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Feature
Usually I’ve very wary of most direct-to-DVD movies, but I’ve been looking forward to Warner Home Video’s Rest Stop since it was announced a few months back. The film is the first in their newly created “Raw Feed” line of discs, and unlike a lot of films released in this manner, the talent behind the series is fairly impressive. Rest Stop’s writer and director is John Shiban, whose name a lot of people might recognize from his involvement in television shows such as The X-Files and Supernatural, and future installments of the franchise have the backing of 24 executive producer Tony Krantz and the writer and director of The Blair Witch Project, Daniel Myrick, going for them. So is Rest Stop the start of the next big thing in the genre, or will it and “Raw Feed” just be more of the same?

Rest Stop
The movie tells the story of young lovers Nicole (Jaimie Alexander) and Jess (Joey Mendicino), who runaway and begin a cross-country road trip together from their homes in Texas to the big dreams of Hollywood. Stopping off at a roadside rest stop, Nicole returns from a trip to the ladies’ room to find Jess and his car gone, leaving her all but stranded in the isolated countryside. Soon a mysterious pickup truck appears, and its driver seems hell bent on making sure that Nicole’s stop is anything but restful as he engages her in a sick game of cat-and-mouse throughout the night.

The setup for Rest Stop isn’t bad, but one of the problems with it is that there isn’t much to the movie beyond this basic setup of the stranded beauty being terrorized by the faceless maniac, and attempts to pad the film feel just like, well, padding. There’s a kooky and deranged family in a mobile home camping out at the rest stop, but Nicole’s laughable encounter with them is completely inconsequential to the movie other than the fact that the attempt to add something outlandish and weird to the film takes up around ten-minutes of the feature’s 85-minute running time. A few scenes with extended dialogue between Nicole and a few of the rest stop’s other visitors do little else as well since they seem to go on forever, provide little to no exposition, and slow the pace to a repetitive crawl.

Rest Stop
The script also contains several plot holes and inconsistencies that all conspire to keep Nicole stranded at the rest stop. Take for instance the arrival of would-be rescuer and police officer Deacon, played by Joseph Lawrence, who must have been sick when they were teaching police procedure 101 at the academy. Upon arriving on the scene, a hysterical Nicole explains to him that some maniac driving an old pickup truck has probably abducted her boyfriend and is trying to kill her. Not a moment later an old pickup matching her description shows up, and what does he do? He calmly walks over, talks to the driver for a few seconds, and lets him go on his merry way, even though for over 30 years an alarming number of people have gone missing from the area. Needless to say, Lawrence’s character pays for his goof in a grisly manner, and Nicole is yet again back to square one. Usually a movie can get away with a scene or two like this, but Rest Stop seems to be littered with frustrating head scratchers such as this right up until its final frame.

Not everything about the flick is doom and gloom though, and on the technical side of things I was actually quite pleased and somewhat surprised with it, especially after comparing it to many of the other direct-to-DVD features I’ve seen recently. Gore hounds should enjoy a few of the more shocking moments that include some fairly impressive makeup and effects work, and as a whole Rest Stop has a very slick feel that makes it nearly indistinguishable from many like films that have received a wide theatrical release.

Rest Stop
Given my fondness for much of Shiban’s work on television, I really wanted to like Rest Stop despite its shortcomings but just couldn’t. Unfortunately it follows the current trend in horror films such as Hostel and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake where filmmakers have gotten the idea that creating something that’s mean spirited, uncomfortable to watch, and overly graphic is the same thing as a good scare or a good time. There were moments where I got the sense that Rest Stop might surprise me and go on an entirely different route from the one it started by spiraling into the supernatural and adding some flavor and originality to set itself apart from the pack, but ultimately it all goes nowhere fast. I guess with the talent involved I was expecting more out of the film than the standard splatter flick, and though I’ve admittedly enjoyed other recent movies such as The Hills Have Eyes and Saw that would also fall into this category of horror, Rest Stop is regrettably near the bottom of the pile.

Video
Warner Home Video has presented Rest Stop on DVD with a very nice an anamorphic, widescreen transfer at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Since much of the film takes place at night, decent black levels are a must and this transfer doesn’t disappoint with good, solid levels and no noticeable compression artefacts. The picture is also fairly sharp and detailed, and film artefacts are not a factor with this being a brand new film. Overall the video transfer on the disc is very good.

Rest Stop
Audio
The lone audio track present on the disc is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track in English with optional English, French, and Spanish subtitles, and like the video transfer the audio does its job nicely. While most of the audio is relegated to the front channels for the majority of the feature, there is good use of the surrounds for dramatic effect present at just the right moments, and even the LFE channel gets in the game a few times to rumble things around a bit. Dialogue is crisp and clear coming from the centre channel, and there are no dropouts that occur at any time during the film. This isn’t exactly a track that you’re going to show your home theatre system off to, but for this particular movie it does what it’s supposed to do quite well.

Extras
If the technical side of the disc has a weakness, it’s definitely where the special features are concerned. The unrated version of Rest Stop contains four extras, which include three alternate endings, a montage of crime scene images from the ‘Torture Bus’, home video clips taken by the deranged family’s son entitled ‘Scotty’s Family Album’, and the film’s trailer. If you’re looking for anything that deals with the making of the film you’ll be out of luck, although ‘Scotty’s Family Album’ certainly qualifies as an oddity that is somewhat amusing. The three alternate endings are all so similar that if you blink you might not be able to tell the difference between them, and the crime scene photo montage of the killer’s victims on the torture bus is barely worth mentioning.

Rest Stop
Overall
Warner Home Video's first entry into their "Raw Feed" line of feature films, Rest Stop, is a disappointment given the talent involved. It can't overcome the hurdles laid out in front of it by a thin plot and a script that has the consistency of Swiss cheese, but the technical aspects of the production are better than the average direct-to-DVD horror flick and give me some hope for the next film in the series. The DVD itself has decent video and audio, but if you're looking for any type of information on the making of the movie the extras offer nothing of real value to the package as a whole. Overall, I can only recommend Rest Stop to fans of the movies mentioned earlier in the review who just can't seem to get enough of disposable horror flicks such as this.


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