Absolutely nobody suffers from road rage like Rusty Nail. In 2001's thriller Joy Ride, the growly-voiced trucker taught a trio of travelers a deadly lesson for pulling a prank on him. The direct-to-DVD sequel, Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead found Rusty targeting some youngsters who were stranded and stupidly "borrowed" a car from him. Now, the bloodiest instalment, Joy Ride 3: Roadkill, hits DVD today.
The movie follows a bunch of streetcar racers – Jordan <Jesse Hutch>, Jewel <Kirsten Prout>, Mickey <Ben Hollingsworth>, Alisa <Leela Savasta>, Austin <Gianpaolo Venuta> and Bobby <Jake Manley> - on the way to a rally. A little too cocky for their own good, they commit the ultimate driving sin against Rusty <Ken Kirzinger> and pay the price for their recklessness.
"They speed past him and Rusty takes exception to it," states Hollingsworth during a break on production. "He pulls out in front of them. They are hotshot kids in a new race car and they show him up and speed past him. They don't know that they are messing with the wrong truck driver. Rusty is all about an eye-for-an-eye justice and we certainly get some of that in the film."
Sitting in the driver's seat for Roadkill is Declan O'Brien, who recently helmed the last three Wrong Turn films. Fox approached the writer/director about carrying on Rusty's reign of terror and O'Brien's wheels immediately began spinning on how to ramp up the Joyride franchise.
"This was my concept for Joyride 3," offers O'Brien in a separate conversation. "The viewers love the character of Rusty Nail, so this had to be his continuing story. What I also wanted to do was capture the road movie sense of it. I actually really enjoy this franchise and rally racing, so I figured we had to have a reason for our folks to meet Rusty Nail. In the first one, it was Paul Walker picking up his girlfriend for a road trip. In the second one, it was a road trip for a bachelor party in Las Vegas. Mine was, 'Let's make it a bit sexier and have a race car on the way to a rally race.'
"Rusty is actually more present and on the screen more," continues O'Brien. "He has a lot more to say in this film. It's not so much backstory, but the psychology of Rusty and his sense of right and wrong. He's yelling at Jordan to stand up and take responsibility for your actions and consequences. You really get into Rusty's head a little bit more, as opposed to an origin story."
Rusty's truck and demented games of cat and mouse with his victims clearly separate him from other horror psychopaths. He relishes psychologically tormenting people over the CB radio and in person before delivering the final death blow.
"He's psychologically torturing them before he's physically torturing them," agrees O'Brien. "He shows up at moments you don't expect him to. The truck is like a shark in the night. All of a sudden, it's there. As a matter of fact, we've had some issues with the truck. I've had a big explosion. I busted the radiator and we had to quickly have it fixed. I've started to call Rusty's truck 'Bruce the Shark.' I think that's what the crew used to call the <troublesome mechanical> shark in Jaws."
"A lot of great horror that comes out of Joy Ride 3 is from the slow burn," adds Hollingsworth. "There's some use of video cameras where we think someone is somewhere, but really Rusty has pre-recorded video to make us think someone is there. But he sets out rules that are very basic and unfortunately, we just don't follow those rules. That's where he gets his justification, which helps the audience root for him a little bit. He's not just a ruthless killer with no morals…although he is. I feel like if you were by the book with him, you'd be fine."
Back in September, 2013, things were unequivocally not fine. FEARnet journeyed an hour outside of Winnipeg, Canada, where Roadkill was filming at a vacant sandpit. It was midnight, chilly and Rusty's warped brand of punishment was currently in full effect.
"I've killed a lot of people, and I've killed a lot of people in a lot of interesting ways," explains O'Brien. "The hardest part of writing a horror script is finding a new way to kill somebody that hasn't been done a million times before. Fanatically, I wanted all the deaths to be automotive-related. Each death is unique."
"One thing I like about Rusty is he doesn't have a signature weapon, except the truck," states Hollingsworth. "That's how he kills all of us. Essentially, it has something to do with the truck, whether we're strapped to the top of it or crunched to the bottom or hand to the fan belt."
Smack in the middle of the pit, race team mechanic Mickey lies on his side under the back end bumper of Rusty's massive rig. His head has tightly been squeezed between the vehicle and a heavy-duty hydraulic jack. Mickey's desperate pleas of "Please let me go" fall on deaf ears. A sadistic Rusty still proceeds to press down on the jack. The mounting pressure begins to crush Mickey's cranium. Red fluid oozes from his eye sockets and ears. He screams and struggles to no avail.
At this point, a Mickey dummy replaces Hollingsworth. When filming resumes, Rusty quips, "You shouldn't have jacked me up with the cops. You got ahead of yourself. That makes me mad," before slamming his foot down on the jack. Mickey's head caves in and blood splatters everywhere. O'Brien yells, "Cut!" There's a second of reflection before the crew cheers the take.
"I was trying to imagine what this would be like to shoot it," says Hollingsworth afterwards. "This is a lot cooler than I constructed in my head. This is a big sand pit with 40-foot sand walls encompassing it. There's a full moon. The sand is cold. My neck is contorted and it's up and pried between this jack. Yeah, it's painful, but it's something I like because you're not working with a green screen in a studio."
Behind the video village tent, the kills have all been storyboarded out according to difficulty level. Mickey's elaborate and gruesome demise rated a four out of five. So, the question remains what kind of carnage could possibly earn top marks?
"Difficulty level five is Jewel's death," reveals O'Brien with a smile. "She is strapped to the top of that truck there. She's like a human antenna. She's above the trailer of the truck and she sees a low bridge coming at her. They are going fast, they hit the bridge and there's half of Jewel left. There's timing, prosthetics and hitting the bridge at the right speed. That was a hard one."
For now, Jewel is alive and kicking. Played by Prout, the Elektra actress has also starred in horror projects My Super Psycho Sweet 16: Parts 2 and 3, as well as the upcoming Stalked and Captured. Waiting to be called for a scene, an enthusiastic Prout plunks down to discuss the genre.
"In this one, we have kills that are so disgusting," she reports, "I have a hard time watching them on the monitor. That's usually my guage. We did one sequence in a horror film that I was in, where we cut open a stomach and had the guts fall out. The other night, we had something going on with a face and a fan. When you watch something that looks real and it's revolting, it gets to that level where you feel uncomfortable."
Anyone who caught Prout in Elektra, or either chapter of Sweet 16 for that matter, knows she has some serious lung power. That's a good thing because a frightened Jewel screams and screams and screams some more in this film.
"I was talking to Ben about this earlier, about a scream coming from your gut versus your throat," explains Prout. "A scream needs to be just enough high-pitched to be scary, and just low-pitched enough to still be taken seriously. It's basically like a balance. I let it come straight from the heart and you cannot think about what people hear. You just have to let it go. Zero restraint makes a good scream."
In previous Joy Rides, a few of Rusty's intended victims have managed to outsmart him…or at least avoid execution. O'Brien won't spoil whether anyone survives in Roadkill, but it does sound like Rusty gets away with murder.
"I've definitely left it open-ended for Rusty's story," concludes O'Brien. "I have a few ideas. Hopefully, if things turn out as they have in the past with Wrong Turn 3, 4 and 5, you'll be seeing us again."