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Rest Stop: Don’t Look Back

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Shawn Papazian
Richard Tillman
Graham Norris
Jesse Ward
Bottom Line: 

 Having never seen the original “Rest Stop”, I was a bit confused when I threw in the film’s sequel “Rest Stop: Don’t Look Back”, as I was completely unaware of the series’ supernatural overtones. All that I’d heard about Raw Feed’s burgeoning franchise was that it was the sort of unapologetic torture porn stuff that had been floating around since Eli Roth’s “Hostel” made a boatload of cash awhile back, so I was expecting more of the same. Instead, what I got was a sort of slasher Twilight Zone, replete with a ghostly killer, the specters of past victims, and some kind of desert highway equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle. It’s strangely compelling stuff, indeed.
The film opens with what I’m assuming is an origin sequence, in which we see a man broken down on the side of the road accepting a ride from a Winnebago full of freakish religious fanatics. It’s not long before the man is getting down and dirty with the driver’s wife, and he’s quickly punished for his deeds, having his hand chopped off and his eyes burned out. Things got a little stranger, though, when the man the murderous family had just buried shows up again and kills them, but, before I could even scratch my head in confusion, a title card reads “36 Years Later”, and we are introduced to Tom Hilts (Richard Tillman), a soldier returning from a tour in Iraq. Tom, his girlfriend, Marilyn (Jesse Ward), and his ingratiating sidekick, Jared (Graham Norris), are taking to the road to find out what happened to Tom’s brother, Jesse and his girlfriend, Nicole; apparently the victims from the last film.
The trio encounter a hick gas station attendant (played by Steve Railsback), who informs them that he last saw Jesse and Nicole traveling down a seldom used stretch of old highway, and our heroes venture out in that direction. At the titular Rest Stop, Tom is kidnapped by the pickup-truck driving ghost from film’s prologue, while Jared finds Nicole (Julie Mond), battered and bloodied after his own close encounter with the killer. Marilyn, meanwhile, experiences all manner of supernatural phenomena in her quest for Tom, and, when all are reunited, they discover that the rules of the road – or the universe, for that matter – do not apply out here.
While I was hardly blown away by Rest Stop: Don’t Look Back, I was quite intrigued by the original approach writer/producer John Shiban’s took to a well-worn genre. Sure, it’s still torture porn, but the supernatural elements spice things up a bit, and kept me invested in the story and its characters. I was also pretty impressed by the look of the film as director Shawn Papazian opted to shoot it on 35mm film, giving Don’t Look Back a much more polished look than your average direct-to-video fare.  
Warner presents Rest Stop: Don’t Look Back in a solid 2.39:1 1080p transfer that sports solid detail, and occasionally vibrant colors (although the look of the film is intentionally “washed out”). There’s grain present in much of the dark scenes, but, once again, I’m guessing it’s a stylistic choice to attain the “gritty” look these films tend to go for. It’s not reference quality stuff, but it looks better than a lot of films with bigger budgets.
The Dolby True HD audio track really shines, here, with all sorts of creepy sound effects working the surrounds, while the bass rumbles with ethereal goodness. Dialogue is crisp and clear, and the killer’s gruesome torture sequences are presented with the requisite amount of wet and crunchy noises to maximize the nausea-inducing nature of these scenes.
Overall, this is a pretty impressive A/V package for a DTV flick.
Extras are nonexistent. There’s not even a trailer, here. I found this odd as the DVD listing of this title sports a commentary and some other goodies, so I can’t begin to fathom why WB opted not to include these on the BD.
While it’s no classic, Rest Stop: Don’t Look Back is still a fun and original take on the slasher/torture genre, loaded with sickeningly realistic effects that will surely please gorehounds. Warner’s decision not to include any extras whatsoever is a puzzling one, however, and makes a purchase hard to recommend. Still, if you’re a fan of this series, or of this particular genre of horror, Rest Stop: Don’t Look Back is well worth a rental.

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