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Warner Home Video presents
Rest Stop (Unrated) (2006)

"This is not funny. You're not scaring me!"
- Nicole (Jaimie Alexander)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: October 17, 2006

Stars: Jaimie Alexander
Other Stars: Joey Mendicino, Joey Lawrence, Deanna Russo, Nick Orefice, Diane Salinger, Michael Childers, Mikey Post, Gary Entin, Edmund Entin, Curtis Taylor, Jennifer Cormack
Director: John Shiban

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, gore, horror violence, language)
Run Time: 01h:25m:12s
Release Date: October 17, 2006
UPC: 012569838154
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ CB-C+ C+

DVD Review

The good news for horror fans is that Warner Bros. has started a new genre brand called Raw Feed, created by John Shiban (The X-Files), Tony Krantz (24) and Daniel Myrick (The Blair Witch Project), of which Rest Stop is the first product. Raw Feed—if you believe the hype—promises to be "a mix of thriller, horror and sci-fi with an uncomfortable edge", and that all sounds terrific and promising, but this kickoff title in the series—written and directed by Shiban—still seems a little ragged around the storytelling edges.

Nicole (Jaimie Alexander) and her boyfriend Jess (Joey Mendicino) are on a road trip from Texas to California, looking to start a new life in Hollywood. They make the mistake of pulling in at a very out-of-the-way rest stop, and that's where a whole mess of bad stuff happens. Borrowing liberally from the likes of Duel, The Hills Have Eyes and Hostel, Shiban mixes the requisite menacing truck, creepy killer family, and over-the-top graphic gore to make the plight of our seemingly doomed heroine seem more than a little familiar. But horror films are know for that, so that's not necessarily a big beef, especially if Shiban had been able to carve out something that actually made even a little bit of sense.

We, as the audience, are expected to believe that while being repeatedly terrorized at a desolate, seemingly abandoned rest stop that a young woman would take the time to drink whiskey, listen to the radio, watch porn or regularly hide out in the women's bathroom. Of course running away never seems to enter her mind, so she's left to fend off frequent horrific attacks, which typically end up with poor Nicole screaming, shrieking, crying, talking to herself and basically doing all the dumb stuff that usually gets people killed in movies like this. Over and over.

There are a couple of quirky and/or curious casting bits here, with Carnivale's Diane Salinger showing up as a super freaky 1950s-esque mother who really seems to dislike whores for some reason, and Joey (I mean Joseph) Lawrence as an ill-fated motorcycle cop who has one of the strangest, most protracted death scenes I've seen in quite a while. Lawrence does his best Bruce Willis imitation muttering deathbed instructions and advice to Alexander's Nicole, and when his inevitable demise comes I didn't know if it was supposed to be funny, or if I just laughed at the wrong time.

This unrated version piles on a few more minutes of gore, such as a tongue removal and a finger bite that get trimmed a little in the rated R release, plus an early gratuitous sex scene—with what appears to be body doubles—is likely a wee bit more voyeuristic. And the sad thing is that these elements don't make Shiban's directorial debut any better, just a couple of minutes longer. While I can appreciate the conceptual need to see a character mutilated by a staple gun, its presence here just seems to be for shock value and nothing more.

I have come to expect plot holes and gaps in logic from horror films, but for some reason Rest Stop just has too many. Certain elements are left unexplained, which I suppose is meant to make things seem even more frightening, but the reality is it just makes the story more incomprehensible.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: The matted widescreen 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer looks the part of a gritty, grubby low-budget horror title, with plenty of fine grain throughout. Edge details are somewhat soft, but in terms of color reproduction fleshtones typically look natural, with the rest of the palette appearing more muted than vivid.

Nothing remarkable, but suitable.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: A rather anemic Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix doesn't do much to help sell the scary, and the absence of any substantial rear channel activity seems like a waste. Ditto with an underused sub track, which gives the mix a very uneven texture, and that's where a genre title like this could have really been given a big boost, via a larger, more aggressive mix. Voice quality is clear and discernible for the duration, though it is mostly just Jaimie Alexander screaming.

The presentation is somewhat lackluster.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Supernatural: The Complete First Season, The Lost Room
3 Alternate Endings
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray with slipcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Packaging is pretty dandy, with an embossed slipcase that gives the impression of the pickup truck's headlights flashing when you tilt the cover the right way. Not a whole lot of supplements on the disc itself, but there are three alternate endings that run a total of 03m:12s. I preferred two of the variations over the one used in the final version, though none are particularly staggering in their brilliance.

In an effort to flesh out the fictitious bad guy element, we are given On the Bus (01m:23s), a collection of gory images of assorted victims taken inside of the school bus/torture chamber. Then there's Scotty's Blog Exposé (06m:27s), supposedly shot by one of Rest Stop's creepiest characters, and it fills in some background on the bizarre motor home family. Weird, grim, depressing and funny. Too bad the film itself didn't have the same blend.

The disc is cut into 20 chapters, with optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

I still hold out high hopes for Warner's Raw Feed banner, but if this is any indication of what to expect I may be waiting awhile. There are just way too many plot holes/logic leaps here to make this anything more than a derivative, forgettable gratuitously bloody wannabe, but if John Shiban decides to make a film solely about Rest Stop's creepy motor home family I'm there.


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