In 2001, Joy Ride followed three young people on a cross-country trip who run afoul of a psycho truck driver. Paul Walker, Steve Zahn and Leelee Sobieski made for a very appealing trio, and Ted Levine (The Silence of the Lambs) supplied plenty of menace as the voice of Rusty Nail, the revenge-minded trucker. Director John Dahl, working from a sceenplay written in part by J.J. Abrams, kept raising the stakes throughout the thriller, resulting in a very tense ride. The film has spawned two sequels to date, with the latest, Joy Ride 3: Roadkill, hitting the home video circuit this week.
Anyone who's ever gotten behind the wheel knows that hard-working, long-laboring truck drivers deserve our utmost respect on the road, but, somehow, 18-wheel trucks and their drivers continue to appear as the villains in horror movies, as this list will attest.
Writer Richard Matheson drew from his own unpleasant experience with a tailgating truck to devise a script in which mild-mannered Dennis Weaver is pushed to the breaking point by an incredibly menacing 18-wheeler on a lonely highway in the Southwestern desert. The movie was made for television; an expanded version was later released theatrically in Europe. It was an early triumph for a young director named Steven Spielberg.
Road Games (1981)
Stacy Keach, an American trucker working in Australia, begins to suspect that the driver of a green van he keeps seeing on the road is a notorious serial killer, but the more he tries to prove it, the more he unwittingly indicts himself and his big old truck. Jamie Lee Curtis pops up as a hitchhiker. Director Richard Franklin next made another thriller, Psycho II.
Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Stephen King made his first (and only) film as a director with this tale of a rogue comet that causes all machinery on Earth to become sentient and start attacking human beings. The most villainous machine is an evil 18-wheeler, a ringleader of sorts in trapping a small group of survivors at a truck stop. Powered by the music of AC/DC, the movie has a funky charm and an offbeat sense of humor.
Kurt Russell and his wife (Kathleen Quinlan) are driving cross country when they have an unpleasant encounter with a trucker in New Mexico. Later, when their car breaks down, a passing 18-wheeler stops and the driver (J.T. Walsh) kindly offers to give the Mrs. a lift to a nearby diner so she can call for help. When she goes missing, however, it's Kurt vs. the truckers in a desperate battle for survival.
Road Train (aka Road Kill) (2010)
Four young campers in the Australian Outback are forced off a highway by a "road train" (a truck with two trailers) and then fall under its supernatural spell. While the premise quickly begins to strain credulity -- wait until you see what the truck uses for "fuel" -- this thriller works hard to deliver its horror elements in a fresh setting, and the "road train" ultimately provides a new twist on road rage.