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