Rest Stop (2006)

DVD Cover (Raw Feed)
Genres: Horror, Slasher Film
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John Shiban John Shiban
Jaimie Alexander Jaimie Alexander
Joseph George Mendicino Joseph George Mendicino
Deanna Russo Deanna Russo
Diane Salinger Diane Salinger
Curtis Taylor Curtis Taylor

4.5 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: October 22, 2006
One of the latest trends in horror is the "reality" scenario - you know, where you put real people in real situations, and then throw a killer into the mix for kicks. Make the film ultra-violent, throw in some sadistic torture sequences, and you usually wind up with something worth seeing. Recent films like Wolf Creek and Hostel have pulled the trick off successfully, but like all good things, there are the knock-offs that try to cash in on the latest Hollywood crazes. Rest Stop is one of those, and after reading the numerous glowing reviews for it, I had extremely high hopes; however, when the credits rolled, I was left wondering why I didn't receive one of those "write a good review, please?" checks that Warner surely sent out to the other review sites.

Nicole (Jaimie Alexander) and Jessie (Joey Mendicino) are a couple of lovers who have ran away from home with the goal of making it big in Hollywood. We immediately see that this isn't exactly a perfect relationship though, as they constantly argue over everything from Nicole hanging a good luck charm on the rear-view mirror to her having to use the potty. This urge to empty her bladder is what starts the real storyline, as the two decide to pull over at a grimy rest stop in the middle of nowhere so that she can relieve herself. Jessie decides to smoke a cigarette by the car while she goes in to the bathroom, and after she has finished taking care of business, she finds that both Jessie and the car are gone. She suspects that he's playing a joke on her, but she discovers the truth soon enough - the truth being that there's a serial killer out here who enjoys toying with his prey before moving in for the kill.

There was a lot of potential here, but sadly, that potential was wasted. There's an interesting and realistic storyline to set everything up, the gore sequences were nicely done, and the idea behind the killer himself was great. It's the execution of everything that drops this film out of the recommended category and into the "avoid at all costs" department. For starters, writer and director John Shiban attempted to cash in on the reality trend with the basic storyline. I have no problems with that in and of itself, but he also tried to cash in on a few of the other Hollywood trends in the same film. Mixed in with the whole reality bit is two parts supernatural thriller, a dash of Lifetime drama, a nice-sized chunk of the psycho family aspect, and a hearty helping of the Saw-inspired cat-and-mouse games. There's even the "heroine jumping away from a huge explosion" scene that seems to be a staple in action movies, and to be honest, you could probably make a drinking game out of guessing which movies each scene rips off. Remove all of the spirit and tension from the popular horror movies from the last couple of years, throwing only the most basic of elements into a blender, and you'll wind up with something similar to this mess. It's sort of like how the Scary Movie series mixes in storylines from all of the summer blockbusters into one movie - the difference is that Scary Movie is a parody and it's meant to be funny, but here, it's laughable for an entirely different reason.

Perhaps I could have overlooked this with a better leading lady. It still would have wound up with a fairly low rating, but I might have found it in my heart to go easy on Shiban's debut film. Jaimie Alexander completely ruined that with her acting "skills", giving us a performance that would pale in comparison to the worst of the b-movie fare that plagues your local video stores. Watching her go from angry to sad to scared to vengeful to all of the other phases of this character is downright painful, mainly because she transitions between them with all of the subtlety of a brick to the face.

I can't lay all of the blame on this actress though, as the character was horribly written. She seems to be playing the role of at least four people with the way she goes back and forth between bursting into tears, giving up on everything, and setting out to put an end to the killer. This is not a case of a character who starts out as one personality type and is changed due to the events that occur; no, she goes back and forth many, many times, and much like a lot of things found in this film, it's painful to watch.

Perhaps I'm in the minority here. As I mentioned, there are a lot of reviews out there that would have you believe that Rest Stop is one of the best movies of the year. I have no proof that those reviewers were sent paychecks to give it a good rating, but in my honest opinion, I can't find a single other reason to recommend it. 2/10.
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