ reviews, I’m not a genius. So you know when I can pick holes in a movie, that movie must indeed be full to the brim with holes. Let’s try and work out how many trucks Rusty Nail has. He leaves one buried in that motel at the end of the first movie (they try and pass off that it’s the ice truck from earlier, but that shit was DESTROYED when Rusty drove through it). At the beginning of part 2, he’s driving an identical one; and at the end, when that one’s been destroyed in a fire, he’s got a new one. They aren’t cheap, you know! Also, it’s probably best to ignore how far CB radio can broadcast, because while it was a plot point in part 1, it’s just “as far as we need” in this one.

 

It’s so shoddily made, with not a thought given as to why this movie even exists. I’ll do a bit of a spoiler at the end of all this, so feel free to skip all this and go straight to the “THUMBS DOWN” bit if you like. There’s simple things like…Rusty Nail’s house is an hour’s drive down a dirt road from the nearest civilization, yet he still gets his mail delivered. No way! There’s a moment when Bobby, who’s been kidnapped, is left alone in Rusty’s truck. Does he hit the horn, or even use the CB radio to ask for help? No, he leaves his gag on, and rather futilely attempts to smash the window, succeeding only in getting a local bar worker killed. There’s the way a guy in a massive truck is able to see all and know all, and is a magic stealth-ninja, it would seem (he manages to sneak Bobby’s finger into Kayla’s car’s glove compartment without anyone noticing, at one point).

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Then, there’s Rusty’s torture dungeon, which has a series of numbers and body parts written on the wall – so “4 – Kneecap”, “9 – Shoulder”, and so on. From 2 to 12, which corresponds to the different scores you can get with two six-sided dice. Then, when he has Bobby and Nik tied up in his basement, he asks them what their favourite game is, and Nik says “craps” (the game you play with two dice). What if he’d said poker, or Monopoly?If you’re going to have an elaborate system for torturing people, then why not just force them to play craps rather than ask? I know, it’s small potatoes, but it’s the sort of mistake that makes a viewer realise the filmmakers just didn’t give a crap.

 

I was sort of rooting for the bad guy to win in this one. The heroes make endless stupid decisions, and Nik is perhaps the whiniest, most useless central character I’ve seen in a horror movie in a long time. I hated them all, and was delighted when they finally got theirs. And the ending! If you’re ever unfortunate enough to find yourself watching it, see if you can figure it out. So, the survivors know where Rusty lives, which will be enough to find out his identity (when they call the police to say how the nutter killed their friends). Given he escapes the exploding truck and is able to steal another one by the very end of the movie, why is no-0ne looking for him? He’s killed a lot of people by this point. Goddamit, why am I putting more thought in than  the people who made this?

 

It shows how important a decent writer and director can be. Part one had John Dahl (“Rounders”, many TV shows) and a script from JJ Abrams. Part 2 has Louis Morneau, who also made “The Hitcher 2” among other cheap awful-looking trash; and a script…well, I’m stumped on that one. The two writers also wrote “In The Blood” years later, which I really liked, and one of them is the writer or “Dumb And Dumber”! How did that guy not put any jokes in this movie?

Yay! He died!

Yay! He died!

Obviously, you’re not going to watch this. You’re sensible people. But seriously avoid it. A very slight amount of fun can be had wondering why a movie released in 2001, that wasn’t that big a hit, got a sequel 7 years later. Something contractual, possibly? The presence of a part 3, in 2014 (making this one of the laziest franchises ever) would indicate someone thinks the name “Joy Ride” is a licence worth holding on to.

 

Rating: thumbs down

 

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