Rest Stop DVD Review
Written by Sham
DVD released by Raw Feed
Written and directed by John Shiban
2006, Region 1 (NTSC), 92 minutes, Unrated
DVD released on October 17th, 2006
Jaimie Alexander as Nicole
Joey Mendicino as Jess
Joey Lawrence as Deacon
Nick Orefice as The Killer
Deanna Russo as Tracy
Diane Salinger as Mother
Anyone who frequently travels by car knows how monotonous a visit to a rest stop can be. You go into a nasty private stall, pray there’s a latch to lock the door, and sit down on the toilet to do your business. Occasionally, there will be funny stuff written across the stall walls, and those are always a blast to read.
But what happens when you read a scribbling that says a man is trying to kill them? What happens if you read several of these markings, dating all the way back to the 1970s?
This is the concept of Rest Stop, the first feature film from a new horror label called Raw Feed, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment. Raw Feed promises quality horror films and DVDs released straight to video stores, and if their debut film is any indication, fans of the genre will want to keep an eye on this rising studio.
Rest Stop begins with young couple Nicole (Jaimie Alexander) and Jess (Joey Mendicino) running away from home, heading to California to live with Jess’s cousin. After a near head-on collision with a bizarre yellow tow truck, the couple pulls in to a nearby rest stop to cool down. Things only get worse from there.
Jess and the car disappear. The tow truck shows up again and harasses Nicole. And when Nicole barricades herself in the ladies room to get away, she finds a brutalized victim of the tow truck driver — still alive — locked up in the closet, apparently having been abducted years ago.
Thus ensues a fight for survival as Nicole and other would-be travelers, including Joey Lawrence as an arbitrary cop, become the prey of a relentless madman.
Expertly photographed, Rest Stop is the debut film of writer/director John Shiban. The movie is slickly produced and shot, with the look of a lucid blockbuster and the feel of a gritty independent film. Technically, this is a well-made thriller. It’s the simple story that falls apart, especially when new (and psychological) ideas are introduced.
Dispersed throughout the movie are emblematic images of Nicole’s fight with inner demons. This includes scenes of Nicole talking about her internal battle with herself, as well as dead victims vanishing into thin air. I’m reminded of the conclusion to High Tension when these ideas are brought up. The viewer spends so much of the movie with one character hoping she’ll kick some ass and pull through, but these images ruin the experience by making the viewer focus on the futility of a hidden message, rather than the straightforward story of a girl’s fight with a deranged killer. The target audience will be disappointed by this. I’m still not sure I understand the ending, and it’s disappointing there’s no commentary on the DVD to explain what the director’s intentions were.
The rest of the movie, however, is edgy and gripping enough to keep the film from being a completely perplexing timewaster. The character development is good, and leading actors Jaimie Alexander and Joey Mendicino show much promise in the future. There are some intense scenes as well, specifically those involving the torture of principal characters. The FX are realistic and gruesome, the standouts being a nasty power drill skewering and an accidental gunshot that will surely make the squeamish scream.
In the vein of The Hills Have Eyes and Wrong Turn, Rest Stop is further counsel that stopping during a road trip — whether it be for gas, directions, or bathroom breaks — is never a good idea.
Video and Audio:
Rest Stop has the look and sound of a theatrical release. I’d be lying to say it wouldn’t be interesting to watch this film on the big screen. The anamorphic widescreen transfer is spotless, and, at the same time, preserves the gritty print of a granular horror film.
The Dolby Surround 5.1 is also impressive, balancing out the screams, dialogue, and soundtrack with impeccable stability. I didn’t need my remote once, not even for the special features.
English, Spanish, and French subtitles are available.
- 3 Alternate Endings
- Shocking Crime Scene Photos
- Scotty’s Family Album
The unrated DVD’s selling point is the alternate endings, which presents one extra conclusion to the film that’s not featured in the R-rated package.
The alternate endings are all better than the final version, mainly because they stick to the gritty roots of a stalk-n-slash horror epic. I don’t want to give away what happens in the alternate endings, but I will say that I strongly recommend watching them as they are superior to the real ending.
“Scotty’s Family Album” comes in after that. It’s a 7-minute video blog by Scotty (Mikey Post), the mutated son of the RV family. It basically follows him and his family as they commit murder, celebrate birthdays, and encounter the tow truck driver with fatal results. This is a fun, albeit weird feature.
The final special feature is the trailer.
While the Rest Stop DVD is a well-packaged set, I think it could’ve used a filmmaker’s commentary. I don’t prefer them, but when necessary, they can be completely engaging to listen to. Rest Stop needed one to substantiate its confusing ending.
Nonetheless, Rest Stop remains a gritty and sadistic debut film that shows much promise for the cast, the crew, and Raw Feed.