13 September 2010

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead
(Reviewed for "Peril of the Screen" of the RIP V Challenge and linked up at the RIP V Challenge Review Site)

12. I have such fuzzy memories of the first Joy Ride movie that I watched this as if it were a stand-alone rather than a sequel. And let me tell you, for a straight-to-DVD release banking on the sensational "Unrated" label, it carries its own weight pretty well.

11. If I had to think up a category for this, I'd call it "Road Trip Gothic".

Horror traditionally sticks to static, grounded settings: castles, chateaux, hotels, and other variations of the archetypal "haunted house." Characters might be pursued on their way to a safe haven, but "the road" is generally considered neutral ground. So the idea that all roads, all possible escape routes, are the villain's territory as well, can give even the most sprawling setting an overwhelming air of claustrophobia.

(Then there's the fact that these characters are crammed inside some sort of a vehicle for most of the movie. That works, too.)


10. So how does Rusty Nail rate as the series' recurring villain? Frankly, I'm pretty impressed.

Yeah, he lacks Freddy Kreuger's quotable charisma, Michael Myers' minimalist sinister vibe, Hannibal Lecter's dizzying intellect (LOL!), and Jason Voorhees' pure presence . . . And really, while watching this, I didn't think of him as a three-dimensional character but as the malicious personification of everything that could possibly go wrong on a road trip. And I think the ending supports this thesis that he is a supernatural force wrecking havoc on the travelers of the world.

9. But other Horror fans have made a good case for him as a character, based on both Joy Ride movies. He was probably bullied and ostracised as a boy and humiliated in front of or by women as a young man. In the first movie, the cruel trick the brothers play on him sets him off; and in this one, the fact that two pretty girls are instigators in the new plot certainly doesn't help.

8. As for the other characters, whom we can't really call heroes: Do they deserve what they get?

Well, they do break into Rusty Nail's home, smash some things, and steal his car. Which isn't too bad when you remember that Melissa leaves a note explaining why they had to "borrow" the vehicle and adds her phone number at the end. But this string of crimes, which she hopes to make better by letting the end justify the means and the reparation make up for the sin, is really just the tip of the iceberg.


Place your bets!
Who dies first???


Another character is a real jerk, insulting strangers just for laughs; and Melissa's sister is loose enough to date total strangers she meets on the Internet. (Wow. This damns me.) The Joy Ride 2 cast remind me of something I once explained to my students during a lesson on Greek tragedy: "An accident or a natural disaster isn't a tragedy. It's only a tragedy if it's your own fault."

You know: hamartia. Everything terrible that happens to these characters can be traced to their wrong-headed choices--and all these choices are rooted in serious character flaws. Sometimes, when a psychotic villain is after you, it is your fault.

7. So what does Melissa, our Good Girl, do that is so wrong?

If you poll Horror fans, most will say her big, dumb mistake was leaving her phone number behind. I beg to differ . . .

Her mistake was agreeing to the plan to "borrow" the car. Yes, they all make this mistake, but as the most virtuous character among them, it is her "fall" which tips the balance. Leaving her number would have been the right thing to do if the house had just been messed up a bit and the car left behind. But as soon as she gives into the temptation, all of her attempted damage control rightfully blows up in her face. You can't spin sin.

6. And so Melissa's character arc is very interesting. No, I'm not going to tell you what she does at the end to fix what went wrong. You can rent the DVD yourselves. =P

But the moral seems to be that two wrongs can make a right. Want to play a game of Jesuit-style dilemma ethics?

5. Or let's just talk about symbols . . . Rusty Nail's car should have been a bright shade of Forbidden Fruit Red.

4. I love the allusion to Goldilocks and the Three Bears! Doesn't it fit perfectly? I know I always wondered, as a child, why nobody really cared that the story ends the way it does. Don't the bears get any justice from the careless little brat who eats their food, smashes their furniture, and completely disregards the sanctity of their home? Well, obviously the Joy Ride 2 filmmakers cared. Horror is the best!

3. As for the Vegas/gambling motif . . . I find it kind of silly.

But the utter silliness of it--the fact that Rusty Nail's garage is all set up for games that combine gambling and torture--helps me prove my thesis that he is an impersonal supernatural force. I mean, the characters are on their road to Las Vegas and they start "gambling" with their luck while they are still miles away. What punishment could be more appropriate?

2. There is something about Horror that feeds my judgmental streak and makes me easier to live with in real life. This is a genre that considers itself free to make moral judgments. Sometimes it gets in your face with its verdicts; sometimes it's astonishingly subtle. Joy Ride 2 has a little of both.

I think I've covered the "in your face" part, so now for the subtle part . . .

In my Twelve Things about Paranormal Activity, I point out that the man is sleeping on the wrong side of the bed. That's not an incidental detail. Well, in Joy Ride 2, the men are riding in the wrong parts of the car. Yeah, that matters.

1. I guess this is the best time to squeeze in some more random damning stuff for me:

"You were much cooler on the Internet!"
"Oh, yeah? So were you!"

Yeah, I'll admit it! I'm only cool on this blog. =P
RIP V

Image Source: a) Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead DVD, b) Rusty Nail, c) Joy Ride 2 cast

9 comments:

The Mike said...

Haven't seen this one yet, but #6 hits on one of the things that's bugged me the most about the recent torture horrors. Characters make wrong choices, and then survive by doing wrong things. I know it's just silly survival cinema, but too often it feels like the characters have to become worse than the killers to survive.

If nothing else, I'd like to see a movie intelligently work with that in the finale.

Good work!

twowaysofrenouncingthedevil said...

My husband and I were just discussing the goldilocks thing.
I would like to go back to the origins of that one. I think we figure from the start of the tale that goldilocks is supposed to be a hero, so we are bothered by her behavior. I don't think the littlest kids share our assumption, or our discomfort. As they get older, they change and the story starts to have less appeal or seem to need alteration.

Back in the middle ages when I went to college, I had a lit prof that did the Oedipus story with us. I'd read Greek stuff in high school and it was all about how this was a world view where fate ruled and you couldn't escape, that was the point. But this guy pointed out the acts that Oedipus chose that he could have chosen to do differently, how they were immoral and full of hubris and how if he had chosen differently he *would* have changed his fate. It was quite a little shift in the way I looked at things. Good teacher.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

The Mike: Well, it's not that bad in this one, thank goodness! But I share your dubious react at the moral implications of the idea that "Now that you've been bad, you must be bad all the way." That "the end justifies the means" is not a cool message for Horror!

Marie: Goldilocks is so self-centered and so unconscious that her actions might have hurtful consequences for anyone else, that she is probably a decent representation of what little kids are like before they are properly "socialised." In that sense, the bears are more civilised than she is: they have a neat home, a morning ritual, a healthy breakfast . . . she just wanders in from the woods like some wild creature. It's the reversal of what we get when a camper's tent is invaded by a hungry bear. (Hmmmmm. I smell a "Friday is for Fairytales" post cooking!)

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Never heard of this one! Then again, I don't really watch horror. But your list was thorough and entertaining and funny. :D

Kailana said...

I have never heard of this before. I am learning a lot about movies from this part of the R.I.P. challenge, though!

twowaysofrenouncingthedevil said...

Ya think it's one more version of the barbarians at the gates, Vikings on the shore, nomads making a nice little visit to the agricultural visit thing? That makes a lot of sense, actually.

As my kids walk through the room, grabbing paint and toys, strewing them about, opening their mouths in absolute expectation that they will be filled and closing them without a thought towards gratitude, I also get your note about the natural state of uncivilized human children.

You think that's why they make such good horror monsters? Bradbury always gave me chills with his kids, and the World War Z zombie baby. . . . well, I call my youngest zombie baby all the time. My fear of her is only a little bit real. She does get awfully close in to my neck. .

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Carol: Thank you! I try to entertain. =)

Kailana: It's an obscure movie. Even I hadn't realised they had filmed a sequel until I channel surfed into it one afternoon.

"Peril of the Screen" is turning out to be my favourite part of the challenge! I haven't even started reading for RIP V yet! =O

Thanks for your comments. I appreciate them. =)

Marie: You know, just when I think I have children in Horror all figured out . . . I remember there are old people in Horror, too. And just the other day, my mother was saying of my eighty year old grandfather, "It's like he's a little boy again . . ." I think I need to step back a few feet in order to see the whole design and not just the details.

Paul Stilwell said...

"So the idea that all roads, all possible escape routes, are the villain's territory as well, can give even the most sprawling setting an overwhelming air of claustrophobia."

That made me think of the great made-for-tv film "Duel". (The semi-truck in your post's picture also helped in that regard.)

Such open settings have actually always been the scariest for me in movies. It's when Jamie Lee Curtis is outside that "Halloween" is scariest. Then there's the open woods in "Fire in Sky", which is a movie that scared the living s*** out of me. Then there's the crop dusting plane in North by Northwest (granted, not a horror film, but the scene still counts in my book).

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I've always been more into houses. It's a Gothic thing. =P

But I'll see if I can find those titles you recommend, too. Thanks, Stilwell! =)