For those not familiar with 'Raw Feed' – the production company that has created Rest Stop - it's basically a company specializing in horror and genre fare intended for a straight to video release through Warner Brothers. Rest Stop is their first shot, and it's written and directed by John Shiban who in the past worked as a writer and an executive producer on The X-Files and this film marks his feature film debut.
Nicole (Jamie Alexander) and her boyfriend Jessie (Joey Mendicino) are two Texans who decide that they're going to run off together to Hollywood where they hope to break into acting and make it big. They hit the road and not too soon after they've started their journey they encounter a strange guy (Nick Orefice) in a beat up old pick-up truck. They forget about him soon enough and before long Nicole needs to answer nature's call. Jessie wants her to just go to the side of the road and do her business but she refuses and so they decide to pull over at a rest stop out in the middle of nowhere. Nicole heads inside to use the filthy facilities and upon her return she finds that not only is Jessie gone but so is their car. Nicole thinks Jessie is playing a dumb prank on her but soon she figures out that the weird guy in the pick-up truck might not have been as innocuous as she first thought.
When the only real 'name' actor in the movie is Joey Lawrence of all people, you might think that the ship is sunk before she even sails but thankfully that isn't the case with Rest Stop. While the plot is fairly derivative (think Jeepers Creepers with doses of Duel, Haute Tension and The Hills Have Eyes thrown in for kicks) it does manage to move along at a pretty good pace and the performances aren't half bad at all. Alexander and Mendicino are fine in the leads and the surprise of the movie is the aforementioned Mr. Lawrence are Deacon in a genuinely strong supporting role. Nick Orefice as the maniac behind the wheel of the pick-up truck is imposing enough in his looks and his mannerisms to work quite well as the antagonist in the film and he also does a fine job with the material at hand.
Despite the fact that the storyline is a little too familiar at times, Shiban has done a good job ensuring that there are a few good, scary moments in the movie and he's also managed to create some unsettling atmosphere in his film. The ending and a few other plot points are left open to interpretation to a certain extent which not only makes the movie a little more thought provoking than you might think but also conveniently leaves things open for a follow up movie. With the events of the movie primarily taking place at one location it would have been easy for the visuals to get redundant or dull but thankfully things are seedy enough to work and the cameras do a good job of capturing this. The film is paced in a similar manner to Wolf Creek in that it starts off slowly and builds over the first half before going a little more bonkers towards the finale. This allows us to get to know some of the characters a little bit before the chaos ensues and as such things are more effective for it.
Shiban and company haven't reinvented the wheel with Rest Stop but if you don't mind the low budget and appreciate a gritty, dirty slasher film with survivalist horror movie elements intertwined, then this movie proves to be worth a look.
The 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks just like it should – dirty! The image has been purposefully muted in spots and grain and grit has been added to certain scenes for effect and for the most part it works really well. If you look for it you'll pick up on some line shimmering here and there but other than that there aren't any digital transfer problems to report, edge enhancement is kept to a minimum and mpeg compression artifacts aren't an issue. Some of the intentional grain does eliminate some of the fine background detail but not so much as to ruin anything. Rest Stop looks just like it should on this DVD.
The English language 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound mix is good, but not as good as it could have been. Surround usage in the rear channels isn't all that impressive and there are times in the film where they could have used a more aggressive mix. That being said, the dialogue is always clean and clear and there aren't any issues with hiss or distortion worth noting. The score comes through with a nice amount of punch and clarity though bass response from the subwoofer, like the rear channels, didn't seem to be as strong as it could have been. An English closed captioning option is available for the feature only as are removable subtitles in English, French and Spanish.
First up for the supplements on this release is a collection of three alternate endings. While the ending used in the movie is definitely the better one, these are still interesting to see even if they aren't quite as effective as the one that the filmmaker's ultimately chose to go with. A feature named On The Bus assembles the photographs that show what happened to the people who were on the yellow bus in the movie, and Scotty's Home Movies is a strange little short that pretends to be the home videos made by the rather odd character who plays such an important part in the film itself.
Rounding out the extra features is the trailer for Rest Stop and for a few other genre films, animated menus and of course chapter stops for the feature film. Oddly enough, there's no commentary nor are there any interviews with the cast or the crew members here, which is a shame as learning more about how this movie was made could have been potentially quite interesting.
Rest Stop isn't the most original horror movie to come around the bend but it's a fairly effective and grisly little movie with a few tense moments, some good effects, and a couple of good scare scenes. The DVD from Warner Brothers doesn't sound as intense as it could have but it looks good and the few extras that are here are at least interesting enough that you'll actually want to look at them. Recommended for those who like the genre, a solid rental for everyone else.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.