Flippin' Through Franchises: Joy Ride 3: Road Kill

Joy Ride is officially a trilogy now. It took about 13 years for it to happen, but it’s a trilogy which is kind of insane to me. Is there anyone out there devoted enough to this franchise to still be interested when it takes this long to pump out sequels? How many people even remember the first movie by this point? Clearly it must have fans I guess. I mean I’m a huge fan of the first movie but even I didn’t need to live in a world where it generated two sequels.

Also Road Kill? Come on you guys weren’t even trying with that one. Not that Dead Ahead was any better. The subtitle doesn’t even mean anything in the context of the movie so it serves no purpose other than to make the movie sound even more unoriginal. Why not just Joy Ride 3: Uh Oh Big Truck Vrooooom. At least that connects to the plot in some way.

The first Joy Ride opened slowly and allowed  the intensity to ramp up. The second Joy Ride opened with a hooker being killed by having her head smashed into the side of a truck. The third movie opens up with two meth heads having sex in a seedy motel room, complete with hordes of nudity. It immediately establishes just how far from the first movie we have come. It turns out though; this opening is the best scene in the movie. It does the best job of balancing suspense, dark humour and bloody mayhem. It really started things for me on a positive note and I was really hoping the movie was able to keep this momentum going. It was not.

In this movie our protagonists are a group of race car drivers who are trying to make their way up to Canada to participate in some big race or something, who cares. The first movie did a good job of fleshing out the characters to make them likable and easy to root for. The sequel seemingly went out of its way to produce the most grating, fucking awful people on earth so you had no trouble watching them get  picked off one by one. The third movie instead opts for a group of lead characters that are aggressively bland. You don’t hate them or root for them to die really but they aren’t interesting enough to cheer them on either. They just exist, not doing or saying anything of note.

The same can be said for Rusty Nail, who went from a mere voice in the first movie, to a bit more of a physical entity in the second movie, to borderline the star here. No attempts are made to hide him or make him a mystery. He is right there, front and centre for the majority of the movie, face often clearly visible. He is played by Ken Kirzinger and sounds nothing like he did in any of the other movies. I like Kirzinger but this is a very weak character. As with the good guys, he just isn’t that interesting, especially when you compare him to the first movie. Even more than in the second movie, he is no longer a trucker pushed over the edge for being wronged. He’s just a full out psychopath murderer at this stage. Sure you could argue that he was screwed over here kinda in that the leads cut him off while driving and then act like dicks about it. But for the most part he’s boring. He just spouts one-liners and is also one of those killers who is always a billion steps ahead of every possible situation. There’s never any suspense because you know Rusty Nail is always going to come out ahead. In one scene a character decides to go off on their own and the movie barely even tries to wring any tension out of this before they are snatched by Rusty Nail. He always knows what’s going on, where everyone is at all times, and constantly has the upper hand which I admit doesn’t usually bother me in horror movies but here it just didn’t seem right.

That was a long fucking paragraph, Jesus.

One thing I will definitely give this movie credit for is the practical gore effects. The kills themselves are not overly creative as almost all of them simply involve someone being crushed by a different piece of truck related equipment, but they are almost all done practically and I have to give props for any horror movie still doing it that way. It’s just so much better and provides an impact that CGI blood simply doesn’t deliver. So for this reason alone I dug the death scenes.

You know, I just realized something. Does Rusty Nail actually have employment as a truck driver? Does he actually get jobs and loads to deliver? Where does he find time to do the work when he seemingly can’t stop murdering anybody who even slightly wrongs him? At least a day or 2 passes in this movie and that’s a lot of time spent sidetracked with murder instead of deliveries. His truck also can apparently float around silently as he manages to sneak up on people constantly despite during a giant ass loud truck. Between that and Rusty’s ability to always have the upper hand, I’m reasonably convinced the man is made of pure magic.

So that’s Joy Ride 3, which I have to imagine is the last we will see of this franchise. It’s a step above the second movie due to a couple of fun scenes, characters who are boring instead of irritating, and a bunch of solid gore effects. There just isn’t enough going on to make the whole thing interesting. There’s no real suspense as Rusty Nail dominates every situation all the time and there is absolutely nobody here to root for. In the realm of direct to DVD sequels this one is certainly not the worst and I would say is probably worth a watch kinda maybe. Sorta. A little.