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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Rest Stop: Don't Look Back (Blu-ray)
Rest Stop: Don't Look Back (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // Unrated // September 30, 2008 // Region A
List Price: $28.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted September 21, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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"I...I fucking hate casseroles!"

I gotta admit -- I missed
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out on the first Rest Stop, so I didn't know what the hell was going on when I first gave this sequel a spin. A quick recap of the first few minutes of the flick: a dwarf in a fright mask bobs his way out of a Winnebago backroom toting an Instamatic, he's tripped by a couple of twin Damiens straight outta The Omen, some dude in a truck starts banging their mom doggystyle while she belts out "Old Time Religion", the family lops off one of the guy's hands and gouges out his eyes, and then he comes back from the dead to fuck up a round of frisbee and butcher 'em all.

So, you're reading that, and I bet your reaction's the same as mine: This...? This is the greatest movie ever. Okay, okay...I don't actually mean that, but I did have a pretty good time with Rest Stop: Don't Look Back, a borderline-surreal slice of torture porn and my favorite of Warner's direct-to-video horror flicks so far.

Don't Look Back picks up a full year after the original Rest Stop. Corporal Tom Hilts (Richard Tillman) is back on these shores after an extended tour in Iraq, but instead of leaning back with friends and family for his week and a half of R&R, he's planning on heading out west to look for his missing brother Jesse (Joey Mendicino). His booze-swilling girlfriend Marilyn (Jessie Ward) grabs a flask and grudgingly tags along; she was pals with Jesse's girlfriend Nicole (Julie Mond), who also mysteriously vanished. Tom's dweeby kinda-sorta-friend Jared (Graham Norris) isn't far behind, hoping he'll be able to find Nicole and finally win over his longtime crush.

They pick up on the trail from the first flick pretty quickly. A creepy guy who runs a filling station in the middle of nowhere slobbers over a photo of Jesse and Nicole, pointing Tom towards the same old highway his brother had taken a year earlier. Since the movie's pretty much titled "Rest Stop 2", you can kinda figure out where the three of 'em wind up not long after that. Ghostly visions, a sadistic phantom truck driver hellbent on torture, a creepy undead family in a Winnebago with
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human eyeballs in their pockets...yeah, they do find Jesse and Nicole -- kind of -- but they get stuck with a whole hell of a lot more in the process.

I went into Rest Stop: Don't Look Back completely cold. I figured this was just gonna be a straightahead slasher flick, but...yeah, not so much. It's definitely left of center; I mean, the first time the phantom trucker attacks in the present day, he's plowing into a Port-a-potty and slathering Jared in shit, and this is after a couple minutes of squishy fart sounds. Once Jared halfway washes himself off, his dream gal Nicole pops up in the back of his sedan, and the fact that she's bloodied, half-nekkid, and has a bunch of letters and numbers carved in her stomach doesn't really seem to faze him all that much. A few minutes later...? He gets some mid-coital exposition and faceful of blood.

You're lookin' at ancient Indian legends about torching eyeballs and trapped spirits, a preacher's zombified family tooling around in a Winnebago, a mystical women's room by way of David Fincher... I don't know how much the story's livened up from the original Rest Stop, but Don't Look Back definitely isn't just warming over some stale stalk-'n-slash formula. I guess you could chalk Don't Look Back up as torture horror 'cause it's...yeah, pretty into eye-gouging, carving off tongues, and power drills to the leg, and you get each of those a couple of times. There isn't a lot of torture -- I mean, there are so few characters that you can only abuse 'em so much -- but what's here is pretty unnerving.

Lush characterization and a deep, resonant storyline that pierces the veil of the human condition or whatever...? Nah. Don't Look Back does have a pretty likeable cast, the production values are solid for a direct-to-video horror flick, and it's more than a little batshit crazy. Rest Stop: Don't Look Back isn't essential viewing or anything, but I kinda dug it. Recommended.

Video: Rest Stop: Don't Look Back is the slickest of the three Raw Feed flicks I've caught on Blu-ray. Contrast is cranked up to 11, giving the scope image a gritty texture and sunbaked look that really suits the tone of the movie. The weight of the film grain can vary a good bit from one shot to the next, though, particularly in darker interiors. F'r instance, the scene where Tom finds what's left of his brother cuts back and forth between some shots that are reasonably clean and clear with others that are buzzing with heavy noise, and that sort of inconsistency can be kind of distracting. I'm also kind of surprised by just how dusty this transfer is, riddled with small white flecks from pretty much the first frame to the last. It's light enough to be tolerable, yeah, but I can't remember
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the last time I saw a day-and-date release from a major studio that's this heavily speckled. The image is sharp and nicely detailed, though -- there's never any doubt that this is a shiny, newly-minted Blu-ray disc -- and the smooth gradients in the shadows look pretty fantastic in high-def.

Rest Stop: Don't Look Back is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 and has been encoded with VC-1.

Audio: Not only is Rest Stop: Don't Look Back the best looking of the Raw Feed movies I've watched on Blu-ray, it's also packing the best soundtrack. The 16-bit Dolby TrueHD audio is backed by a tight, punchy low-end, kicking in with the country-fried score, rumbling engines, and tires grinding against asphalt on the highway. The surrounds are used to flesh out kind of an eerie ambiance, such as the dripping water as Tom skulks around under a bus, and the swerving phantom truck and some of the gunplay in the climax also take advantage. Dialogue sounds a little flat, but it's rendered well enough and is balanced nicely in the mix. This lossless soundtrack isn't something I'd yank off the shelf to show off my home theater, but it's still pretty solid.

Also included are Dolby Digital tracks in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, and subtitles are served up in each of those languages as well as French.

Extras: Again, Raw Feed has chucked all of the extras from the DVD out on the side of the road, losing an audio commentary, ten minutes' worth of deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and a featurette on the mythology of the series. Even though Rest Stop: Don't Look Back is crammed onto a single layer disc, the movie only takes up 17 gigs, so it's not as if they're hard up for space.

Conclusion: I haven't had a chance to catch the original Rest Stop, so I'm not exactly invested in its backstory of ghostly Winnebagos and Indian legends about burning eyeballs, but this sequel is pretty tense, gruesome, and...yeah, kinda surreal. Raw Feed tossing out all of the extras from the DVD is a drag, but I dug Don't Look Back enough to recommend it as at least a rental. Recommended.
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