My brother-from-another-mother, Mat Herndon of Mat Digs Horror, returns for his fourth year of the Halloween Horrors series with a loaded double-barrel blast of early 2000’s horror.
For his 2018 entry, Mat has claimed the year of 2001. However, while our previous “double feature” posts from this year’s series looked at the connections between their chosen films, Mat’s duo of horrors couldn’t be more different from each other. While Joy Ride looks at a threat that can easily exist in everyday society, Thir13en Ghosts focuses squarely on the supernatural. While it is undeniably a more violent, bloody movie than Joy Ride, Thir13en Ghosts‘ connection to these fantastic, yet seemingly intangible, elements of horror helps us feel safe as we watch from the comfort of a darkened theater or a darkened living room.
Thankfully (or not, depending on your take), Joy Ride produced a couple straight-to-video sequels that more than raised the gore level, helping to level out that playing field.
All that said, the most important thing to take from this intro is this….. That mahfugga stole my bike! Twice! In broad daylight!
For anyone who has yet to see 2001’s Joy Ride, the film centers on brothers Lewis (Paul Walker) and Fuller (Steve Zahn) as they go on a road trip to pick up Lewis’ childhood friend, Venna (Leelee Sobieski). But, of course, this piece that you are currently reading was meant for Horror and Sons’ Halloween Horrors, so it is very likely this will not be a pleasant ride. It’s safe to say the car games will only include acts of violence and death.
Joy Ride starts off fun enough. Lewis bails his older brother out of jail in order to give him a ride home. We see right away that Fuller is the one in the family who likes to make bad decisions that lead to jail time and the like. From the sound of it, this is not his first stay in jail and it most likely will not be the last. Fresh out of jail, Fuller unknowingly makes a decision which leads to a series of violent consequences: he purchases a CB radio. The purpose for the CB radio was initially so Lewis and Fuller could get reports on police vehicles in hopes that they could speed as much as possible from Colorado to New Jersey.
Fuller, however, has other intentions for the radio. Fuller has Lewis do an impression of a woman in order to prank a voice on the radio, ‘Rusty Nail’ (voiced by Ted Levine), who happens to be looking for some attention from the fairer sex. Fuller and Lewis convince ‘Rusty Nail’ to meet the non-existent ’Candy Cane‘ in a nearby motel room.
From this point on, Rusty Nail and the brothers are in a violent game of cat and mouse. Although we as an audience never see our antagonist, we know he is not afraid of doing everything in his power to harm Lewis and Fuller. All we know about Rusty Nail at this point in the film is that he’s a truck driver, he’s violent, and he has an incredibly sinister voice.
As someone who has, for the most part, always had an irrational fear of cars, Joy Ride is all the more terrifying because of this. The combination of a diesel truck and a man capable of murder scared the twelve-year-old me more than just about any other film at the time. This was based in the real world. This was not a supernatural entity that could transform or regenerate body parts. It was a homicidal man with a truck. Those things exist in real life. For all I knew as a kid, every man in a truck wanted to murder me for whatever reason.
What has always impressed me about Joy Ride is the simplicity. There was no overuse of special effects. There was not some crazy plotline about a vengeful demon. The motive was simple: A couple of young guys played a prank on a man behind the wheel of a truck and he sought revenge. Even more impressive is the fact we only see that man for maybe two minutes. It’s that voice on the CB radio. That voice none of us viewers would want to hear in person. “Candy Cane, does anyone out there know Candy Cane?” Enough to send shivers down the spine in that deep, throaty voice.
For the second part of my double feature, I figured it would be nice to tone it down a little with Thir13en Ghosts. I probably did the opposite though. This film is more like the nightmare one would get after surviving an encounter with a homicidal truck driver. For those who haven’t seen the 2001 version of 13 Ghosts, it centers on a home filled with ghosts who have been gathered mostly against their will.
The film begins with Cyrus Kriticos (played by F. Murray Abraham) and his team attempting to collect one of the ghosts in a junkyard. Right away, we see that this will not be an easy task as the ghost seems to require bait in the form of blood. Less than five minutes in, bodies are thrown all throughout the junkyard. In the middle of the chaos, Cyrus appears to meet his end.
We cut to a quick montage where Cyrus’ nephew Arthur (Tony Shalhoub) deals with the effects of his home being set on fire. Arthur’s kids escape with him, but sadly his wife does not. This information proves to be important later in the film. We again cut to a scene with Arthur, his son, daughter and nanny in a cramped living space receiving news that they will inherit Cyrus’ home after his apparent death. The family enters the entirely glass covered house and explores their odd new home. At the same time, Cyrus’ former partner Dennis (Matthew Lillard) searches the home for the money he was owed, as well as to look for the ghosts that happen to be locked up in the home.
Through a series of events, the children are snatched up by *SPOILER ALERT* Cyrus, who never died and needs Arthur to be his final ghost in order to accomplish a sinister plot he had apparently been working on for years. In order to save his children, Arthur battles ghosts as well as the glass mansion maze.
Where Joy Ride is more subtle and builds tension quietly, 13 Ghosts starts off intensely and only briefly lets up. Here we see a lawyer split in half, an oddly attractive self-mutilating apparition, explosions, literal and metaphorical back stabbing, and a plethora of other demonic deeds. With all of the visually disturbing ghosts and the house itself causing mayhem, this film is without a doubt meant for audiences who “need something to happen” on-screen for most of the runtime. It definitely delivers that and then some. This is quite the fun “event” horror film. Great for an easy movie marathon with friends or something entertaining to watch on a lazy Sunday.