DVD REVIEW

Rest Stop: Don't Look Back (Uncut)

Rest Stop: Don't Look Back (Uncut)
A rest stop, by definition, is a stop made, during a road trip, to allow passengers to stretch their legs, use restrooms, and get refreshments. Nowhere in that definition does it say that a rest area is a haven for homosexual activity (as implied in There's Something About Mary), or a place to stop to be mamed, murdered, raped, tortured, dismembered, or chased by people deformed by some horrible toxic waste spill whose only interest is eating your pets and petting your picnic food. Yet films continue to make these rest stops places to avoid, whether it's because of their soiled bathrooms, undesireable locations, or creepy staff members.

The Movie: star rating

If you've ever stopped at a highway rest area, there is a good chance you have seen writing on the walls of the bathroom stalls - some vulgar, some just plain stupid. Some say, "Some come here to sit and think, some come here to shit and stink, but I come here to itch my balls, and read the writing on the walls," while others say, "This toilet paper is like John Wayne. Tough as nails and dont take shit off nobody." Well, the makers of Rest Stop: Don't Look Back left their scribblings right on the cover of their DVD box, and they wrote one word too many. It should read: Rest Stop: Don't Look.

The movie begins with a flashback to the 1970s where a man who simply goes by The Father (Michael Childers) and his family - The Mother (Diane Salinger), freaky twins (Edmund and Gary Entin), and a deformed midget named Scotty (Mikey Post) who likes to take polaroids - are driving along the road in a Winnabego when a man (Brionne Davis) with a broken down truck flags them down hoping for a ride to a gas station. After giving him a ride, the family stops at a rest stop for a barbecue where the preacher finds the man enjoying his wife. The Father goes mad and starts to torture the man, which leads to the birth of The Driver (and Rest Stop).

Fast forward to the present and Tom Hilts (Richard Tillman) is back from the Iraq war with only one goal in mind: finding his brother Jess (Joey Mendicino) and his friend Nicole (Julie Mond), who have been missing ever since they ran away from home one year before (this is where seeing the 2006 flick Rest Stop kind of helps). This, of course, leads to a road trip for Tom and his very pretty yet somewhat slutty girlfriend, Marilyn (Marilyn Culver), and some random nerdy kid named Jared (Graham Norris), who is apparently in the film to add some sort of comic relief (although he never does outside of the time The Driver slams his yellow truck into a Port-o-Potty, thus covering him in all sorts of human waste). It also leads more murder and mayhem at the hands of The Driver (who is apparently dead, and only alive because his eyes are still in the Winnebago of a family that apparently no longer exists since The Driver killed them, too). There's also an awkward sex scene in a motel, some terrible chemistry between people who supposedly know one another, some terrible dialogue, and a lot of torture (and I am not talking about the things The Driver puts these idiots through).

Pretty much the only thing I can give director Shawn Papazian and writer John Shiban credit for is somehow coercing a lot of the original cast members to come back and maintain some form of continuity between the 2006 flick and this one. I also give them credit for trying to come up with a story for a sequel that could actually be good if the script was better, the villain was scarier, the plot made sense, the killers' motives were a little clearer, there was a cast of actual actors, and the death scenes were more elaborate or actually mean something. Oh, no, The Driver loosely tied Tom to a table inside a school bus and inserted screws into his leg. How ever will he survive? Sure, it's painful, but this is a horror film, not the game Operation where The Driver makes the patient buzz (or scream) when he continues to hit the wrong spot.

Horror movies are supposed to cause goose bumps on your skin, make you cringe at the sight of blood, or make you jump and scream when you feel the evil force approaching. Rest Stop: Don't Look Back makes you want to go to the bathroom, fill a paper bag with your own excrement and leave it on the filmmakers' doorstep lit on fire, especially considering that is pretty much what they do. They put a flaming bag of poop on your doorstep and by watching this film, you're the idiot that steps on the flaming bag of poop without shoes on.

This is a horror flick, but I was not scared once. So, a driver with half a tongue and a yellow truck is driving around and torturing people with a drill. Who the heck cares? If I'm going to sit through an 89-minute horror flick, I really don't want to be laughing uncontrollably at the ending. It is pathetic! I mean seriously, I could have been doing something more entertaining, like knitting an oversized sweater for an unborn niece or nephew, watching paint dry, watching my Chia Pet grow, or watching an entertaining movie made by people with talent. The script is awful and the chemistry between the characters is even worse. Tom and Marilyn talk to one another like it's the first time they've been together, and their sex scene is about as uncomfortable to watch as it would be to perform those very acts in front of my parents. Sure, she has a great body and sex is a good way to try to convince people that they care for one another, but the guy was at war for a year and she seems about as excited to see him as she would her aunt. The killer is boring. He drives his truck around, stalking people at a rest stop. The nerdy kid is really just a horny loser. He's so desperate, he has sex with a ghost who has a license plate number carved into her stomach, a dirty bra, disheveled hair, dried blood and bruises all over her body, and she doesn't even say his name mid-coitus. What a turn on!

Papazian tries to give the movie style by taking artistic shots of a bull's skull nailed to a wood post while the clouds zoom by in the background. He tries to create horror with sight rather than feeling, and that is where so many horror films - not just this disaster - go wrong. Just because you have a killer willing to kill random people in cruel ways does not mean you have a scary movie. It means you have a guy killing good-looking people (because that is all that is really cast for horror flicks today) for no reason. Just because you have artistic shots of desolate areas does not mean you've set the mood for a scary movie. A scary movie is made through the story, and while there is a well-intentioned effort to connect two movies with Rest Stop: Don't Look Back, the end result is a laughable mess that feels more like a car zooming down the highway with no brakes.

The Disc: dvd

If you make it to the special features section of this DVD without considering sitting in a bathtub with various electrical appliances sitting along the rim of the tub, it means one of two things: Either you really like being tortured and have a death wish, or you're completely brain dead. Nothing worthwhile will ever come from watching the bonus material for Rest Stop: Don't Look Back, but since there is at least one person who will watch, I might as well relive the horrifying experience myself by telling y'all about it.

If you really like to live on the edge, try rewatching this steaming pile of turd and turn on the commentary so you can listen to the witless minds of writer-producer John Shiban and director Shawn Papazian ramble on and on about the greatness of their direct-to-DVD sequel. At most, it's good for a laugh as you begin to realize how truly delusional they are - they actually believe people other than themselves are watching and enjoying their movie.

The thing I happen to love about the people behind this flick is the fact that they truly believe they have a following and make good movies. In "Doomed to Repeat: The Mythology of Rest Stop," a rather appropriately named feature (since they are doomed to repeat previous results), there are interviews with many cast members who seem to believe they are making horror movies that will change the genre forever. These people are talking about their movie as if there is an actor someone has actually heard of the stars in this film. They talk about it like there was this huge, worldwide release, when it's going straight to the video store and probably will never appear on cable. It's like they all took loads of hallucinogenics that make them believe they are actually remaking Forest Gump and they will all, one day, earn Academy Awards.

So, what do these delusional, desperate people say about their direct-to-DVD thriller? Salinger says, "It's about what comes back to haunt you." One of the creepy twin boys says Rest Stop: Don't Look Back, "takes the mythology from the first one and just expands on it." And, Shiban says: "It's a big challenge not to make the same movie again," and he "felt obligated to the fans to explain some things, to answer some questions, and, of course, ask new ones." Sorry, buddy, the only thing you explained is the fact that everyone who believes Rest Stop is a great series with a cult following is basically tripping on acid, or has permanently taken a vacation from reality.

As if the first ending wasn't funny enough to Rest Stop: Don't Look Back, the filmmakers are nice enough to give you yet another crappy ending to brighten your day. In this alternative, Tom returns to his parents' house with the news that his brother, Jess, can officially be considered to be dead. He knocks on the door a few times, but there is no answer. He looks over to the other end of the porch and sees his parents sitting at a table crying, while holding a "Missing" flyer for ... wait for it ... this will shock you ... HIM! Oh my God! Scary, right? I think the pink flowers appearing in the scene kind of killed the horror and shock of it all, 'cause nothing can be scary when pink is one of the nearby colors. Unless, of course, it's Kirstie Alley wearing pink sweatpants and chugging Pepto Bismol. Now, there's a horror movie!

There are actually four deleted scenes on the DVD. They are called "Buddy," "Meet the Family," "Dinner with the Family," and "The Owner's Demise." Seriously? Deleted scenes? Can't we just delete the movie and call it a day? There is no need to do this. Couldn't they just do a gag reel? You know, show the entire 89 minute film and let people laugh until they cannot take it any more. The only thing special about these deleted scenes is the fact that you don't have to watch them and the fact that they were already taken out of the running time of Rest Stop: Don't Look Back. But, watch them if you dare. It won't change your life - it'll just take minutes off of it.

Reviewed By: Jarad I. Wilk

Release Details
Length: 89 min
Rated: NR
Distributor: Raw Feed, Warner Bros.
Release Date:  2008-09-30
Starring: Richard Tillman, Jessie Ward, Graham Norris, Joey Mendicino, Julie Mond, Brionne Davis, Diane Louise Salinger, Michael Childers, Gary Entin, Edmund Entin, Mikey Post
Directed by: Shawn Papazian
Produced by: Tony Krantz, Daniel Myrick, John Shiban
Written by: John Shiban
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