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Film / Joy Ride

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Joy Ride is a 2001 horror film written and produced by J. J. Abrams (yes, that J.J. Abrams) and starring Steve Zahn, Paul Walker, and Leelee Sobieski. It subsequently spawned two direct-to-video sequels: Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead (2008) and Joy Ride 3: Roadkill (2014).

All three films follow roughly the same narrative: A group of young adult pranksters make the big mistake of pissing off a deranged truck driver, "Rusty Nail" (voiced by Ted Levine). Being the old-school road-rager that he is Rusty retaliates by stalking and terrorizing said pranksters in his large and ominous Peterbilt and often taking out a few innocent bystanders in the process.


This film contains examples of:

  • Asshole Victim: A good chunk of the people Rusty targets are usually not-so-innocent and often deliberately provoked him first, especially in the sequels. Hell, even Lewis and Fuller (Fuller especially when Rusty asked for an apology) went out of their way to piss him off.
  • Ax-Crazy: Take a wild guess as to who.
  • Badass Driver: Rusty may be a psychopath with anger management issues but he is a damn good truck driver.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In all three movies Rusty does a brutal number on his targets and escapes the police alive (albeit injured in the last two films and minus his truck in all three).
  • Batman Gambit: Rusty just isn't brutal, ruthless and sadistic; he is also very cunning and typically more intelligent than his targets and is usually one step ahead of them.
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  • Big Bad: Rusty, of course.
  • Big Badass Rig: In all three movies Rusty drives a jet-black Peterbilt 379, one of the most visually impressive and intimidating trucks on the road (there is a reason that it is the same make and model of truck used for Optimus Prime).
  • Booby Trap: Rusty rigs one up using a shotgun with its trigger connected via string to the hotel door in the climax of the first movie.
  • Car Fu: A good chunk of the movies is Rusty playing bumper cars with the protagonists' vehicles.
  • Catchphrase: "Candy Cane..."
  • Chekhov's Gun: Lewis's broken taillight.
  • Chronically Crashed Car: In all three movies Rusty's truck is destroyed. Shot by police and crashed into a hotel in the first one; set on fire and driven over a cliff in the second; ripped apart by a junk-yard crane and dropped into a car crusher in the third.
  • Comically Missing the Point: "When did you get out of jail, yesterday?"
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Throughout the films we have seen Rusty shove one guy's hands, and later face, into the cooling fan of his truck engine; use a electric winch and chain to drive a bunch of bolts slowly and painfully into another guy's skull; etc...
  • Deadpan Snarker: One of Rusty's defining traits, besides sadism and brutality.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Steal Rusty's car? He'll kill you horribly. Insult truckers? Kill you horribly. Give him the finger? He'll take that finger. Then again, he kills some people horribly for no particular reason at all.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Fuller, why oh why did you feel the need to insult Rusty over the CB after the cops had taken you to the hospital and shown you what happens to people who piss Rusty off?
  • Everyone Lives: Played straight, as all main cast members survive. Averted in other two movies.
  • Evil Is Funny: Rusty Nail definitely has an, albeit seriously warped, sense of humor.
  • Evil Is Petty: Giving Rusty the finger results in bodily mutilation of either the bird-flipper or their friends.
  • The Faceless: Rusty's face is always blocked by his cap.
  • Fanservice: Leelee Sobieski spent the majority of her scenes braless. To say nothing of Steve Zahn and Paul Walker when Rusty blackmails Lewis and Fuller into entering a truck stop diner completely nude.
  • Final Girl: Somehow subverted, since both girls survive.
  • Finger in the Mail: Well, more like in the glove compartment.
  • Forced to Watch: Rusty is very prone to doing this his victims. The hotel and the shotgun booby-trap climax in the first, the craps game in the second, Jewel in the trailer with the electric winch in the third.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Rusty, of course. In fact, a lot of the time it is unclear if Rusty is a Serial Killer actively searching for victims or simply a lonely trucker that turns really, really angry when somebody messes with him and is prone to Disproportionate Retribution.
  • Hollywood CB: Many times throughout the movies, the main characters and their pursuer have inexplicable privacy on the radio. In Real Life, State Highway Patrols have a tendency to monitor CB channels and other truckers would also be listening in so in reality the cops would have been all over Rusty about half-way through the first movie.
  • I Can See You:
    Rusty (speaking through the truck radio): You know, Black Sheep, you really ought to get that fixed.
    Fuller: Get what fixed?
    Rusty: Your taillight.
  • Jerkass: Fuller. Hell, it seems like half the protagonists in all three movies are assholes.
  • Lost in the Maize: The protagonists are chased by Rusty through a corn field.
  • My Car Hates Me: In all three movies the protagonists' car gives them trouble (like having a flat tire after they had put some distance between them and Rusty and therefore allowing Rusty to catch up).
  • Not Quite Dead: Rusty in every film's ending seems to have been killed, but is later revealed to be alive.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The confrontation between Rusty Nail and the Jerkass guest takes place behind a wall, with only a few muffled sounds coming through. The end result speaks for itself.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Rusty is only known by his CB handle.
  • Oh, Crap!: Usually happens whenever someone sees Rusty's truck behind them or he calls them on the CB.
  • Police are Useless: Both averted and played straight.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Rusty's motivation in all three movies. First one was to make Fuller and Lewis pay for the little incident at the hotel. The second one was for the group breaking into his house and stealing his car. The third was for the Austin nearly running him off the road while showing off.
  • Scare Chord: Often used to introduce Rusty's truck.
  • Scare 'em Straight: While perhaps not the true intent of the film, it does serve as a warning to would-be pranksters that they should be careful who they mess with and when to stop.
    Tagline: It started as a joke. Now the joke is on them.
  • Shameful Strip: To teach the boys what it's like to feel humiliated and to distract them while he kidnaps Venna, Rusty blackmails them into entering a diner nude and ordering a dozen cheeseburgers each.
  • Spiritual Successor: The first film drew a lot of inspiration and themes from Duel.
  • Stalker Without a Crush: Good old Rusty, of course. It takes a lot to get him to quit following and messing with you if you are unlucky enough to have attracted his attention.
  • Surprise Vehicle: A lot of times the main characters don't seem to notice Rusty's truck until it is right on top of them.
  • Tempting Fate: When Rusty asks for an apology for the prank, Fuller responds instead with a diatribe. This results in an Oh, Crap! when Rusty implies he's behind them by commenting on their burned-out tail light.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Fuller unleashes an insulting diatribe towards Rusty when he and his brother already know that he is not somebody to mess with.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Fuller pressures his brother into pretending to be a girl on the radio to prank a stranger.
    Fuller: Get him goin', get him all worked up, and then in the middle of it, say 'Hey guess what! I'm a dude!' Come on, man, it'll be fun!
  • Wham Line:
    Rusty Nail (over the C.B. radio): You really ought to get that fixed.
    Fuller: Get what fixed?
    Rusty Nail: Your taillight.
    • Also, this scene at the end:
    Lewis: Did you find out who he was?
    Cop: Yeah, he was some trucker named Jones. He worked for an ice company in Wyoming.


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