Rest Stop (2006)
By: Craig Villinger on October 24, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Warner Home Video (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. English, French, Spanish Subtitles. 85 minutes
The Movie
Director: John Shiban
Starring: Jaimie Alexander, Joey Mendicino, Joseph Lawrence, Deanna Russo, Nick Orefice, Diane Salinger
Screenplay: John Shiban
Music: Bear McCreary
Country: USA
Rest Stop is the first film from Warner Home Video's Raw Feed label, the brainchild of 24 executive producer Tony Krantz, X-Files executive producer John Shiban and The Blair Witch Project's Daniel Myrick, which aims to deliver quality sci-fi, thriller, and horror material straight to the home video market.

Two young lovers are embarking on the great American road trip. Nicole has just run away from home, and together with her boyfriend she plans to make it big in Hollywood, but before they can do that they must pull over at a dingy roadside rest stop in the middle of nowhere to answer the call of nature, and that's about where, as is so often the case in our beloved genre films, the road trip goes horribly wrong as our happy campers find themselves in the clutches of something very, very nasty. In this case the turd in the road-trippers punch bowl is a pickup truck driving stalker who snatches the boyfriend and initiates a prolonged cat and mouse game with our young heroine, who is stranded all on her lonesome at the isolated rest stop with nowhere to run, and no one to help…

As well as being the first film from Warner's new Raw Feed label, Rest Stop is also the feature directorial debut of John Shiban. Shiban has an extensive background in television, having worked on of the X-Files for seven years, and more recently as a producer on Supernatural, and this background in areas of otherworldly entertainment certainly shows with Rest Stop. On the surface the film appears to be little more than a clichéd and derivative horror thriller, borrowing elements from road trip gone wrong flicks like the classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre right up to recent offerings such as Haute Tension, but as the plot develops and our young heroine encounters one or two quirky characters along the way (a Winnebago family complete with a shutter bug mutant midget kid stashed away in the back room for starters), a slight whiff of something different might just catch your nostrils. A lot of the usual genre trappings do pop up though, including characters that perform remarkably stupid actions quite frequently (including the heroine, who repeatedly returns to the rest stop throughout the film, even though the driver is bound to find her there!), and the script is riddled with plot holes, but a strong performance from Jaimie Alexander in the lead role and some effective low budget production design might help you overlook these shortcomings.

Plot holes, clichés, and character stupidity aside there is a lot to like about Rest Stop and Shiban does his best to keep the pace up, but since most of the film is set in and around a grotty bathroom some of its sequences can drag on. Once sequence in particular where Nicole must tend to a wounded motorcycle cop (played by an unrecognisable Joey Lawrence) while awaiting the next assault from the mysterious driver became bogged down by excessive dialogue and seemed to go on for far too long, however occasional bursts of graphic violence – including nasty images of power drill torture, tongue removal, finger biting, and a messy haemorrhaging - combined with a few "what the fuck?" moments ensure the viewer is never completely bored.

Be warned though; Rest Stop is actually a bit of a chin stroker, so if you're the type who likes everything neatly labelled in easy to read English you might have a hard time with this film as it is somewhat ambiguous, with many questions remaining unanswered when the credits roll and a lot of goings-on open to interpretation.
Rest Stop is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement, and thanks to some digital tinkering it almost looks as though the film was shot some time in the 1970's rather than just a few months ago. Colours are rich and vibrant, and we are treated to fairly sharp images, but the print also looks dirty and just a little bit grainy at times. Somehow, watching a pristine presentation of film set mainly in a dank roadside bathroom just wouldn't seem right, and this slightly tarnished transfer complements the films grimy content perfectly.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix is effective, yet unexceptional. Dialogue and sound effects are crystal clear at all times, and some great tunes from The Black Keys are reproduced perfectly, but save for a few ambient effects and an explosion towards the end your rear channels won't get much use.
Extra Features
Although we are denied an explanatory audio commentary from writer/director John Shiban which would have been most welcome, we do get three alternate endings, a one-minute feature called "On the Bus," which is a collection of gruesome crime scene photos showcasing more of the mysterious killers handiwork, and a fairly bizarre eight minute video diary shot by Scotty (The mutant midget kid), which is actually worth watching as it does shed a little more light on one of the films mysteries. Trailers for Rest Stop, Supernatural: The Complete First Season, and The Lost Room conclude our selection.
The Verdict
A promising debut from Raw Feed, Rest Stop is competent (and grisly) enough occupy and hour and a half of your time, but if you're importing from the USA just be sure to grab the 'Unrated Edition' for extra gory goodness, as a toned down version of the film would possibly tip the scales in favour of a negative rating.
Movie Score
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