How scary is “Joy Ride”? Well, that depends. If you A) are the sole audience member in a creepy York Square Cinemas’ theater (as was this reviewer, who literally sprinted out of the theater when the final credits started — no easy task in Adidas soccer sandals), B) like to play foolish pranks on truckers with your CB radio, or C) find Leelee Sobieski’s doe-eyed “acting” overrated, the answer is pretty damn scary. Oh yeah, and it doesn’t hurt that a guy gets a certain essential part of his body ripped off. I won’t spoil the surprise by letting you know what it is, but I promise it’s more repulsive than what you are probably imagining.
“Joy Ride” is your basic teen-targeting horror thriller, where a practically omniscient man with a deep, chilling baritone stalks and harasses a crew of nubile young actors and, no matter how much evidence points to the contrary, never dies in the end. Thus, we are left primed for a sequel. How convenient! The eye-candy — er, stars — of this one, besides Sobieski, are Steve Zahn and the hot, hot Paul Walker. The writers earn mad props for managing to get both boys naked in one scene, gratuitously pandering to the 17-35-year-old female set, of which I am a proud member. Rock on, writers! But I digress.
For the plot, think “Road Trip” meets “Scream” meets the New Haven Coliseum monster truck rally. Lewis (Walker), a college student, offers to pick up his longtime friend, Venna (Sobieski) from her Colorado college. She has just broken up with her boyfriend, Sir Not-Appearing-in-this-Film, and Lewis thinks a road trip back home for break is the perfect way to, ah, console her. Basically, she is the Joey to his Dawson in the second season of The Creek. For you non-Creekers, that means they grew up together platonically, but puberty made her hot and now he has a secret crush on her.
On the way to pick her up, Lewis randomly stops at a prison to pick up his ex-con older brother, Fuller (Zahn), who is not as cute as Lewis but has his own Puckish charm. Of course, once the bad-boy older brother comes on the scene, trouble begins to brew. Fuller convinces Lewis to play a practical joke on a Barry White-voiced lonely trucker, who goes by the handle “Rusty Nail”, over the CB radio. Lewis imitates a sexy moll, “Candy Cane”, and invites Rusty Nail to meet up in a motel later that evening. Little does Rusty Nail know, the room number Lewis gives him belongs to a random obnoxious old guy who rudely pushed Fuller earlier that evening in the motel. Little do Lewis and Fuller know that Rusty Nail is a psycho killer. The plot thickens.
When they do find out, though, they proceed to compete for the Biggest-Moron-in-a-Horror-Movie title: when Rusty Nail’s voice comes over the radio demanding an apology for the prank, Fuller decides that the best course of action is to refuse to apologize and curse him out. Good one, Fuller. Why would anyone apologize to a psycho killer? After all, then he might decide not to follow you with intent to kill. Then there would be no “Joy Ride”!
Of course, Rusty Nail has a pretty snappy comeback: “You ought to get that fixed,” he chuckles.
“What?” Fuller asks.
“Your tail light.”
Oh, snap. This psycho killer has better stalking skills than a Baker’s Dozen groupie.
When the brothers finally pick up Venna, things get even worse — Rusty Nail decides to follow the trio in a murderous rage, wielding his 18-wheeler as a weapon. Frustratingly, they continually drive into whatever remote spot he asks — a giant corn field, for example — in some strange attempt to satisfy his psycho needs, all the while repeating over and over, “What is it that you want from us?!” Their stupidity is so mind-boggling, it even makes Walker less hot (though he is redeemed in the naked scene). For example, in one episode, Rusty Nail asks them to step out of their car and walk 100 feet ahead, where he has a “surprise” for them. Unsurprisingly, once they have done what he says, he proceeds to run them down with his truck as he has been doing for the past thirty minutes of the movie. Boy, I didn’t see that one coming.
Though it is as predictable and moronic as other pictures in its genre, “Joy Ride” delivers what its trailer makes no attempt to veil: cute, all-American young actors on a road trip across seedy-motel-and-trucker country, reveling in their youth, good looks, and the occasional motel porno, all the while pursued by a raspy-voiced killer. Sure, the plotline becomes achingly random and predictable by the 50-minute mark, but that doesn’t mean you won’t squeal when that bad-ass truck barrels out of nowhere — or at least when Paul Walker bares his bad ass.
Joy Ride, showing at:
York Square Cinemas (776-6630), Hoyts Branford 12 (481-2711).