Review – Rest Stop: Don’t Look Back

Rest Stop: Don’t Look Back

Release Date: October 7, 2008
Own it on DVD

Director: Shawn Papazian

Writer: John Shiban

Stars: Richard Tillman, Joey Mendicino, Julie Mond, Brionne Davis

MPAA Rating: Unrated

HoboTrashcan’s Rating:

Ghosts, torture, freaky twins, a freakier midget, a bag of eyeballs and an exploding Porta-John; sounds like the makings of a great horror flick.

These are just a handful of the things that show-up in Rest Stop: Don’t Look Back, the second installment of this horror series produced and written by John Shiban, executive producer and one of the writers of the highly lauded CW program Supernatural. If only the rest of the writers for Supernatural would’ve helped Shiban, Rest Stop may not seem like an 89-minute montage of horror film clichés from the last 30 years.

The story centers on Tom (Richard Tillman), a 30-year-old Army private (or corporal, if you believe the character and not his uniform), who has come home from war to search for his missing brother, Jess (Joey Mendicino) and his girlfriend Nicole (Julie Mond), who are still missing since Rest Stop (2006).

With his blonde hottie, Marilyn (Jesse Ward) and his nerdy best friend Jared (Graham Norris) in tow, he heads west. Let the mayhem begin.

It doesn’t take long for the crew to conveniently stumble upon the exact spot near the edge of California where Jess and Nicole initially met-up with the films veritable buffet of weirdos.

The rest stop killer and the Winnebago family (a demented preacher, his whorish wife, twin sons and a mongoloid midget with a Polaroid camera) are still cruising around the “Old Highway” looking for their next victims. Veteran horror film actor Steven Railsback attempts to bring some credibility to the cast as the foreshadowing gas station owner, but he seems to do little more than a weak take on Brad Dourif ala Nightwatch (1997) throughout much of his scenes.

While I know most horror films are not strong on plot, I do expect them to make-up for it in character. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a single individual to give a rat’s ass about in this movie. The three principles are as one-dimensional as soap opera characters, and the dialogue they have to spit-up isn’t even soap opera worthy. To make matters worse, when someone’s not spewing pointless one-liners like, “I’m gonna go Columbine,” we get to suffer through an intrusive and very often annoying heavy metal soundtrack from Bear McCreary.

Papazian appears to be trying to give the movie a feel similar to Rob Zombie’s infinitely superior film, The Devil’s Rejects (2005) with the sparing use of some 16MM shots which look interesting but out of place with the feel of the rest of the film. The film ends up lacking a single coherent vision, and the result is evident on the screen.

In the end, I blame Shiban. Beyond the stiff or forced acting, the grating music (not grating in that creepy-cool Psycho way; grating like my ears are going to start bleeding), or the somewhat aimless direction, it is the man behind the screenplay who is at fault here … Did I mention, damn-near everyone in the movie is actually a ghost or becomes one? Nice.

Shiban basically borrowed from or let himself be influenced by anything and everything that has ever been used as a shock device in horror films. It seems as though there are elements of everything from The Hills Have Eyes (1977) to the Hostel and Saw franchises. The only thing missing is originality.

Written by Jason Cauley. Rest Stop: Don’t Look Back is available on DVD October 7.

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