The ending of the first Joy Ride did indeed leave things open to the idea of a sequel but at the time I don’t think I would have guessed that the sequel would be released 7 years later as a straight to DVD release with none of the original cast involved. The only connection to the first movie is that Rusty Nail is still the bad guy only he is no longer voiced by Ted Levine and is no longer frightening as we spend a lot more time with him and it turns out he kinda sucks as a villain.
Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead is for people who enjoyed the first Joy Ride but wished it had more irritating characters, more gratuitous violence, less suspense and worse acting. Your prayers have been answered insane people!
In my review of the first Joy Ride I gave the movie props for taking it’s time in the beginning and allowing you to get to know the characters before introducing the problem. Joy Ride 2 opens with a hooker getting her head smashed into the side of a truck. This immediately establishes both the change in direction (ie: one that is of lesser quality) and also completely changes the character of Rusty Nail in my eyes. In the first one he seemed like a guy who was pushed too far and just snapped, becoming completely focused on terrorizing this group of people who he feel had drastically wronged him. Here he’s clearly just a fucking maniac. Perhaps that is in direct correlation to what happened in the first movie but it seems as though the dude is just a straight up murderer and he’s just not as scary here as in the first movie.
You know what, I should actually be thankful that this movie doesn’t give us an extended opening with these characters as these are not characters you would want to spend any time with. You got the main couple, Bobby and Melissa, and they’re pretty likable at least. They’re kind of bland but the actors are capable and they seem alright so sure. Then you have Melissa’s sister Kayla and her boyfriend Nik, who she met online and is picked up as part of their road tip. These two…Jesus. Nik has to be one of the most irritating characters I’ve encountered in any movie in a long while. He’s such a fucking prick and it’s made worse because I think the movie wants us to like him. I think they think this dude is charming and hilarious. Oh movie, you are so off the mark with this asshole. Once they enter a diner and he starts loudly antagonizing the patrons for no reason I knew this fucker had to die. Yes I know all of this is in service of a twist with his character that happens in the second half but it doesn’t make it any less terrible to watch.
In the first movie, the leads played a pretty mean spirited prank on Rusty Nail so while yes his response is very over the top, you do at least somewhat understand why he would be upset. In this one, the leads borrow a car from a house that happens to belong to him. They leave a note explaining the situation and that they will return the car. This is what sets him off. It pales in comparison to the events of the first movie and makes everything feel very slight. It’s another sign that Rusty Nail is just generally out of his mind insane and hardly needs any motivation to commence with the murdering.
The gore level is upped considerably for this sequel though the lack of blood was certainly not detrimental to the first movie. I’m not opposed to having a higher body count and a higher gore quotient but it’s not done in an interesting way. A violent act from the first movie is redone here in more detail and is capped with a fucking terrible one liner. The third act though is the guiltiest as two characters are held captive and we get a 10 minute torture sequence where people are burned, stabbed, struck with hammers, etc. This scene ends with a murder of such super human strength that any sense of reality is completely lost and you may as well just be watching a Friday the 13th sequel. It’s like suddenly Rusty Nail became the dude from Hatchet.
The first movie got a good bit of suspense out of the idea that perhaps Rusty Nail really was just fucking with these guys and had no intent of harming them. He makes them do humiliating things like walk into a restaurant naked and it works well as you aren’t entirely sure what this dude is up to. Here there’s no fucking around. There’s no mystery, there’s no build-up, no real suspense. I mean I guess there’s a couple of attempts to put them in embarrassing situations but one is very similar to the first movie and the other is an extended and pointless strip tease sequence with a painfully obvious pay-off.
I think those are enough words to adequately state how poor Joy Ride 2 is. It’s not the worst direct to DVD sequel I’ve seen by any stretch and perhaps had it simply been called Dead Ahead with no connection to the Joy Ride franchise then I may have been a smidge kinder to it. However as a follow-up to that first movie this is incredibly poor and doesn’t warrant your time.