Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead
The home theater market has truly altered the way the public watches a film. Okay, one of the aspects of the industry that first benefited from devices like video recorders was the adult film world but now this influence has extended across the board to all genres. One of the types of film that has enjoyed the most success in this respect is the independent film. While they used to be limited in their release to some festivals and art houses now there are DVD distributors that specialize in such films. Among the most popular of the Indy movies that have hit the discs of late is the horror flick. There are several reasons for this increase in DVD sales. First, many of these movies could not obtain enough support for a theatrical release. It costs the studios a lot of money to promote a film in the movie houses. The budgets of most of these horror movies are small enough that a modest DVD sales record can turn a profit. Next, the MPAA only rates theatrical releases so a film maker can push things more with a direct to video release than would be possible in the theaters. Considering the current trend of horror movies is more blood, gore, torture and sex many would go past the ‘R’ rating and not be permitted the advertising necessary for a theatrical release. Man horror films that made out fairly well in the theaters are getting sequels that are direct to DVD. One case in point is considered here, ‘Joy Ride 2: Dead Head’. It is a slash and dash flick. You can a pair of attractive couples running from a madman intent on dicing them up into little pieces. Admittedly the vast majority of these flicks are simply dreadful. The best thing that can be said about this one is it is not that bad. It has a modicum of a plot that provides for audience interest between the carnage scenes. The acting is far better than the community college wannabe level many of these films have. The directing is visually fun to watch. As a DTV sequel goes this movie is entertaining. It is not something that you would go out to see but for a group of friends on a slow night at home it is perfect.
It took two writers to come up with this script; Bennett Yellin and James Robert Johnston. This is a freshman effort for Johnston but Yellin has penned a few screenplays you might have heard about. Unfortunately they included ‘Dumb & Dumber’, ‘Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd’ and ‘Stuck on You’. While they all featured ewll known names they were considered some of the most sophomoric stories in cinematic history. There were, however, examples of giving people want they want; puerile and insane comedy. There is a place in the world for these films. Most of us have watched more than a few because it is good to kick back and be that gross junior high school kid again. Although this is a completely different genre for Yellin he seems to apply the same philosophy to this project. The plot is minimal but does hold together. He places the two aforementioned couples and places them in a car on a dark and deserted country road. A maniac in a truck appears to be set on their painful deaths. It is a cat and mouse game which may be one of the oldest ploys in horror. The reason why it is used so often is its effectiveness. It keeps the audience engaged even if you can easily predict the outcome of any given situation. This story is a lot like a favorite roller coaster ride. You may know every dip and speedway but you return to it every summer. The fun is not in the destination it is in the ride. There is not much here that anyone who has seen at least a dozen horror flicks hasn’t seen before. The enjoyment is with the way the young actors can take the story and make it work. For some reason the characters were presented in such a way that you could find yourself concerned with their plight. A lot of this has to do with the way the script was written. The horror may be blunt here but there is a subtle degree of character development that makes story better that the rest of the pack.
The director, Louis Morneau, has a diverse enough resume to give a good spin to this flick. He has a lot of experience in thrillers and horror with a few Sci-Fi Channel Saturday night specials to his credit. He has directed ‘Bats’, ‘Carnosaur 2’, ‘Quake’ and ‘Soldier Boyz’. While these films will never be called from the podium of an award ceremony they were fun to watch. Morneau has a knack for adventure and thrillers. This translates here to add the thriller touch to a horror film. Too many horror flick directors are so concerned with the shock and bloodshed that they forget a film like this requires some suspense. Those movies are purely visceral bit with a cat and mouse theme like we have here the anticipation of violence is more important than the killings. We all pretty much who is going to die. What Morneau adds here is some tension in getting there.
The film starts with a close up of an older man buying a pack of smokes at a truck stop. His wallet is attached to his pants by a long, thick chain. It adds something to a story when the director takes care with the little quirky visual details. A young woman follows him out into the pouring rain. She joins him in the cab of his truck, his face remains hidden in the shadows. We all know what that means; hidden face plus readily identifiable wallet chain equals crazed killer. A young floozy alone in the truck with him heralds starting the body count. For those keeping track first decapitation and gratuitous topless scene clocks in at less that three minutes. Next we get introduced to the potential victims. Kayla (Laura Jordan) is driving her sister Melissa (Nicki Aycox) and her fiancé Bobby (Nick Zano) to Las Vegas for the pre nuptial party. At a gas station a young man flirts with Kayla and she responds by getting out of the car and making out with him. He is actually Kayla’s boyfriend Nik (Kyle Schmid). Kayla has already been established as a practical joker. She met him on Myspace to the chagrin of her older sister. There car breaks down in the middle of the desert where, of course there is no cell phone service. The come across a house and break in finding no one has lived there is a long time. In the spooky barn they find a car and take it. Now by now you have already figured out that the killer trucker owns the house and car and goes off on the road to find the kids that took his vehicle.
Morneau does feel the obligation to provide and endless stream of blood and guts. There is enough to get the point across but this is a refreshing change from the torture flicks that have become so popular of late. This is visually a treat and does hold your attention throughout the film. It is released to DVD by Fox and they do their usual great job. The anamorphic video is clear with excellent contrast. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is just creepy enough and features a full sound stage. There are a few extras such as a making of featurette and a look at the special effects makeup. This is an enjoyable film that is worth it.