Every year, when my family goes to Florida, all thirty-seven of us, like a bunch of hedonistic Duggars, my dad pulls out his walkie talkies. I don’t know why, in this age of cellphones he uses them, but he does. His car, and its occupants, are known as “Emerald Falcon.” The car carrying the younger generation, typically mine, is known as “Baby Bird.” Isn’t that cute? (My suggestion for our family car handles, “Big Asshole” and “Little Asshole,” was completely shot down.) Over the years, we’ve talked to strangers, sang gospel hymns in warbling tones and been generally annoying with our radios, which is just one reason why I am really surprised no one has ever tried to murder my entire family. #blessed. Did I use that hashtag right? How does one punctuate a hashtag?
Anyway, I watched the Joy Ride trilogy, and much like my adult life, it started out well and soon began its descent down an icy hill toward a sharp curve with no guardrail.
God, I forgot how legitimately pretty Paul Walker was. Those eyes! I would let Paul Walker hitch my hike anytime, you know what I mean? In the original, we meet Paul-as-Lewis, who picks up his moderately idiotic brother Fuller from jail on his way to pick up Helen Hunt’s daughter from college for their collective summer break. On the way to get Daughter Hunt, the boys acquire a CB radio and have a conversation with a trucker who goes by the name Rusty Nail. When Lewis imitates a female they christen Candy Cane, it gets the long-silent juices in Rusty Nail a’going.
Here’s the thing? What person growing up in the any time prior to 2000 did not fuck around with people by way of telephone, or CB radio or even burgeoning chat rooms? Everyone at some point or another made a prank call, pretended to be a hot Canadian girl (a/s/LIE) or just taunted someone. That’s what makes Joy Ride creepy – there was a time where we actually were just voices over the radio waves. So, of course, are you surprised when these young boys giddily tell Rusty Nail that Candy Cane will meet him in a shitty dive motel? No. Are you surprised that Rusty Nail doesn’t find the joke funny? No. Does this mean that Rusty Nail needs to try repeatedly to kill the young brothers? Clearly.
The rest of the movie involves chases, a cute little homage to one of my favorite movies of all time, “Duel,” and Helen Hunt’s daughter acting exactly like a young Helen Hunt. Oh, and there’s the CB radio, which offers up what Joy Ride is really known for: “Candy Cane. Caaaaandy Caaaaane.” It’s the world’s most unsettling mating call, other than my voice calling out for someone, anyone really, I mean, to just hold me, please. In the end, our kids survive and we think Rusty Nail has kicked the bucket, but … did he, or did he find a Peterbilt suited for a sociopath and start driving through the long night of life again, knowing all he has to look forward to is the storm up ahead. Keeps everyone inside, washes everything clean ...
Oh, the days when we were anonymous.
FILM-TO-JOY RIDE-EXPERIENCE: Jumping in your fully insured and completely free Mercedes Benz SLK, cranking up the CB radio and accidentally having a conversation with Chris Pratt, who is, in this scenario single and into chubby, slightly asymmetrical 34-year-old single moms such as yourself who don’t even remember what it’s like to be wanted and magically, Mr. Pratt offers to date you until you’re ready to love again, because god knows you’ve been hurt because he can hear it in your voice, and then be married forever and ever.
JOY RIDE 2: DEAD AHEAD
I didn’t love this one. If I had to describe it in one sentence, it would be: The original Joy Ride gets drunk and meets Hostel in a bar, goes home with her, impregnates her and she, not wanting to abort the baby, has it and hands it over to Jigsaw for raising. If I had to describe it using more than one sentence it would be as follows: Seven years after the initial Joy Ride, DVDs began appearing at truck stops across America, offering something called, “Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead” for the low, low price of $3. And thus, a sequel was born. This version of Joy Riding begins with a truck-stop ... lady of the evening, who jumps up in the rig of one Rusty Nail, but gets weirded out by his weirdness and then has to try to escape through the truck window, except nope! Somebody hasn’t watched The Bunny Game, is all I am saying.
This opening scene exists to show us that Rusty Nail has been a wackadoodle since we last left him. While he’s obviously been off practicing his craft, his time off the road has given four young people a chance to plan a road trip. The kids (two couples, one of which who met on Myspace, because that was a thing in 2008) have a shitty car, and the shitty car breaks down, so they do what everyone in the world would do, which is walk to a nearby dilapidated house, where there just happens to be a fully-gassed Chevelle sitting. It’s not stealing if you leave a note, right?
Of course, it seems that this car is owned by Rusty Nail, who seriously had to have waited the full seven years for such a perfect storm to conspire, which would allow these murderable kids to steal his car whilst he waited. I don’t even have the luck to get an accidentally upsized coffee at Starbucks, so fuck this guy, really. Anyway, Rusty Nail does what he does, and picks off the kids whilst playing some pretty fun mindgames with them which eventually end in several of our characters meeting their maker, whatever they conceive him to be. This most entertaining part of this movie is when one of the female characters steals a motorcycle and with her mad bike skills takes on Rusty Nail, thus allowing her to save her beau. “Is it over?” Beau asks as they look at the tractor-trailer remains that were defeated by Lady Motorbike. “It is now,” she says, as she kicks what appears to be Rusty Nail’s wallet off a cliff. Because if someone tried to murder me for no reason, I can tell you what I’d do: Make sure that guy stayed anonymous and not pilfer his wallet at all. Stupid people will live forever.
FILM-TO-JOY RIDE-EXPERIENCE: Jumping in your liability insured and free-to-you 1989 Honda Civic, cranking up the tape deck and trying to drive to Maine, where you’ve always wanted to visit, but of course the tape starts skipping and you look down, try to eject it, and shit, there’s all sorts of ribbon pulling out everywhere, and you need to look at the road but this is your childhood copy of “Bat Out of Hell II” and besides, this thing has anti-lock brakes oh my god, where did that stop sign come from, oh jesus I’m not goi--
JOY RIDE 3: ROAD KILL
Exactly what does Rusty Nail do to stay in shape and defeat all sorts of explosions and fires and cliff tossings? Is that what happens to people who do CrossFit? Because in this final piece of the puzzle (to date) Rusty Nail cruises into our hearts with one foot on the pedal and the other one ... well, probably on the clutch, I guess. Regardless, his hands are ready for murder, and that’s what matters, right?
I’ll admit, I watched this movie in the 3 a.m. hour, and my dog was barking at monsters outside and I had to keep pausing it because BUFFERING, Jesus Pete, but still, I made it through it, and here’s what happens. You have a group of kids. One of the kids seems to be a rally racecar driver. So they’re going to some road race, and the race car has backseat -- do they have backseats? In my mind they don’t -- and his other friends are following behind in a late ’90s Chevy Blazer, which, as an aside, has a horrible turning radius. I know this because my dad had one when I was growing up, and whenever he tried to make a tight turn he’d shout, “You couldn’t turn this thing in a 40-acre field!” which was probably an exaggeration but who knows?
Anyway, Rusty Nail plays a little road rage with the race car, and there’s some cutting off and some flipping off, and then, of course, some abductions and threats. By this point in the series, Rusty Nail has lost his charm to me, because now he’s being portrayed simply as a blood-thirsty psychopath when he originated as something more thoughtful, more cautionary tale-esque. The fact of the matter is, Rusty Nail isn’t as scary when he uses an iPhone. The kids have resources, they just are too dumb to use them, unlike our original movie’s characters. I don’t know if it’s the fact that Rusty Nail was portrayed by three different men, or that I just got bored or what, but this series had me asking some pretty deep questions, like: Why? Are there any good series out there? Do truck drivers hate these movies? Why do I feel like I’ll never be anything more than what I am, right now? But that’s a story for another day.
FILM-TO-JOY RIDE-EXPERIENCE: Jumping in your uninsured and possibly stolen 1979 Datsun 210 and attempting to ride over to the grocery store, because you’ve been helping clean out your best friend’s mother’s house after her suicide, when you get lost because you forgot your GPS and somehow you end up in the woods with a flat tire, so you get out and start to walk back up the hill to hopefully get cell service except you are met on the path by a bear, which immediately skins you like you’re that girl in “Martyrs” and well, yep, you’re pretty much dead just because you wanted pork rinds.