This is why Judge Gordon Sullivan walks everywhere.
A full-throttle, pedal-to-the-metal chill ride!
There's nothing in the world quite like the American highway system. Sure, the Europeans got their autobahns and whatnot, but America has these long stretches of highway that go through areas with nary a soul to be found. And those roads often lead to unexpected places, whether it's a particularly beautiful vista, or the world's largest collection of belly button lint. It's no surprise, then, that some of America's great movies are about cars, drivers, and the open road. But everything has a dark side, and it's no surprise that the slasher tradition really gets it start on a lonely stretch of passed-over highway at the Bates Motel in Psycho. Other horror films have taken up that tradition, but none quite so plainly as the original Joy Ride, which transported the slasher killer directly onto the road trip film. It was a good idea, at least at first, but whatever spark the idea had has largely gone out with Joy Ride 3: Road Kill.
Joy Ride 3: Road Kill opens on a pair of meth heads having hopped-up sex in a motel room. She insists on more meth, but he can't deliver. Then they settle on the bright idea of coaxing a trucker to their room to roll him for cash or drugs. Never you mind why a pair of meth heads have a CB handset in their motel, as they contact a trucker and convince him to show up. The only problem is that they get a hold of Rusty Nail (Ken Kirzinger, one of the stuntmen from Joy Ride 2). He shows up and immediately overpowers the meth heads, strapping them to the front of his truck before running over them. That appetizer over, we get to the meat of the story, as a team of race car drivers on their way to a rally cut off Rusty, and he pursues in his usual bloody way.
Everybody loves a franchise cash-in, and as long as there's even a hint of name recognition it seems like someone will greenlight a low budget horror flick. No one that I'm aware of was really clamoring for a Joy Ride 2 seven years after the original, and there was probably even less interest almost seven years after that film. But with original star Paul Walker recently deceased and original co-writer J.J. Abrams all over the news, I guess somebody thought it was a good idea. At the helm this time is Declan O'Brien, perhaps most famous for Sharktopus, and the fourth and fifth entries in the Wrong Turn franchise.
It's not surprising, then, that Joy Ride 3 feels like the unholy child of a Fast and Furious movie crossed with Saw spiced with Wrong Turn. The relatively pedestrian chases of the first two films have been replaced with the race car. The Saw element comes through in Rusty's tortures, especially with the first couple, whom he offers a chance at salvation if they can only survive his sadistic games for a mile. Finally, of course, the Wrong Turn elements come through not in the inbred villains, but the fact that our crew literally take a wrong turn in a desolate, largely unspecified, portion of America.
With such a pedigree, Joy Ride 3 should offer more pleasures than it does. Instead, it's a largely lifeless run through the expected slasher tropes. We've got the killer, the group of victims, a bit of cat and mouse, and some kills. Heaven knows I've seen worse, much worse, but with the all the ingredients here, from the well-defined killer to the car chases, Joy Ride 3 should add up to a tastier stew.
It's not all bad, of course. Joy Ride 3: Road Kill is proud of its unrated status, and isn't afraid to give us body parts and lots of blood when the time comes to kill. The film feels like a throwback in an era with lots of PG-13 horror flicks. The film is also pretty well paced; the first 10 minutes make a nice preview, and then the film quickly establishes the team and their transgressions against Rusty. The film moves rather quickly, so even if you know what's coming and aren't impressed, the film doesn't linger long enough to be painful.
This Blu-ray set isn't awful either. The film's 1.78:1/1080p AVC encoded is actually surprisingly excellent. Detail is sharp throughout, and motion looks especially good, including the car chases. Colors are slightly washed out, by intention, but black levels are deep and consistent. The DTS-HD 5.1 track is similarly impressive, with lots of surround effects during action scenes, and dialogue that stays clean and clear from the front.
Extras start with a commentary from O'Brien, who has a lot to say about the film. So much so that he appears again with 10 minutes of "Die-aries," which offer a peek at the making of the film. A more traditional making-of featurette is included as well, along with six minutes of deleted scenes, some pre-viz, and a featurette on casting Large Marge. A DVD and an Ultraviolet digital copy of the film are also included.
Joy Ride 3: Road Kill will satisfy slasher fans looking for a bit of blood and gore, but it's nothing special. Even fans of the franchise's previous entries will want to skip this one, given how few of the original creative team are on board here.
Not too joyful, but not guilty.
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