Joy Ride (2001 film)

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Joy Ride
Joy Ride Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Dahl
Produced by
Written by
Music by Marco Beltrami
Cinematography Jeffrey Jur
Edited by
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • October 5, 2001 (2001-10-05)
Running time
97 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $23 million[2]
Box office $36.6 million[2]

Joy Ride, also known as Roadkill, is a 2001 American mystery thriller road film. The film was written by J. J. Abrams and Clay Tarver and directed by John Dahl and starring Steve Zahn, Paul Walker, and Leelee Sobieski.

Although not a strong commercial hit, the film received enthusiastic reviews by critics and it was followed by two direct-to-video sequels, Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead and Joy Ride 3.


At the start of the summer holiday, Lewis Thomas (Paul Walker) and his childhood friend Venna Wilcox (Leelee Sobieski), who study at different universities, are both packing to go back home. In an attempt to get Venna romantically interested in him, Lewis offers to come by Venna's campus to drive her home instead of both of them flying back. Venna happily agrees and, after buying a car, Lewis starts his road-trip. When he calls his parents during the trip he learns his brother Fuller (Steve Zahn) has managed to once again get arrested, this time in Salt Lake City. Since Salt Lake City is not that far, Lewis decides that, prior to picking up Venna, he will visit Fuller, whom he hasn't seen in five years. After bailing him out, Fuller decides to accompany Lewis on his trip and, during the ride, coaxes Lewis into playing a cruel prank through their CB Radio on a truck driver, known only as 'Rusty Nail' (voiced by Ted Levine (uncredited)). 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. But instead of giving Rusty his own room number, Lewis gives him the number of the room next door, which belongs to a highly irritable businessman who had an argument with Fuller earlier that night. When the joke takes a deadly turn, Lewis and Fuller find themselves being relentlessly stalked by the psychotic Rusty Nail. 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 the ice truck driver. However, it turns out the truck driver 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 ploughs through the ice truck, killing the innocent truck driver. He then proceeds to run over and crush the Lewis and Fuller's car, taunting them. Once the two apologize, Rusty accepts, and leaves.

However, when the two meet up with Venna and her friend Charlotte, Rusty Nail reappears on the CB radio, wanting more than just his apology. He continues to stalk and taunt the three, and kidnaps Venna's friend, holding her hostage, before kidnapping Venna herself in a cornfield. Rusty Nail sets up a meeting for Fuller and Lewis at a motel, where he has set a trap that will kill the bound and gagged Venna if either of them open the door to the room. Fuller attempts to save Venna, but is injured by Rusty Nail, who gets to him before he can help. Lewis saves Fuller, and the brothers save Venna just in time before Rusty Nail crashes his truck into the hotel room. Meanwhile, the police have shown up, and they investigate Rusty Nail's truck, seeing a dead body in the driver's seat and the bound and gagged Charlotte on the floor. Thinking that Rusty Nail is dead the three huddle around an ambulance and get treated for their injuries. At this point, the dead man is revealed to be the ice truck driver killed before. A CB in the ambulance is on and the group once again hear Rusty Nail's voice recite a line that he had previously said in the beginning, revealing that he is alive and free.



In his screenplay for Joy Ride, J. J. Abrams was 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, and a small billboard for ICE is visible in the background.

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 veteran actor Ted Levine (The Silence of the Lambs) due to his distinctive voice tone, and was added in post production. Eric Stoltz and Sylvester Stallone also auditioned for the role of Rusty Nail.[3] Rusty Nail's truck is a 359 Peterbilt.

Alternate footage[edit]

On the DVD release, there is a 29-minute long alternate ending, and four 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 wherein 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.

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.

Sobieski filmed two different romantic interludes, one with Zahn and one with 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 of them.


The film also goes under numerous other titles in other countries. In Australia, Sweden, Finland, Ireland and some other European countries the film was retitled Roadkill, Never Play with Strangers in Israel and Spain, Radio Killer in Italy, Never talk to strangers in Greece, Road Killer in Japan, and Mortal Frequency in Mexico.

The film went under the working titles of Candy Cane, Highway Horror, Deadly Frequency, and Squelch.

Box office[edit]

Joy Ride opened theatrically on October 5, 2001 in 2,497 venues and earned $7,347,259 in its opening weekend, ranking number five in the domestic box office.[4] By the end of its run, the film had grossed $21,974,919 domestically and $14,667,919 overseas for a worldwide total of $36,642,838.[2]

Critical response[edit]

The film received generally positive reviews from critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 73% rating based on 113 reviews, with an average rating of 6.6/10. The site's consensus states: "A well-constructed B-movie thriller, Joy Ride keeps up the necessary level of tension and chills. Critics also liked Zahn's performance as the goofball older brother."[5] Metacritic reports a 75 out of 100 rating based on 31 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[6]


The film was followed by two sequels were released direct-to-video: Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead (2008) and Joy Ride 3 (2014), featuring the character Rusty Nail from the original film, appeared as a character himself and voice.


  1. ^ "ROAD KILL (15)". British Board of Film Classification. January 30, 2002. Retrieved October 1, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c "Joy Ride (2001)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved October 1, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Trivia for 'Joy Ride'". IMDb. Retrieved May 3, 2011.
  4. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for October 5-7, 2001". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. October 8, 2001. Retrieved October 1, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Joy Ride (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved October 1, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Joy Ride Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 1, 2015. 

External links[edit]