|Directed by||John Dahl|
|Music by||Marco Beltrami|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$36.6 million|
Joy Ride (known as Road Kill in the United Kingdom) is a 2001 American horror thriller film directed by John Dahl and written by J. J. Abrams and Clay Tarver. Paul Walker stars as Lewis Thomas, a college freshman embarking on a cross-country road trip during summer break to pick up his childhood crush Venna (Leelee Sobieski). Along for the ride is Lewis' brother Fuller (Steve Zahn), a practical joker who uses the car's CB radio to play a cruel prank on a trucker known only by the handle Rusty Nail. The victim of Fuller's gag, a psychotic murderer, pursues them relentlessly to get revenge at any cost. The film was released on October 5, 2001, and received generally positive reviews from critics.
While travelling from California to Colorado to pick up his childhood friend and crush Venna Wilcox (Leelee Sobieski), Lewis Thomas (Paul Walker) is forced to make a stop in Salt Lake City on the way after he learns his estranged older brother Fuller (Steve Zahn) has been arrested again. Lewis bails him out and Fuller tags along for the trip.
At a gas station, Fuller has a CB radio installed in Lewis's car and the two begin listening in on truckers' chatter. Fuller coaxes Lewis into playing a prank on a truck driver nicknamed Rusty Nail (voiced by Ted Levine (uncredited)), asking him to pretend to be a woman named Candy Cane. They set up a meeting with Rusty Nail in a Wyoming motel where Lewis and Fuller are spending the night; they tell Rusty Nail that Candy Cane will be in room 17, the room of an irritable businessman with whom Fuller had an unpleasant encounter at the check in desk, and the brothers listen from room 18. When Rusty Nail arrives, an argument and sounds of a scuffle are briefly heard.
The next morning, Lewis and Fuller learn that the police found the businessman on the highway, with his lower jaw ripped off. Lewis admits they were involved and Sheriff Ritter accosts them for their role in the incident, but lets them go. Back on the road, Rusty Nail is heard again on the CB radio looking for Candy Cane. Lewis reveals to him that he is Candy Cane. Rusty Nail demands an apology, but Fuller insults him instead. Rusty Nail then notes they should get their taillight fixed, indicating he is following behind them. They quickly drive to a nearby gas station and unsuccessfully attempt to contact Sheriff Ritter. Seeing a large truck pull into the gas station, they flee from the scene into a dead end, with the truck driver chasing them. The driver turns out to be a kind stranger trying to return Lewis's credit card, which he left behind in panic. The real Rusty Nail then shows up in his truck and, as he slowly crushes Lewis's car against a tree, Fuller hysterically apologizes. Rusty Nail drives away, declaring his actions to be simply a retaliatory joke.
Believing themselves safe, the brothers arrive at the University of Colorado and pick up Venna. They stop at a motel and, as Lewis falls asleep, Rusty Nail calls his room, revealing he has noticed Venna has joined them. They flee from the motel. Rusty Nail then contacts them again via the radio, announcing that he has kidnapped Venna's friend Charlotte, and he directs them to a cornfield where the three get split up. Rusty Nail kidnaps Venna.
Rusty Nail sets up a meeting at another motel in room 17, mirroring the false date with which he was pranked. He sets up a trap that will kill Venna if the room door is opened. Fuller attempts to get in the room by a back window, but is injured by Rusty Nail and stuck outside. Lewis attempts to free Fuller as the police arrive to help Venna. Meanwhile, Rusty Nail's truck appears uphill and begins rolling down towards the motel. The brothers free Venna in time and everyone escapes as the truck crashes into the motel. As the police investigate Rusty Nail's truck, they see a dead body in the driver's seat and Charlotte, still alive, in the back.
Lewis, Fuller and Venna are treated for their injuries at an ambulance. At this point, the dead man found inside the truck turns out to be the friendly truck driver who returned Lewis's credit card from earlier. From the CB in the ambulance, the group hears Rusty Nail's voice, learning that he is alive and free.
- Paul Walker as Lewis Thomas
- Steve Zahn as Fuller Thomas
- Leelee Sobieski as Venna Wilcox
- Jessica Bowman as Charlotte Dawson
- Matthew Kimbrough (uncredited) as Rusty Nail. He is credited after all cast and crew in Spanish as "Clavo" meaning "nail".
- Ted Levine (uncredited) as Voice of Rusty Nail
- Stuart Stone as Danny, Lewis's roommate
- Brian Leckner as Officer Keeney
- Jim Beaver as Sheriff Ritter
- Hugh Dane as Man at door
- Jay Hernandez as Marine
- Basil Wallace as Car salesman
- Rachel Singer as Gas station manager
- Satch Huizenga as Mr. Jones
- Luis Cortés as Night manager
- Kenneth White as Ronald Ellinghouse
- Walton Goggins (deleted scenes) as Cop
- Anna Malle (uncredited) as Cable TV porn actress
On the DVD release, there is a 29-minute-long alternate ending, and four other shorter alternate endings. The main one featured Rusty Nail's shotgun suicide and numerous bodies are found by the police in his trailer. One featured Rusty Nail being arrested, another being beaten in a fight with both Thomas brothers, another wherein he is blown up in his truck, and another saw Rusty Nail run over with his own truck. The ending featured in the actual theatrical cut of the film is the only ending in which Rusty Nail lives. There are also numerous deleted scenes.
In the alternate ending where Rusty Nail's truck explodes, you can see a water tower behind the truck as it burns. The original intention was to have the truck hit the water tower and have the water come down and put the flames out so that it would be believable if Rusty Nail survived. However, time constraints kept the scene from being filmed. The water tower cost over $100,000.
Sobieski filmed two romantic interludes, one with Zahn and one with Walker during the shooting and re-shooting of the film. Both scenes ended up getting cut. This may explain why Venna appears to be romantically interested in both of them.
Joy Ride opened theatrically on October 5, 2001, in 2,497 venues and earned $7.3 million in its opening weekend, ranking number five in the US box office. By the end of its run, the film grossed $22 million in the US and $14.7 million overseas for a worldwide total of $36.6 million.
In August 1999, Paul Walker was cast in the film then under the working title of Squelch.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating 74% based on 114 reviews, with an average rating of 6.61/10. The website's critics consensus states: "A well-constructed B-movie thriller, Joy Ride keeps up the necessary level of tension and chills. Critics also liked Zahn's performance as the goofball older brother." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 75 out of 100 based on 31 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
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- "Walker may 'Squelch' teen thriller". Variety. Retrieved July 16, 2021.
- "Joy Ride (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
- "Joy Ride Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved October 31, 2020.
- "Find CinemaScore" (Type "Joy Ride" in the search box). CinemaScore. Retrieved October 31, 2020.