Joy Ride (2001)
Directed by John Dahl

Starring Jessica Bowman Leelee Sobieski Paul Walker Steve Zahn

"Road" horror films are often fun. The first and arguably best was Steven Spielberg's "Duel," which pit a nerdy businessman against a psychotic truck driver along a desert highway. "The Hitcher" was also pretty damn good. "Joy Ride" took the concept into the '00s, with an "alternative rock" soundtrack and an annoying sensitive guy (Walker) as the man who finds himself confronted with a crazed truck driver out on the lawless desert highways of America.

In this version of the oft-told tale, our protagonist actually does something to initiate the wrath of the driver. He and his older brother (Zahn) have fun with a newly purchased CB radio, while on a road trip. Using the CB handle "Candy Cane," Walker convinces a truck driver that he's speaking to a woman, and gets the truck driver to beat himself off on the radio. Very funny. The brothers convince the driver to meet the fictional "Candy Cane" in a motel room. They're wracked with guilt the next day when they learn that the resident of said room was murdered, and the driver is out on the road, eager to enact revenge on the two kids who humiliated him.

Like most modern fear films, "Joy Ride" takes a tried-and-true concept and amps up the volume by 300 percent. Unlike "Duel," which is so realistic it doesn't even feel like a Spielberg movie, "Joy Ride" is about as believable as a "Scream" film. The entire teen cast seems to have sprung straight out of a TV show, but that's to be expected when you're dealing with a corporate thriller aimed at teen audiences. Hottie Leelee Sobieski (later the star of "Glass House" is part of the show, playing Walker's independent-yet-beautiful girlfriend. She keeps her clothes on throughout the movie. Weakest link in the film: As the plot sets itself up during the first act, we are barraged with way too much crap "modern rock" music, which continues to blare from the soundtrack during the film's slower parts.

"Joy Ride" is one of those amalgamation-of-genres movies, featuring horror, action, suspense, teen comedy, etc. Sometimes that's annoying, but it works here. It was marketed as a "thriller," but that didn't prevent the filmmakers from coming to a Fangoria Convention to push the movie. The villain (CB handle "Rusty Nail") is actually quite freaky, even though we never see his face. His voice is scary enough. The film ends with an apparent nod to a sequel.

Dahl also made the outstanding noir film "The Last Seduction," which is definitely worth checking out (and is certainly better than this film).

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

Posted by Keith on June 5, 2008
Guilty pleasure. Fun flick, but I think if it wasn't for Steve Zahn's character, this movie wouldn't be as fun.

Posted by mister fluffy on February 11, 2009
zahn is kinda fun in most of his movies, but this one starts to drag toward the end and sobieski showed way less skin than i was hoping (as usual.)

Posted by k+l on May 5, 2009
i thought it was pretty damn good!

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