“Joy Ride”, the 2001 Steve Zahn/Paul Walker road rage gone awry flick, didn’t exactly set the box-office ablaze, but did prove a modest hit on DVD, so, much like fellow underachievers “Wrong Turn”, “Pulse”, and “The Boogeyman”, Joy Ride has spawned its own DTV sequel, Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead.
Melissa (Nicki Aycox) and her fiance’, Bobby (Nick Zano) are en route to Las Vegas, with Nicki’s precocious younger sister, Kayla (Laura Jordan) and her found-on-MySpace beau, Nick (Kyle Schmidt), I tow. When the group’s car breaks down, they decided to “borrow” (Nicki even leaves a little note) a car from the yard of a seemingly vacant house. Unbeknownst to them, the car’s owner is none other than the first film’s throaty killer, Rusty Nail (voiced by Mark Gibbon, ably replacing Ted Levine), who tracks down the quartet, kidnaps Bobby, and forces Nicki, Kayla, and Nick to play a twisted game if they ever hope to see Bobby alive again.
The original Joy Ride borrowed heavily from a variety of road-themed thrillers, including “Duel” and the sorely underrated “Road Games”. Joy Ride 2 expands the series’ repertoire by incorporating elements of “The Hitcher”, and even a touch of “Saw” into its storyline, with the rather bland protagonists taking a backseat (no pun intended) to the far more colorful and interesting Rusty Nail, offering us more insight into his character. This outing’s also a hell of a lot more violent and intense than the previous film, but, as a trade-off, lacks the humor and sarcasm that made the original mildly amusing. Of course, much of the first film’s humor came courtesy of the presence of Steve Zahn, who made a terrific foil for the goofily hysteric Paul Walker. Here, in this low-budget follow-up, the bargain bin cast doesn’t bring much to the table save for glossy good looks and the ability to scream, but they’re really just here to serve as crash dummies for Rusty and his various machinations of death, and they die real good.
The DVD from Fox presents Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead in a fairly solid 1:85.1 widescreen transfer along with a smattering of bonus stuff, including two short featurettes – Joy Ride 2: The Making of Dead Ahead, and Blood and Guts: The Make-up of Horror. Rounding out the extras is a brief storyboard to film comparison feature, and trailers for other FOX releases.
Fans of the original Joy Ride will no doubt enjoy this, as it’s essentially the same formula, but with a few novel twists, and a whole host of fresh new victims, adding up to a much larger body count this go-round. While budgetary restraints are often apparent, and the performances are only slightly better than your average home movie, Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead has enough action, scares, and red stuff to serve as a decent diversion, but nothing I'd go out of my way for (get it?? Road humor! Zazzzzz).