I didn’t care much for the original movie, so I wasn’t really excited about Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead. That said, it’s a mechanical movie without a single new thing to offer the genre, but like your 1000th McDonald’s hamburger, in the right mood it might just do the trick.
This one at least doesn’t bother with the ‘funny’ hijinks that we had to endure in the original (mainly courtesy of Steve Zahn, a man who is only amusing in VERY small doses). In fact they are intent on getting things moving ASAP this time, and thus they have the least original setup in breakdown history. Literally, the requisite dumb character (Nik, played by Kyle Schmid) says “Let’s take this shortcut!!” and within seconds the car breaks down. Honestly, it seems to occur so quickly that it’s a wonder they don’t just turn around and walk back to the turnoff, but another character claims it’s been a couple hours (clever use of exposition to hide confusing scene transitions!). One thing I loved about Leatherface: TCM III was that the ‘shortcut’ is offered by a bad guy posing as a good guy. When the crazy gas station clerk allegedly kills him, the heroes see that the other guy was really trying to help, and thus taking his shortcut suddenly seems like a good idea. It’s not exactly Oscar caliber, but it’s at least reasonably clever, and makes the characters feel a bit more intelligent than many of their breakdown movie peers. But Joy Ride 2 screenwriters James Robert Johnston and Bennett Yellin don’t even try; we know they will break down anyway, might as well get right to it.
And from then on it’s fairly well done, more or less. Rusty Nail does the same sort of shit, tricking our heroes (among them Nicki Aycox) and forcing them to do terrible things, but it’s enjoyable. It all comes down to a torture sequence in which the two male heroes are playing a life or death game of Craps, in which certain dice rolls translate into a different torture mode (i.e. a seven means you get a crowbar to your kneecap). Luckily, it ends with the death of the film’s most annoying character, a poseur who one of the girls met on Myspace. It’s kind of funny that FOX would produce a film in which a Myspace (which is owned by FOX) user is depicted as a whiny loser with fake tattoos and no backbone. Granted, it’s realistic, but still rather surprising.
Myspace is just one of many prominent websites to get namedropped in the film (Google, Youtube…). Perhaps it’s the screenwriters’ attempts to make their film more identifiable to their target audience, but if so, they should realize that most people, even Myspace users, aren’t stupid enough to take random shortcuts with an old car owned by someone who doesn’t bother putting oil into it. Remember: if it really were a shortcut, it would just be “the way”. How about, just for once, making horror movie characters easy to identify with by having them act like actual human beings?
This one is directed by Louis Morneau, who also made the unnecessary sequel Hitcher II. It’s a very similar film, but he fares better here, since the script actually has some decent ideas (killing off a traditionally “safe” character for starters) and delivers about what you’d expect out of a direct to video sequel, which Hitcher II couldn’t even manage.
Joy Ride 2 lucks out by coming on the heels of the similar (but utterly terrible) Rest Stop 2. It’s not particularly good, but considering how terrible its DTV brethren are lately, being merely OK is actually enough to warrant a pass from me.
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