Like all top-notch genre films, Joy Ride starts off with a pretty thin premise: two brothers on a road trip find themselves bored, and, on a whim, they begin to torment a truck driver they encounter on their CB radio. Pretending to be a girl looking for a date, the two send their victim to the hotel room of a particularly obnoxious businessman, and some terrifying violence happens.
The genius of Joy Ride lies not in the story itself, however, but in the way it manages to pull out all the old classy horror film tricks without thoughtlessly resorting to spending millions on special effects. It's a movie much more about being scared than it is about scary things.
With so much of the film's impact relying on the audience's identification with the characters, director John Dahl has wisely cast three of young Hollywood's most relaxed performers. Paul Walker and Steve Zahn play off each other effortlessly as the two brothers, and Leelee Sobieski manages to be both beautiful and believable as Walker's girlfriend. But the star performance of the film comes from the voice of Ted Levine, as the truck driver Rusty Nail, whose creepy inflections deliver the bulk of the movie's chills.
The DVD even includes a feature about the voice auditions for the part, but that's easily the least-interesting thing about the release. There are three separate voice tracks accompanying the film -- one by the director, one by the writers and one by the actors -- giving fans plenty of repeat-viewing material. And no fewer than four additional endings have been included. Far more than simply an attempt to cash-in on higher-priced DVDs, these endings are actually substantial alternatives, with one of them lasting nearly 30 minutes.