It’s hard to believe it was way back in 2001 when Joy Ride was first released. You can lump me in with the crowd that didn’t expect there to be a sequel, much less a third entry into this series. The second Joy Ride I seemed to have missed altogether, so when I was given Joy Ride 3, I have to admit I was a little hesitant about checking this film out. Now that I have checked out the Blu-ray and all its extras, all I can think is that I had a good time with this film.
The film starts out strong, bringing us into a seedy motel room where a couple of meth addicts are up to no good. When the two are tapped out of meth, they decide to use their CB radio to lure in an unsuspecting driver. It’s no surprise that the trucker they end up getting is Rusty Nail, and he seems to be more than happy to oblige these two addicts. How the rest of the opening sequence plays out is better seen than ruined in a review, but I will say this is one of my favorite openings for a horror film in some time. It’s fun, it’s brutal, and it’s bloody. It’s the perfect way to kick off this kind of film.
The main focus of the film falls on a racing team that is on their way to a big race, and they of course want to take the quickest way possible; unfortunately, this means that have to cut through Slaughter Alley. This is a route that is infamous to all locals and truckers for not just being a dead zone but also an area where drivers seem to always go missing. Of course these kids are not going to heed the warnings; after all, taking risks is part of their profession.
Rusty Nail, this time played by Ken Kirzinger (Freddy vs Jason), is more than just the menace behind the wheel of a semi and really gets the chance to be a menacing character this time out. It’s one thing to kill people behind the wheel of a semi; let’s face it, anyone behind the wheel of a semi is a threat. But seeing him stalking about and playing with his victims is just fun. We can see the joy that Rusty gets out of killing his victims, where before I always felt he was just a bit of a sourpuss for being fooled in the first film.
To be fair, though, the first film aimed at being more of a thriller, when instead with this installment the film seems to be a straightforward slasher only with a lot of horsepower that runs on diesel.
Of the performances in the film, the one that stood out for me is from Kirsten Prout who plays Jewel, the girlfriend to one of the guys on the racing team. She’s given the most room to show plenty of range in her role from being the strong confident girlfriend down to being the woman in peril. The rest of the team just kind of fell short for me, and really the characters could have been interchangeable despite having clever dialog. In most cases I would say blame the writer or director for the performances, but really I just couldn’t get behind these performances; they just fell a bit flat for me.
But if I can take a moment and return to the opening sequence, the performances from Sara Mitich and J. Adam Brown are more than you’d expect from this kind of film. As a short film separated from the rest of the film, it’s a solid piece of filmmaking that is pretty intense.
The rest of the film plays out as you’d expect as Rusty picks his way through the good-looking group of kids, killing them off in clever over-the-top ways. The kills are solid throughout the film ,and considering writer/ director Declan O’ Brien came from the Wrong Turn franchise (responsible for 3, 4 and 5), gore is what I’ve come to expect from the man, and he delivers. He knows the kind of film he’s making, and what’s great is he seems to embrace it. The clever one-liners Rusty spurts out as a character’s head is wedged between a tire jack and the truck bumper — it’s this kind of humor that helps sell this film to me.
There’s one last thing I need to mention about this film that stuck with me long after the credits rolled. It’s not the gore or the nudity, but the camera work that has lingered. In the commentary O’Brien openly acknowledges how the Fast and the Furious franchise influenced his writing and work on the film, and the camera work following the cars and the truck reflects that influence. The fluidity of the camera and it moving between cars and around them as they are speeding along the highway not only makes for a good-looking shot but is a great tool in building suspense, and he executes both during a great sequence between Rusty, the race car and the tow truck. This sequence shows you don’t need great CGI or big special FX to make a great action sequence, but instead creativity and camera work to make it all happen.
Joy Ride 3: Road Kill is presented in the aspect ratio 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average of 18 mbps. What I dig about the look of the film is that they avoid the allure of oversaturation and deliver a very polished natural image. Using backlighting both in a natural and practical way, O’ Brien is able to capture the contrast of the beautiful scenery with the gore. Though the blood was brighter than the typical muddy look I’m used to seeing, it wasn’t enough to distract me. Even with all the high-speed movement there was no interference in the transfer, and in the darker shots I didn’t notice any crushing. Even at a low mbps rate this is a really good-looking picture.
The DTS Master Audio 5.1 mix is pretty awesome for this release. Whether it’s the rumble of the truck or the engine of the cars as they speed along the highway, it comes through your speakers loud and clear. When Rusty first arrives on the tail of the racing team, this is a sound cue that delivered nicely. With clear audio throughout the film, this is a solid track that delivers.
Audio commentary with Declan O’Brien: O’Brien delivers a fun and informative commentary that gives plenty of information throughout. Along with him on the track is the director of all the behind-the-scenes footage, who helps keep the commentary going with plenty of informative questions. Hearing how he pulled shooting this film off in 20 days is just impressive.
Riding Shotgun with Declan: (9:22) A brief behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film and some of the more unique action and kill sequences.
Jewel’s Message: (1:22) The uncut message Jewel delivers at one of the more pivotal moments in the film.
Road Rage: The blood, sweat and gears of Joy Ride 3: (11:52) A brief behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film.
Deleted Scenes: (5:41) Nothing really that is what I’d call a must watch. The most entertaining cut scene is an extension of the scene where the racing team stops at the creepy garage.
Pre-Vis Sequences: (6:57) This is a cool little sequence where we see Declan using toy cars to demonstrate how he’d like the car sequences to go down in the film. It’s little things like this that make me glad for Blu-ray and special features.
Finding “Large Marge”: (3:54) A look at the casting process for everyone’s favorite waitress in the film.
Sure, I was hesitant going into this film, but it didn’t take long for me to get hooked on this guilty pleasure. Between its fast pace and creative kills, this is one of those films to kick back and just have some fun. If O’Brien stays at the helm, I’d be on board with seeing more Joy Rides in the not too distant future.