[box cover]

Rest Stop

Young lovers take impulsive road trip. Young lovers stop at remote rest stop where cell phones receive no signal. Mysterious psychopath gleefully isolates, torments, terrorizes and tortures young lovers in graphic detail. The first problem with John Shiban's Rest Stop (2006) is that its formula not only lazily evokes the far superior horror classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but that its particular sub-genre of slasher fare has been uniquely ubiquitous of late, spawning indie hits like Wolf Creek and House of 1000 Corpses, remakes of TCM and The Hills Have Eyes, as well as less heralded efforts like Joyride, Wrong Turn, Hostel, and many many many more. Because the genre lends itself to low budget production and a receptive DVD consumer market, it's become more and more difficult for any new effort to distinguish itself. Rest Stop doesn't try very hard, and that's its best quality. Jaimie Alexander stars as Nicole, who spends most of the movie crying, dirty, and, soon enough, bloody, after her boyfriend Jess (Joey Mendicino) goes missing at a rest stop. When a creep in an orange pickup truck soon after drops off Jess' bloody cell phone and speeds away, Nicole begins to piece together the signs that her anonymous stalker has been killing with this same sadistic M.O. for decades. Even though Rest Stop piles on some gratuitous gimmickry in the form of a bizarre family of religious rednecks who may or may not be complicit in the crimes, it plays its familiar story aesthetically pretty straight: no fancy-ass overblown visual stylistics to needlessly overkill already intense subject matter. As a result, the movie offers some effective moments of semi-realistic terror, even though they suffer from familiarity. Unfortunately, wherever possible, writer/director John Shiban tugs his threadbare narrative in astoundingly stupid directions, requiring that every character (except the faceless killer) react to each situation in the dumbest manner imaginable. Nicole is so hopeless that one would sympathize with her would-be killer if his excruciating cat-and-mouse game did not prolong the frustrating experience of watching her make every wrong move. Not only, for example, does she barely react when an abandoned park ranger's station TV appears to be receiving over the air a sex video shot by her boyfriend only hours earlier, but when a policeman (played by the surprisingly good former child TV star Joey Lawrence) is wounded while failing to rescue her it takes her an eternity to consider taking his gun (but no time, is turns out, to waste the limited bullets). Compounding the killer's unfair advantage over his feeble prey is Shiban's decision to introduce inexplicable supernatural phenomena, like Nicole's fantasized encounter with a past victim, or the killer's impossible physical dexterity. With no apparent motivation, these plot quirks are annoying, reducing Rest Stop to an exercise in gore and clichés with little context to mitigate them. Shiban, who worked for years as a writer and producer on the popular cult series "The X-Files," should've been able to come up something a little more clever and interesting. Warner presents Rest Stop on DVD in a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Includes three alternate endings (two of which are just awful), plus extra footage montages "Scotty's Home Movies" and "On The Bus." Trailer, keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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