-San Francisco Examiner
-Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

I pulled this rather unknown, offbeat chiller from my collection shelf last night to share with a family member who had never seen it and although I did an official review of the disc online and for publications I freelance for after becoming a surface fan once my ex introduced me to it, I felt like re-visiting this title in review format for those members who may have missed the first one I completed because this charming little slice of suspense cinema can have you biting your nails at certain points.

To be perfectly honest, I cannot recall if this picture ever debuted theatrically; regardless, Fox has released an outstanding Special Edition package of this title on our favorite media of choice with near-flawless audio and video specifications which I will get into just after the plot summary.

For those of you who never got a chance to see John Dahl's Joy Ride, I won't give too much away, but the plot is a bit unique albeit plays a lot, at times, like Steven Spielberg's Duel. It definitely teaches a lesson about "fooling around" with a CB unit in a car and just what kind of dangers are out there on the roads of America if one does not exercise judgment, feeling completely anonymous over a radio of some kind. Joy Ride proves we're neither safe nor anonymous under these conditions. Paul Walker (yes, that's right, Brian O Connor of The Fast and the Furious) is a college student on his way to see his "girlfriend" studying and dorming at another campus (an incredibly sexy Leelee Sobieski) when he trades in a plane ticket for a used car to drive to see her. Along the way, he gets the news that his brother (an incredibly sarcastic and humorous Steve Zahn) has been thrown in jail and so on the way to see the girl, Walker decides to stop and bail his brother out of prison.

On the road and on the way to Sobieski's college campus, the brothers decide to make a pit stop where Zahn has a CB radio installed in Walker's used car; his purpose is just to "fool around" on it, pretending to be one of these local rednecks who use CB radios and creating different off-the-wall personalities. When a creepy voice of a trucker named "Rusty Nail" comes on the airwaves, Zahn convinces Walker to pretend he is a woman to lead Rusty Nail on --- all in good fun. After losing Rusty Nail's transmission, the boys stop at a motel where Zahn has a run-in with a rude guest at the check in desk; it is then that Rusty Nail comes back on the CB, looking for "Candy Cane," the name Walker gave as a fake woman on the air. For revenge of the rude guest in the motel's office, Zahn convinces Walker to set Rusty Nail up by asking him to meet this "Candy Cane" at the motel they are staying at -- but they send him to the room where the rude guest is staying. Midnight indeed arrives (the time Rusty Nail was supposed to meet Candy Cane), and apparently so does Rusty Nail, who knocks on their neighbor's door, expecting it to be "Candy Cane," this sexy-sounding voice from the CB radio. The boys call the front desk of the motel after hearing what appears to be some struggling from behind the wall connecting their two rooms, but morning comes and so do the local police.

It seems the rude motel guest in the room next to Zahn and Walker had been severely crippled -- the police question the boys about the altercation they had with the guest the night before in the office and then drive them to the hospital to show them what "Rusty Nail" had done to him.....and that was rip his jaw completely off his face. The police, suspecting Zahn and Walker, listen to their story of this "guy" they were speaking to on the CB named "Rusty Nail" and that he must have taken this joke way too far -- which turns out to be true.

The remainder of the film is a nonstop cat and mouse thriller between this crazed truck driver Rusty Nail exacting revenge on the boys for playing this joke on him and attempting to teach them a lesson about doing such things to people. Along the way, the boys eventually pick up Sobieski and she is eventually kidnapped along with her college roommate by this twisted truck driver who they can’t seem to get away from. In MANY ways, director Dahl seems to be mixing elements of Duel and The Hitcher here, and it is quite obvious. But it does make for a nail-biting experience in certain parts, as I have said. There is a surprise twist at the end which I'm simply not going to give away for those of you who feel this is at least worth a rental -- which I recommend. Please tell me if and when you do, and what you thought of Joy Ride.

For such a relatively low-rent title in their vaults, Fox has given Joy Ride a pretty spectacular DVD presentation along with a plethora of interesting bonus features, including an entirely different ending to the film.


Clean and crisp, this transfer is almost reference grade from start to finish -- believe it or not, colors are spot on, there is no grain or video noise, and it's just a pleasing print to look at. No complaints here about the video. The ONLY thing I detected was a slight bit of dirt during a very dark sequence in a cornfield which probably had less to do with Fox's transfer process but the film stock they were working with possibly. This, people, is what non-animated DVD should look like. Letterboxing was present and correct at 2:35:1 on my 16X9 Mitsubishi set.


This was one title that just wouldn't have benefited from DTS encoding because the Dolby Digital mix was so encompassing and satisfying, and I don't usually say that about the Double D's; from almost start to finish, anytime there is onscreen action, this mix comes to raunchy life with gut-punching bass, roaring tractor trailers around the soundstage and bodacious score filling all channels. Trucks roar from speaker to speaker with appropriate balance and depth and explosions are accompanied with deep LFE you can feel in your back and stomach. A very nice, loud, aggressive Dolby Digital mix on this DVD. The only complaint I had (and here we go again) is that dialogue seemed too low as compared to what was going on when the action heated up and it caused an uneven effect which became unpleasant after awhile, causing me to raise the system's master volume up to hear the dialogue clearly but then being shouted at by the family member I was demoing this with to "turn that down!" as the trucks and action blasted onscreen; this became a bit too unbalanced at times. But once the action heats up in this film, this is one loud, raunchy Dolby Digital track. One I haven't heard in a long time. Of note is a final scene where a truck rips through a motel -- hold on, because when that happens and if you're system is up high enough, the LFE and overall impact of the audio is going to make you think a semi is coming through your living room. A good demo of what Dolby Digital can do in keeping up with Digital Theater Systems' efforts.

As aforementioned, there is a 29-minute alternate ending to the picture, as well as four new endings in all on the disc. Definitely worth checking out.

If you have never seen Joy Ride, give it a rental spin in your player -- heck, if you can find it for seven or so bucks like I did at Wal-Mart, I don't think it's a bad buy for your collection, either.