After enjoying a good working relationship with director Declan O’Brien (Sharktopus) on the third, fourth, and fifth installments of their direct-to-video slasher series Wrong Turn, Fox Home Entertainment has handed him the keys to another of their franchises, hiring him to bring homicidal truck driver Rusty Nail, originally co-created by J.J. Abrams for the 2001 film Joy Ride, back into people’s homes.
When O’Brien’s Joy Ride sequel begins, you might wonder if you’ve somehow accidentally put the wrong movie on, as the first few minutes are completely dedicated to showing a pair of fully nude crackheads cavorting in a hotel room; hitting their crack pipe, tumbling around on the bed, cursing at each other. Finally, once they’ve run out of drugs, the man comes up with a CB walkie talkie and a plan: they trick a trucker coming to the room for a tryst with the woman, whose name is Candy, and once the trucker arrives, the guy will knock the trucker out and they can steal his drugs and money, whatever he has on him.
Things don’t go as they planned. Rusty Nail is the trucker who responds to their radio proposition and shows up at their hotel room. And this hulking brute of a man is a bit tougher than the tweaker who tries to assault him.
Rusty Nail likes to toy with his victims, he has ever since the first movie, and his games got even more brutal and sadistic in 2008’s Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead. O’Brien is no stranger to crafting elaborate ways to tear bodies apart, he did quite a bit of that in his Wrong Turns, and he has Rusty Nail play an intense, sick, and ultimately fatal and gory game with Candy and her boyfriend in this film’s lengthy opening sequence.
What Rusty Nail does to Candy and her guy does stretch plausibility, as he drives down a road with them hanging off his truck for more than a mile in broad daylight, and somehow gets lucky enough that no cars are anywhere in sight in any direction… But he does get away with these murders without anyone witnessing it, leaving bits and pieces of Candy and her boyfriend all over the road.
Said road is Highway 17, known to people in this area as Slaughter Alley because more people die or disappear on it than any other road in the United States. There’s even a rumor that a serial killer truck driver patrols Highway 17 looking for people to kill. Hmm.
The group of characters who run afoul of Rusty Nail this time around and spend the majority of the film trying to escape from him are the members of the Wells Racing team: drivers Jordon Wells and Austin Morris, mechanic Mickey Cole, newbie Bobby Crow, Jordon’s girlfriend and manager Jewel McCaul, and Mickey’s girlfriend and the team’s head of public relations, Alisa Rosado.
The racing team’s trouble with Rusty Nail starts when the drivers are giving their car a test run down Highway 17 while they’re making their way from Kansas to a race that’s going to be held in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada. Austin gets a little too cocky and wild while speeding along the road and gives a truck driver a scare by cutting in very close to the front of his semi after passing him.
Unfortunately for Austin and his friends, the trucker he scared with that reckless maneuver was Rusty Nail. And Rusty Nail does not forgive people who upset him. Austin just signed death warrants for himself and every one of his friends.
The point at which the group gets Rusty Nail on their tail, the point at which the movie should really just be picking up steam, is also the point at which I felt it went off a cliff quality wise. Although Rusty’s wrath is occasionally interesting in a slasher movie sort of way when the trucker gets his hands on members of the group and knocks them off one-by-one in brutal, bloody manners that utilize his truck or trucking equipment in some way or another, there’s nothing interesting about the way he toys with the characters this time around… In fact his toying only amounts to having Jordon drive to a couple different desolate locations.
Worst of all, the first act seems to be setting up actress Kristen Prout to be the heroine of the film as Jewel. She’s tough, she wants to do the right thing, she’s quick to stand up for her boyfriend and to tell of someone who’s being an idiot. And then she gets kidnapped as the first stage of Rusty Nail’s mission of vengeance and is nothing but a helpless, screaming damsel in distress for the rest of the movie.
Instead, Jesse Hutch’s Jordon is the typical, bland hero. A rather inept one at that. The fact that he takes on the hero role does, however, set up the climactic scenes to be a Freddy vs. Jason rematch of sorts.
There were two big selling points for Joy Ride 3 when I first heard that it was announced. One just being the fact that it was another entry in the series, I’d be watching it regardless. But the other was that the man playing Rusty Nail this time around, stepping into shows that had been filled by Matthew Kimbrough in the first film (with his voice provided by Ted Levine) and Mark Gibbon in the second, was Ken Kirzinger. The Canadian stuntman who had been the primary performer to portray slasher Jason Voorhees in Freddy vs. Jason.
Jesse Hutch played a victim of Jason’s in that movie, he got stabbed multiple times with a machete and then folded in half in a bed. This time he fares better against Kirzinger’s character.
Kirzinger makes for a fine Rusty Nail, and could have a new franchise role for himself in further sequels are made. I’d gladly see Kirzinger continue on as the killer trucker, hopefully doing more interesting things that he does in this installment. Mark Gibbon sort of did a Ted Levine impersonation in part 2. Kirzinger doesn’t attempt to sound like Levine, he just adds a bit of a Southern drawl to his voice, which is probably the better approach. I thought Gibbon might have been slightly hampered by trying to keep up the Levine sound. I think that was more important for the first sequel anyway, while 3 is far enough away from the original that the Rusty Nail actor can do their own thing.
There is some fun to be had from watching Joy Ride 3, and there are a couple good vehicular chases and crashes and the kills are gruesome, but the script was very lacking. O’Brien directed the action quite capably, but didn’t type up the screenplay quite as well.