October 18, 2001

Thrill Ride

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I went to see Joy Ride with one of those people who puts her feet up on the edge of the chair when she’s scared. Let’s just say that her feet didn’t touch the ground the whole two hours.

Joy Ride is a fast-paced, catch-your-breath, straight-up scary movie. I went in expecting to be entertained, and I was. It’s not a deep psychological Stephen King thriller, nor is it a creepy supernatural film a la Poltergeist: it’s just a mean guy and his big truck trying to catch some freaked-out kids. And it works.

Here’s the plot: Lewis Thomas (Paul Walker, The Skulls and The Fast and the Furious) plays your classic clean-cut college coed on his way home at the end of the year. When he hears that his hometown love interest, a girl named Venna (with a name almost as odd as that of the actress who plays her, Leelee Sobieski) needs a ride home, he buys a cheap car and takes off from California en route to Colorado, and then New Jersey.

On the way he learns that his brother Fuller (Steve Zahn) is just getting out of prison, so he picks him up and the two hit the lonely roads of Nevada. During a pitstop, Fuller picks up a used CB radio, which allows the two to communicate with truckers that are sharing the road. The brothers use it to play a little prank: Lewis pretends he’s a woman nicknamed “Candy Cane” and asks “Rusty Nail”, a deep-voiced, lonely-sounding trucker to meet “her” at a motel that night. The two direct Rusty Nail to the room of an obnoxious man they’d had an encounter with earlier, and listen through the walls as Rusty Nail arrives and, um, reacts to the joke.

Rusty Nail is basically represented by a deep voice, a gigantic truck, and a trail of horror. He immediately seeks revenge on the boys for their prank, and the rest of the movie is essentially a game of cat-and-mouse. The premise is simple enough, but the movie is hardly predictable: there’s plenty of surprises and no scary-movie clich