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Warner Home Video presents
Rest Stop: Don't Look Back (Blu-Ray) (2008)

ďI tried to steer them away. I did. I told them Iíve seen a lot of sh**, and theyíd better watch their asses. Or theyíd end up sh** under somebodyís shoe.Ē
- Gas Station Guy (Steve Railsback)

Review By: Matt Serafini   
Published: October 06, 2008

Stars: Richard Tillman, Jessie Ward, Graham Norris
Other Stars: Steve Railsback
Director: Shawn Papazian

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for Violence, gore, sexual situations, nudity and language
Run Time: 01h:29m:02s
Release Date: September 30, 2008
UPC: 883929004928
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Somewhere between Silent Hill and Hostel lies Rest Stop: Donít Look Back, a sequel to the 2006 direct-to-video effort, Rest Stop. I passed on the original simply because Iíve tried to curb my blind-buying habits over the past few years. Itís currently on my Netflix queue with about 400 other movies, so itís going to be a while before I finally get around to seeing how this whole crazy saga got kicked into motion. Perhaps if Donít Look Back had done a little to pique my curiosity Iíd be in more of a hurry to brush up on the Rest Stop mythos, but as it stands, itís going to be a while before I feel like journeying back to the titular destination.

We open in 1972, where we meet a mysterious family traveling across rural California in a Winnebago. They encounter a stranded motorist whom they promptly murder as part of their bizarre ďcleansingĒ mission. The family gets their comeuppance immediately, however, when the motorist inexplicably rises from the grave and butchers them. Then, we flash forward thirty-five years and weíre onto the main story. Itís been one year since the events in the first film and Jess and Nicole are still missing. Jessí brother Tom (Richard Tillman), a soldier on 10 days of R&R, is convinced his brother is still alive, so he sets out to ďretrace his stepsĒ in the hopes of finding out what really happened. Tom is joined on his quest for answers by his girlfriend (and Nicoleís friend) Marilyn and third wheel Scotty.

Linear storytelling is abandoned almost immediately in favor of pseudo-surrealism and droves of nonsense. It doesnít take long before our main characters are separated and targeted by a mysterious killer known only as "The Driver" (yeah, the same one that was offed in the pre-credits sequence). Thereís also that pesky rest stop of the title which alternates between clean and dilapidated at any given moment and for no reason whatsoever. Ghosts, both good and evil, and a spooky gas station attendant stolen right out of The Hills Have Eyes are also thrown in for good measure.

Unfortunately, though, nothing gels. In the prologue we see The Driver butchered by the creepy Winnebago family. Why, then, do they seem to be in league with one another in the later narrative? The ghosts, victims of The Driver, appear before our main characters at various points and serve no real purpose. They all say things like, "you shouldíve saved me.Ē Iím assuming this was intended to illicit chills, but director Shawn Papazian demonstrates he has no understanding of what makes a horror film work. Instead of generating scares he gets shrugs and sighs. Lots of them.

I could deal with the nonsense had the film merit elsewhere, but it doesnít. Our three main characters run the gamut from bland to obnoxious and offer no good reason to root for any of them. Then thereís the astounding lack of common sense that belabors each one. Take the scene where the most unnecessary of the characters stops to use the bathroom: Heís almost rundown by The Driver while using an outhouse. Instead of hurrying to catch up with his friends, he stops to wash his clothes and even finds the time to have sex with a bloodied woman who has been missing (and presumed dead) for a year. Itís an example of the non-writing thatís painfully evident in each and every scene of the film. These characters never come close to resembling real people and the situations are even more ridiculous.

The story seems like something that a ten-year-old might have written, insofar as it tosses in so many elements that add up to absolutely nothing. Late in the game we find out that the only way to stop the madness is to locate a cache of severed eyes and destroy them. Why? Who knows. Does it work? Not really. But if weíre dealing with ghosts, why is Tom able to cut loose on the Driverís truck with an M-16 and blow it to smithereens? Furthermore, why does Tom have a machine gun packed away in his truck? I guess weíre supposed to assume that itís because heís in the service. Iíve got two friends enlisted whoíve never once returned home packing an assault rifle. Nice job, script.

So maybe thereís some good gore to overlook the shortcomings of the script and direction? Nah. Aside from a few messy close-ups of drills slicing up thighs and legs thereís not much here. In fact, every death occurs off-camera and far too late in the proceedings to generate any scares and tension. And while weíre at it, you can forget about suspense. There isnít a modicum to be found in these 89 minutes.

Donít Look Back is preposterous in its execution. Apparently the first film didnít involve any supernatural elements. Why, then, does this sequel go off the charts with ghosts, curses, and more tomfoolery than I can cover in this review? Did the filmmakers really think anyone out there was clamoring to learn more about The Driver? Itís not like horror fans were abuzz with praise for that guy after the first film. Itís like someone making a sequel to Hide and Go Shriek with the intent to delve into the backstory of the killer. Ummmm Ö thanks? Itís also fascinating to consider what the filmmakers deemed an acceptable explanation for the Driverís evil. Once you see this guy in the opening scene as a redneck drunk whose literally caught with his pants down, itís sort of hard to fear the buffoon in the rest of the film. Also, why the hell is his truck a ghost!?!?

I canít think of any reason to recommend this. As a horror film it fails on every level. Itís not quite terrible enough to illicit unintentional laughter (actually, it is, but I still donít suggest it). Things are left wide open for a third film, but if anyone could genuinely express interest in another trip to that old California rest stop after this debacle, they are a better person than I.

Rating for Style: D
Rating for Substance: F


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Inconsistent. Most of the outdoor scenes offer a sharp image with lots of texture and detail. The same can not be said for the interiors. It's here where the blacks become crushed and detail isn't as available. This is a reasonable way to view the film, but the high def image isn't terribly flattering.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, French (5.1 only), Spanish (5.1 only)no

Audio Transfer Review: My favorite thing about horror films in HD is often the audio tracks. TruHD tracks are very capable of recreating jumps just as effectively as a theatrical experience. The track offered on this disc is a bit of a disappointment, though. For a TruHD track, it seems largely confined to the front and center speakers, springing to surround only in those instances where a "jolt" is necessary. The standard 5.1 track is simply pathetic, lacking any semblance of audio texture. Of the two tracks, go with the TruHD one, but even that disappoints.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 20 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish with remote access
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Strangely enough, the standard DVD release of Don't Look Back does contain some extra material. I have no idea why it was all jettisoned from this release, but this Blu-Ray is as barebones as they come.

Extras Grade: F


Final Comments

Bland and illogical to the nines, Warner's Blu-Ray presentation of Rest Stop: Don't Look Back is an underwhelming offering for a lousy film. I can't recommend a rental, much less a purchase.


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