The first film from Warners made-for-DVD production arm Raw Feed, Rest Stop promises to offer the viewer a movie experience, "too shocking for theatres!" Tapping in to the current travellers-in-peril genre (see also Gone, Paradise Lost, and of course Wolf Creek, which the DVD cover art most closely resembles) the film follows lovers Nicole (Jaimie Alexander) and Jess (Joey Mendicino) who are running away to begin a new life in Hollywood together.
Quickly conforming to genre cliche the couple take an unmarked route not on their map, "cos it'll be quicker," almost get run off the road by a mysterious truck, and then pull in at a deserted rest stop for a break. The location will be familiar to anyone who's ever watched a horror film; it's a place where you can't get a signal on your mobile, the pay phone is broken, the radio transmitter doesn't work and your car suddenly won't start. What this film would do for an original idea...
So Jess vanishes while Nicole is having a pee and she soon finds herself doing battle with a deranged trucker who has been abducting travellers for over 30 years. Throw in a previous victim (still locked up in the bathroom) an ineffective local cop and an underused goofball family of religious nutters in a camper van - all of whom may or may not be ghosts - and you have yourselves... well, a bit of a mess really. And that's the biggest problem with Rest Stop, the few good ideas it has are undeveloped and never clearly explained - consigning the creepy family's sub plot to a DVD extra rather than bolstering the scant 85 minute running time in an attempt to offer some kind of context is just plain baffling.
Director John Shiban (an X-Files veteran) does his best with the limited material, offering a modicum of suspense as Nicole attempts to escape from the rest room before it alights, plus the occasional bit of gore, but it's hard to care when the characters are so unengaging - the two leads being introduced as a bickering, foul-mouthed pair. The result in an unsatisfying film full of implied motivations and lazy plotting; the demon trucker driving to and fro all night rather than killing Nicole after their first encounter seems to happen solely to ensure that she has stripped down to her bra by the time of their final confrontation. Too shocking for theatres? Too average and badly constructed more like!
Rest Stop will be available to buy on R2 DVD in the UK from Warners on 11th June.
The DVD contains the following extra features:
- 3 Alternate Endings
- On The Bus - Shocking Crime Scene Photos
- Scotty's Home Movie - a unique family album from one of the oddest characters in Rest Stop
soulmining rating: **