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Rest Stop: Don't Look Back (2008)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/30/2008

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/3/2008

One of the great things about reviewing DVDs and Blu-ray Discs is that I get to see a variety of movies. I see movies that I've already seen, new movies that I've been looking forward to, and obscure gems which I knew very little about, but after seeing them, was very glad that I had the opportunity to watch them. And then, we have the odd categories, such as when I watch the sequel to a movie which I didn't like to begin with. While this may seem like an exercise in futility, I like to have an open mind, and I'll give any movie a chance. Thus, I settled in to watch Rest Stop: Don't Look Back to see if it could surpass its predecessor.

Rest Stop: Don't Look Back is the follow-up to the 2006 Direct-to-DVD movie Rest Stop. In that film, young lovers Jess and Nicole were on their way to Hollywood when they made the mistake of stopping at the titular locale. From there, they were harassed by a yellow pick-up truck and an odd family in a Winnebago. This new film begins exactly one year later. Jess' brother Tom (Richard Tillman) has just returned home from Iraq and is dismayed that nothing has been done concerning the disappearance of his brother. So, after a brief reunion with his family, Tom tells his girlfriend, Marilyn (Jessie Ward), that he's going to look for Jess and Nicole. Jared (Graham Norris), an awkward young man who has been obsessed with Nicole for years, insists on going with them. So, the three youngsters, in separate cars, leave Texas and cross into California, looking for "The Old Highway". After meeting a mysterious gas station attendant (Steve Railsback), they venture near the rest stop, and soon find themselves not only separated from one another, but being attacked by that battered truck. Things get complicated when they begin to see Nicole in various locations. Will Tom, Marilyn, and Jared suffer the same fate as so many who have come before them?

Both Rest Stop and Rest Stop: Don't Look Back present an interesting experiment in mixing horror sub-genres. On the one hand, the films are simply yet another take on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre formula. We have a group of arrogant, often ignorant, city folk who get stranded in the middle of nowhere and find themselves at the mercy of scary locals. Elements of Duel or the first act of Jeepers Creepers are also brought in, as the people are chased by the truck and its faceless driver. And credit must go to writer John Shiban for this idea, as rural rest stops are inherently creepy places. (And that's not only because of all of the people having sex in the bushes.) This formula is then mixed with a ghost story, which is not unlike the movie Dead End or the "Roadkill" episode of Supernatural (which is produced by Shiban). The area around the rest stop is haunted by past victims who can appear and disappear at random. These ghosts are displaced in time and will interact with characters as if they are alive. Physical locations, such as the bathroom at the rest stop, also appear to travel through time. This adds an element of unpredictability to the story.

Does this sound interesting? Unfortunately, these elements never quite gel and it appears that Shiban stopped writing once he came up with these central ideas. Once the groundwork is laid in Rest Stop: Don't Look Back, the movie becomes a series of redundant scenes in which the characters run from the truck, encounter ghosts, or get tortured. Apparently, Shiban and Director Shawn Papazian didn't want to mess with a formula which had resulted in a successful reception for Rest Stop. The sequel is nearly a carbon copy of the first film, although it is on a smaller scale. There aren't as many characters here, and there's not as much ghostly interaction. (Although, the rest stop location appears to be exactly the same.)

I guess in some ways it's good that a sequel feel like a continuation of the previous film, but Rest Stop: Don't Look Back is almost identical to the first movie. The only real difference here is that this new movie tries to give us a backstory on the man in the truck and the family in the Winnebago. I say "tries" because the information that we are given is incredibly vague. I can't say for sure what I expected the explanation to be, but Shiban only throws us a small bone and it does nothing to move the series forward. We get an idea of how the truck driver and the weird family are connected, but we never get a really good reason for all of the ghostly activities and the movie constantly cheats on just how corporeal these ghosts can be.

If you loved Rest Stop and after viewing it said, "Wow! I'd love to see another movie exactly like that!" then you'll probably like Rest Stop: Don't Look Back. Everyone else will find a stale, vapid movie which offers some mild gore and a few ghostly hijinks, but little else. Halfway through this film, you'll be so accustomed to the fact that anyone can be a ghost that little will be surprising after that.

Rest Stop: Don't Look Back yells "Pull over!" on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. For the most part, the image is sharp and clear. However, the picture is riddled with defects from the source material, mostly notable black and white dots and silver lines. This is an odd occurrence for a brand-new movie, and I can't think of an explanation for it. The defects are quite obvious, but they aren't prevalent enough to assume that Papazian was going for a Grindhouse look. This problem aside, the colors look fine, and the image has a nice amount of depth. The Disc has a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.5 Mbps. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a fairly typical TrueHD track, as it provides nice effects, but is never overly impressive. Chapter 13 delivers some nice bass effects, and there are usually effective stereo effects on display. The "scare" scenes provide subtle subwoofer effects.

There are no extras whatsoever on this Blu-ray Disc. (Although, it appears that extra features do appear on the DVD release of this title.)

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long