AUGUST 14, 2008
I fucking hated the first Rest Stop, for a number of reasons. One was its almost unparalleled amount of padding to make it a feature length film. Another was its incredibly unlikable “heroine”, played by Jamie Alexander. A third was the incoherent nature of the film’s villains. Were the inbred religious nuts in the motorhome working with the guy in the truck, or against him? Did they even know each other? Did it fucking matter?
Well apparently, which is why we now have Rest Stop: Don’t Look Back, which features a Return of the King style opening flashback that explains the origin of one of the villains, before heading into sequel mode, as Tom (the brother of the dude in the first movie), and his girlfriend go looking for them. As I sat down, I was prepared to submit “Better Than The Original!” as a quote for the eventual DVD cover, but as the movie unfolded, I realized that simply wasn’t going to be true.
Unlike the first movie, which had some decent scenes (the ones where Alexander wasn’t talking) and a somewhat admirable 70s feel, this one just has absolutely nothing going for it. When a horror movie’s best scene involves a guy driving along talking to (actually, AS) the toy dinosaurs that litter his dashboard, there’s something rotten in DTVmark.
The guy I refer to is Tom’s friend, played by Graham Norris. This may be the most useless character in horror movie history. The movie is about a road trip, more or less, and when he makes it clear that he is coming along, Tom’s girlfriend Marilyn protests. “It’s a long drive, we’ll need all the help we can get,” Tom explains. Fine, but the guy takes his own fucking car! If anything, he even slows the process down because every time he needs to stop to piss or fix his shitty car, the heroes (you know - the ones who actually have a stake in the quest) have to stop too. Real helpful, douchebag.
Then again, their journey doesn’t really make sense in any area. Even if we buy that the guy really thinks he can find his brother after a year of other people looking (he was in Iraq until now, so I guess he was off on another fruitless search), why bring two others along when all signs point to foul play? And their starting point is a bit unclear, but he hopes to make it to El Paso, TX on the first night, so... let’s just say Alabama, for argument’s sake. But on the first night we see them cross into California before stopping for the night. The next day, they drive for what seems like hours and are still in the desert, even though if you’re traveling from Texas to California, you’re probably on route 15 and thus you got about 3 hrs’ driving tops from the border to well populated civilization.
They also draw the ire of the trucker before they even stop at the titular locale. We are told that he only goes after sinners, but I guess that would be a pretty demanding job given the relative proximity of Las Vegas. And even though their sins are incredibly weak (the girlfriend drank and fooled around with a guy while Tom was overseas, big whoop), he manages to single them out before they even get to his hunting ground? What an asshole.
They also fail to get more use out of the most interesting characters: the family in the RV. Whenever the creepy little midget or the even creepier Ian Somerhalder clone twins are on screen, the movie is kinda interesting, because you’re never quite sure what they’re up to. Maybe they plan a 3rd film that focuses entirely on them, but it’s still a wasted opportunity for this one. Especially when the people we DO spend most of the movie with are as generic and uninteresting as horror movie characters get.
The only time (other than Dino-talk) that I enjoyed the movie was near the very end. Apparently, Tom’s army unit allows him to take home heavy artillery from the war, as he pulls a couple of handguns and a gen-yoo-ine assault rifle out of his trunk and begins blasting at the yellow truck. It’s so goddamn stupid that I had to laugh.
The movie’s biggest blunder, however, is introducing a supernatural angle to the proceedings. In this movie just about everyone is a goddamn ghost (the kind that can be seen and interacted with until the plot just has them vanish into thin air), and there’s some supernatural nonsense about having to burn the eyes so that the ghost’s soul can rest (and by rest they mean stop running people over in his truck, which is also a ghost, apparently). This culminates in a scene where Marilyn KNOWS that the eyes are inside an RV (it might be the same RV, I couldn’t tell and didn’t care), so she and Norris look around for it. They eventually just blow the whole thing up, which is what they should have done in the first goddamn place, but then how would the movie live up to the original in terms of needless padding? Besides, maybe I’m just too dumb to understand how 2-3 minutes of looking in hilariously stupid places (kitchen drawers, the glove compartment) for a pair of eyes that were cut out 35 years ago is actually vital to the film’s plot.
And it doesn’t work, apparently, because at the end the ghosts are still driving around the deserted “Old Highway”, and while no one is ever actually killed on screen in this fucking movie, we find out that pretty much all of our heroes are now ghosts too. Whatever. This is one of the most pointless movies I’ve ever seen; its only reason to exist is to get people to say “Hey, maybe Rest Stop 1 wasn’t THAT bad.”
Oh, and even Alexander, who starred in Hallowed Ground, had enough good sense not to return for this one, so her role (another fucking ghost) is played by someone else, with all the footage from the first movie edited in a way that we never see her face. So an actress decides not to return, and rather than just write her character out, they have someone else play it, even though any sane person would realize the role is fucking stupid anyway and should be removed entirely.
I want to close by pointing out that I have seen both Rest Stop films, which pretty much exemplify why DTV gets a bum rap, in theaters. And I’m such a moron I’ll probably go see the third one (god help us all) if the opportunity arises.
What say you?