Original theatrical poster
|Directed by||John Dahl|
|Produced by||J.J. Abrams
|Written by||J. J. Abrams
|Music by||Marco Beltrami|
|Editing by||Eric L. Beason
Todd E. Miller
Bad Robot Productions
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Release date(s)||October 5, 2001|
|Running time||98 mins|
|Followed by||Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead|
Joy Ride, also known as Roadkill, is a 2001 thriller/horror/road movie. The film was written by J. J. Abrams and Clay Tarver, was directed by John Dahl, and stars Paul Walker, Leelee Sobieski, Steve Zahn, and Ted Levine.
The film begins with Lewis Thomas (Paul Walker), a student of UC Berkeley in California, packing to go home as it is the end of his freshman year and the beginning of the summer holidays. At 3am he speaks on the phone to his childhood friend Venna Wilcox (Leelee Sobieski) who is at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado and is also packing to go home, and Venna tells Lewis that she has just broken up with her boyfriend David. In an attempt to get Venna romantically interested in him, Lewis offers to come by Venna's campus and drive her home in a scenic and pleasant cross-country road trip instead of both of them flying back home by airplane, and Venna happily agrees. Lewis refunds his airline tickets and buys a car to impress Venna, a 1971 Chrysler Newport, from a used car salesman and sets off alone across the countryside heading East to Colorado.
When he calls his parents during the trip he learns his petty-crook older brother Fuller Thomas (Steve Zahn) has managed to once again get re-arrested, this time for being outside of his parole jurisdiction, San Diego, and for being drunk and disorderly far away in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since Salt Lake City is not that far from where he is, Lewis decides that, prior to picking up Venna, he will visit Fuller, whom he hasn't seen in five years. After being bailed out by Lewis, Fuller decides to accompany his brother on the trip. During the ride the two brothers begin to argue.
The brothers stop at a truck stop near the Wyoming state line. At the garage Fuller buys a CB radio for $40, merely for the purpose of fun and breaking the tension in the car, and Fuller and Lewis begin chatting with other truckers in mock hillbilly accents going by the handles "Black Sheep" and "Momma's Boy" respectively. Eventually, Fuller coaxes Lewis into playing a cruel prank with it on an unseen truck driver, who identifies himself as "Rusty Nail" (voiced by Ted Levine in an uncredited role.) Lewis pretends to be an attractive young woman named Candy Cane and sets up a meeting with Rusty Nail in the motel where Lewis and Fuller will be spending the night, the Lone Star Motel in Table Rock, Wyoming, and they tell Rusty Nail to bring pink champagne. Rusty Nail apparently falls for it, genuinely believing Lewis to be female.
Instead of giving Rusty Nail his own room number, which is room 18, Lewis gives Rusty Nail the number of the room next door, room 17, which is being stayed in by a largely-built, highly irritable and obnoxious businessman by the name of Ronald Ellinghouse (Kenneth White), who had an argument with Fuller earlier that night in the Lone Star reception and racially abused the Indian night manager. The joke takes a fatal turn when room 17 is entered by an unknown assailant during the night, presumably Rusty Nail, and Ellinghouse is brutally attacked and horrifically mutilated. Ellinghouse is later found dumped, alive but in a coma, with his entire jawbone removed.
The next day, Rusty Nail easily evades the authorities, due to his anonymity and also the untraceable nature of CB radio. Lewis and Fuller decide to tell the police the details of what occurred in the night and the police, though angry at all the trouble they've caused, release them anyway since they believe the boys didn't mean any harm. As the Thomas brothers continue their now terrifying road trip they find themselves being relentlessly stalked by the psychotic Rusty Nail and his truck. Rusty Nail seems to have uncovered their identities during the night, perhaps because their car was parked next door with the CB radio antenna on the back, although Rusty Nail also seems to know a disturbing amount of personal information about them and even their destination and about Lewis' love interest, Venna. This is perhaps because the walls in the motel were thin and voices were audible between rooms, and Rusty Nail may have listened to their conversations and, no doubt, is tailing them from this point on. A series of psychological mind games ensue. As well as being psychopathic and sadistic, Rusty Nail is apparently very intelligent and resourceful and is angered by the prank the brothers played on him and wants revenge for being "the punchline" in their prank.
Needing gas, Lewis and Fuller stop at a gas station but are shocked when an ice truck follows them into the gas station. Convinced the truck driver must be Rusty Nail, Lewis and Fuller flee in panic only to discover they are being chased by Mr. Jones (Satch Huizenga), the ice truck driver. However, it turns out that Jones is merely trying to return Lewis' credit card, which he left behind at the gas station. As the ice truck drives away, the real Rusty Nail in his truck plows through the ice truck, killing the innocent ice truck driver Jones. Rusty Nail then runs into and begins to crush Lewis and Fuller's car, taunting them. Once the two apologize, Rusty accepts, and leaves.
The brothers now believe themselves safe. However, when the two meet up with Venna and her roommate Charlotte (Jessica Bowman) in Boulder, Colorado, Rusty Nail again reappears on the CB radio, wanting more than just an apology. He continues to stalk and taunt the three, and kidnaps Venna's friend Charlotte, holding her hostage. In one scene Rusty Nail threatens to dismember Charlotte unless Lewis and Fuller go into a crowded Nebraska diner completely nude, so that they can know what it feels like "to be the brunt of the joke."
Then Rusty Nail sets up a meeting next to a cornfield just inside the Nebraska border. He then asks them to go 100 feet ahead of the car. He proceeds to chase them with the truck in different directions through the field separating them from each other where he takes his chance to kidnap Venna.
Rusty Nail then sets fire to the car. While it is burning Rusty Nail sets up a meeting for Fuller and Lewis at room 17 of a new motel in the nearby town of Medford, leaving a bottle of pink champagne. He has set a trap in room 17 that will kill the bound and gagged Venna if either of them open the door to the room by setting up a wire tied to the door handle on one end and a shotgun trigger aimed directly at Venna's head on the other. Fuller attempts to save Venna by going through the back window while Lewis keeps him on the phone but is found by Rusty Nail. Fuller escapes Rusty Nail but his leg gets impaled by a copper pipe. Lewis saves Venna just as the police are crashing down the doors of each of the hotel rooms.
Rusty Nail then attempts to run over Fuller but Lewis pulls him to safety as the police shoot at the truck as it comes crashing through the hotel room as Venna and the cops jump clear. The police search Rusty Nail's truck, seeing a bloodied and crushed dead body of a large trucker in the driver's seat and the bound and gagged Charlotte on the floor. Thinking that Rusty Nail is dead(apparently they didn't get a clear look at the body in the truck's driver's seat right away), the three huddle around an ambulance and get treated for their injuries. At this point, the dead trucker is revealed to be the innocent ice truck driver, Mr. Jones, killed before by Rusty Nail, suggesting that Rusty Nail faked his own death by putting Jones' corpse there instead, and the authorities believed Jones to be the real killer. A CB radio in the ambulance is on and the group once again hear Rusty Nail's voice revealing that he Nail is indeed alive and free, stating that he is heading West along I-80 and asking other truckers about weather conditions up ahead. He also recites a line that he had previously said in the beginning, "I look forward to the storm. Keeps everybody inside. Washes everything clean."
In the United States, the term "Joyride" often means a pleasant car drive, thus the film's title provided an ironic backdrop to the film's plot. However, in other parts of the world such as Australia, Sweden, Finland, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and some other European countries the term "Joyride" has specific auto theft connotations (see Joyride (crime)), and so the film was retitled Roadkill. Some American releases of the film also carry the title Roadkill.
The film went under the working titles of Candy Cane, Highway Horror and Squelch. The film also goes under numerous other titles in other countries: Never Play with Strangers in Israel, Radio Killer in Italy, Never talk to strangers in Greece, and Road Killer in Japan.
According to the Internet Movie Database the movie was written by J.J. Abrams and Clay Tarver in the mid-1990s and filmed between late September 1999 to February 2000, but sat unreleased for more than a year and a half, before finally being released in October 2001.
In his screenplay for Joy Ride, J. J. Abrams was clearly influenced by the first film directed by Steven Spielberg, Duel, and there are numerous references to it. For example, in one scene, a seemingly maniacal ICE truck pulls up to a gas station that the brothers have pulled up to. In Duel, a likewise maniacal truck pulls up the protagonist portrayed by David Mann and a small billboard for ICE is visible in the background. Many fans consider "Joy Ride" to be a remake of "Duel".
Most of Joy Ride is stated as being located in Wyoming, Nebraska and Kansas although the film was not shot in these states, but instead across California, Utah and Nevada, most notably along Interstate 80. Specific scenes were shot in Skull Valley, Nevada, and Battle Mountain, Nevada. 
The central antagonist, "Rusty Nail", remains almost entirely unseen throughout the film and was portrayed by hulking actor Matthew Kimbrough in the brief shot of the villain towards the end of the film. Rusty Nail's voice heard on the radio throughout most of the film was provided by horror film legend Ted Levine, and was added in post production. Eric Stoltz and Eric Roberts also auditioned for the role of Rusty Nail.  Rusty Nail's truck is a 359 Peterbilt.
|Paul Walker||Lewis Thomas|
|Steve Zahn||Fuller Thomas|
|Leelee Sobieski||Venna Wilcox|
|Jessica Bowman||Charlotte, Venna's Roommate|
|Matthew Kimbrough||Rusty Nail (Cameo) (End Only)|
|Ted Levine||Voice Of Rusty Nail|
|Satch Huizenga||Mr Jones, the ice truck driver|
On the DVD release there is a 29-minute long alternate ending, and 4 other shorter alternate endings. The main one featured Rusty Nail committing suicide with a shotgun 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 whereby 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.  It has been noted by fans of the film that the deleted scenes featurettes run like an entirely new film since the theatrical cut was mostly reshoots.
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. 
Leelee Sobieski ending up filming two different romantic interludes, one with Steve Zahn and one with Paul 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 brothers, a plot point not elaborated on in the theatrical cut of the film.
The film opened at #5 at the U.S. Box office raking in $7,347,259 USD in its opening weekend.
A direct-to-DVD sequel entitled Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead was released in October 2008 by 20th Century Fox. The film was directed by Louis Morneau, and stars Nick Zano, Kyle Schmid, Nicki Aycox, Rebecca Davis, Kathryn Kirkpatrick and Laura Jordan. It does not feature any of the original cast, and was noted by fans of the original for its toning down of the Alfred Hitchcock-type tension and atmosphere. Also, the character of Rusty Nail was not voiced by Ted Levine and it has been noted that the killer had been reduced from being an original, intriguing, mysterious, and intelligent yet unhinged character with complex motivations to a fairly unremarkable and cliché-ridden stock villain who merely acts on impulse.