Well, I guess it's more like northbound and up. See, the team at Wells Racing is about to unleash their latest supercharged hot rod at the Road Rally 1000 up in Canada. They have the route plotted out and everything, but...hmmm, nosing around on the map, they see a way to shave a full day off the trek. All they have to do is cross the border via Highway 17...y'know, "Slaughter Alley". Whatever. They're professional drivers, so they'll be okay. I mean, it's not like they're red shirts in a movie with a title like "Joy Ride 3: Roadkill", right? Even better, this desolate stretch of road really isn't patrolled or anything, so they can really put the pedal to the metal. Too bad that Slaughter Alley is the stomping grounds of psychotic trucker Rusty Nail (Ken Kirzinger). You got it: too fast versus too furious.
I can't say I was a card-carrying fan of writer/director Declan O'Brien before this, seeing as how he seized hold of the Wrong Turn franchise after Joe Lynch's gloriously insane splatter-comedy Dead End and churned out sequels/prequels that ranged from "borderline-unwatchable" to "ugh, fuck this". Joy Ride 3: Roadkill, though...? Totally turned my opinion around on the guy. With the late Paul Walker having been such a big part of both franchises, the premise of a head-on collision between Joy Ride and The Fast and the Furious is pretty much genius. O'Brien and his crew rely on practical effects and stuntwork approaching 100% of the time, and I can't begin to tell you how much of a difference that makes. These are real cars and trucks soaring through the air, getting crushed, being savagely torn apart, and getting blown to holy hell, not chintzy CG models in some Palo Alto render farm. The same goes for the completely fucking demented splatter. It's mentioned in the extras that Joy Ride 3 blew through two full barrel drums of stage blood based on Dick Miller's old recipe, and that looks a hell of a lot better than the digital stuff.
...and at the end of the day, you know that's what you're here for. The vehicular carnage is outstanding, and what O'Brien and his immeasurably talented crew were able to pull off on a tight schedule and threadbare budget is pretty much unreal. Since just about all I do all day is devour horror flicks, sometimes it does start to feel like I've hacked and slashed my way through it all, and then I see something as inventively deranged as Joy Ride 3. The kills here all stick to some kind of automotive theme: a guy getting his head smashed between a
The stuff in between the stunts and splatter can be awfully hit-or-miss, though. Ken Kirzinger has the right horror pedigree, having donned that iconic hockey mask in Freddy vs. Jason, although his take on Rusty Nail is nothing all that memorable. If he's not tormenting, torturing, or butchering someone, Rusty is kind of whatever. I'd say he's nothing more than a mechanism for mayhem, but that'd probably sound like I'm trying too hard. I like the actors behind the racing team -- they're game, they go for it, and there really aren't any weak links -- but they all seem pretty much interchangeable once the blood starts flowing. Not that you'd storm into a direct-to-video horror sequel demanding lush characterization or anything, but what little there is started to get lost after a while. Even in the final half hour or so, I found myself getting two of the few remaining survivors mixed up. There's no real emotional connection to anyone on the bill here; they're all just pretty, twentysomething year old lambs being lead to the slaughter. I was all over some of the dialogue -- I'm a cheap date for nods to Pee-Wee's Big Adventure -- but stuff like "I learned that from a hockey ninja!" and all those "You like that? Yeah!"-s in the climax are pretty dreadful. The first encounter on the road between Rusty Nail and the racing team is headscratchingly lukewarm as well. That choppy, interminable, not-even-vaguely intense "trying to pass this truck" sequence is dead on arrival and a puzzlingly inept way to set the stage for the havoc to come. Thankfully, everything after that does wind up being a couple hundred thousand times better, but if I'd been watching this on Netflix, I might've just stopped right there. The way the third act kicks off with Guy McHandsome sloooooowwwwwwwlllllly walking around the junkyard drags on so endlessly that I might actually still be watching it.
Whatever, though. Joy Ride 3: Roadkill won't go down as some instant classic that forever redefines the face of horror, but it's not like that's what it's going for anyway. This sequel absolutely nails the stuff that counts, and its missteps really aren't any worse than 90% of the slashers out there. I had a blast with Joy Ride 3, and it's one of those rare direct-to-video horror sequels where I can absolutely see myself going back for seconds. Recommended for sure.
I never seem to warm up to the overtly digital photography of movies like Joy Ride 3: Roadkill, but this presentation still doesn't leave a whole lot of room for complaint. The image is sharp as a tack and very nicely detailed, looking considerably crisper splashed across my HDTV than the screenshots scattered around this review might suggest. Joy Ride 3 doesn't shy away from vivid colors the way so many horror movies do, with the piercing blues of the afternoon sky making the greatest impression. Despite its unremarkable bitrate, the digital photography is clean enough that the AVC encode never struggles, even in such challenging moments as Rusty Nail plowing straight through a police cruiser. If the encoder weren't up to the challenge, you'd see the strain among all that fire and debris. There is some occasional softness as well as whatever it is that's going on here:
Insanely heavy filtering to mask an unusually noisy shot, maybe? Generally, though, Joy Ride 3 looks terrific. The movie arrives on a single layer Blu-ray disc at the usual direct-to-video aspect ratio of 1.78:1.
Joy Ride 3: Roadkill is lugging around a 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, and you probably won't be surprised to hear that it's at its most impressive on the road. Cars and trucks screaming from speaker to speaker, Rusty Nail's big rig smashing a cop car down the middle, and the racing team getting that psychopath's truck to jackknife all seize full advantage of the 5.1 setup. Bass response is thunderous as well, from rumbling engines to colossal explosions to the snarling, ominous low-end in the score. I wouldn't say that the sound design is unrelentingly aggressive, but it absolutely knows how to best swoop in for the kill. It's not afraid of atmospherics either, heightening the suspense with such eerie sounds as the flutter of offscreen wings in some graveyard of an automotive warehouse. As you'd expect from such a shiny, new movie, there aren't any pops, clicks, hiss, or distortion to get in the way, and the clean, clear dialogue is balanced flawlessly in the mix. A strong effort for sure.
Subtitles in English (SDH), Spanish, and French are riding shotgun. There aren't any dubs or anything this time around.
Joy Ride 3: Roadkill does the whole combo pack thing, so you get an anamorphic widescreen DVD and UltraViolet digital copy code as part of the deal too. The first run (maybe more?) is rocking limited edition "killer packaging", which is just a piece of cardboard on the wrong side of the shrinkwrap, so...I...don't...know what you're really supposed to do with it.
The Final Word
It usually takes a while for me to get the nasty aftertaste of direct-to-video horror sequels out of my mouth, but Joy Ride 3: Roadkill...? I think I might be in love. Maybe it doesn't deliver rich characterization or sterling dialogue so much, but this is a hell of a slasher. Not only does Joy Ride 3 rack up a meaty body count and an onslaught of wildly imaginative splatter, but there's some top-shelf automotive stuntwork on the bill here as well. Absolutely Recommended.