Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Horror Movie Review: Rest Stop: Don't Look Back

Rest Stop: Don't Look Back

Starring: Richard Tillman, Jessie Ward, Joey Mendicino, Julie Mond, Graham Norris, Diane Salinger, Brionne Davis, and Michael Childers

Directed by: Shawn Papazian

Written by: John Shiban

Production Companies: Flame Ventures and Raw Feed

Release Date: September 30, 2008

When I saw that the 2006 film Rest Stop was getting a sequel and it was going to be called Rest Stop: Don't Look Back, I had to wonder, "Was it called "Don't Look Back" because they realized that they shouldn't have looked back to Rest Stop to make a sequel?"

Not that there was anything wrong with the original. Sure, the acting wasn't grest, and there were a couple of things that didn't make sense. But there was plenty of goodness at work there, and plenty of mystery and "huh?" left to clarify...but that doesn't mean a sequel will hold up, so I went into watching this movie with trepidation.

And the opening seemed to confirm my fears. Actors hired more for their appearance than ability playing annoying characters...it looked to be a long night.

But things shaped up...

It's been a year since Nicole and Jess left for Hollywood and disappeared. Jess's brother Tom is determined to go find him while on a 10 day leave from the military. He talks his girlfriend Marilyn and buddy Jared to go along. They find their way to the Rest Stop. Soon Tom is abducting by the maniac driving the yellow truck who terrorized Jesse and Nicole. The peculiar Winnebago family returns, as well as Nicole and Jesse.

The original was predominantly just a slasher, all be it a slasher who slashes with his truck, but with a slight element of the supernatural which was never explained. In Rest Stop: Don't Look Back we get that explanation.

I'm not going to ruin the mystery here, but let's just say that the sequel is more of a ghostly, supernatural horror which, looking back at the original, turns Rest Stop into more of a ghost story.

Richard Tillman plays Tom, the soldier hellbent to find his brother. Tillman turns in an unconvincing performance possibly hampered by a script with implausible actions such as Tom pulling nails out of his knee and then walking away with only a slight limp.
Playing bitchy Marilyn is Jessie Ward. Ward was limited in her role and was not given an opportunity to be endearing in any way. When it was her turn to get tortured, you'll be feeling that she probably deserves it. Ward's performance, however, was decent. It's just a shame that she played a wholly unlikeable character.

Graham Norris plays Jared, Tom's geeky bud. Jared's a pretty lame character but easily the most likeable one for his passion and innocent affection for the missing Nicole. They wisely keep Jared from being stalker obsessed with her, but more content to his lot as a secret admirer. Graham plays the awkward Jared well. There were a couple of scenes in which Jared was presented contrary to the character he was developed into being before the scary stuff started. The one near the end when he and Marilyn are faced with the Driver I guess could be explained as actions taken during duress, but faced with Nicole, I find it hard to believe that someone like Jared would take adavatage of the situation and have sex with someone in need of medical attention, even if she was making the advances.

The Driver was scarier in the original being shrouded and unseen except for silhouette. In Don't Look Back we see too much of the driver, played by Brionne Davis. He does a good job, but the silent role, save for the flashback scene where we learn his history, took a lot of the fear from him by showing him in the light of day.

Probably the best part of both Rest Stop's is the Winnebago family led by the Father, played by Michael Childers. Childers plays the zealously religious father to a tee. Partnered with Diane Salinger as the provocative Mother, Childers and the twins are the most interesting characters in the movie.

Joey Mendicino returns as Jess and Julie Mond steps in for Jaimie Alexander as Nicole. Mendicino's character isn't really given the chance to spook up the film, but Mond's brief appearance really throws some creep onto the scene.

The ending tries to throw in a twist and while a noble effort, it gave itself away a bit too quickly.

There's hit and miss here. In the end, though, I felt Rest Stop: Don't Look Back was an interesting film. I definately want to see more of the Winnebago family, and while I want the Driver to return, I want to see less of him when he's on screen. It's a ghost film, so less torture, more atmosphere if there's a sequel.

Where Else Can They Be Seen?

Michael Childers, Brionne Davis, Joey Medicino, Shawn Papazian, and John Shiban have no projects in the works or horror movie credits save for Rest Stop.

Julie Mond will next appear in Hangman. Two Iraq war vets Nick and Lenny return to the hometown of their ex girlfriends to see if they can rekindle the flames. What should be a little R&R in the woods slowly turns into Murder & Mayhem, when they take off with the girls to an abandoned cabin on their closed Alma Mater campus. There they fall prey to a deadly game of Hangman. This one comes complete with a real noose for the losers. Lust soon gives way to suspicion and fear as they turn on each other to survive. Only the Hangman knows who will win this game.

Graham Norris doesn't have any other horror roles to his name. His next film will be the action flick Fast Glass.

Diane Salinger has a couple of horror films in the works. The Telling. In this horror anthology film, three girls pledge the most popular - and cruelest - sorority on campus. For their final task, they must tell the scariest story they know. Containing three distinct stories - one featuring a murderous doll, one a has-been actress and her run in with a film crew of the undead and, finally, a hunt-and-kill fright-fest. The tales inspire someone at the sorority to commit their own murders. and Dark house. Traumatized by an terrifying event in her youth, Claire Thompson tries to exorcise her demons by revisiting the old house where a terrible children's massacre took place. Now a haunted house attraction set up by impressario Walston Rey (Jeffrey Combs), the former foster home run by the evil Miss Darrode (Salinger) is set to open for the press and Walston recruits Claire and several of her fellow acting class students to perform as part of the show. Unfortunately, a series of horrible murders happen at the haunted house, generating from the malevolent spirit of the departed Miss Darrode. Until then, check out Salinger's first film, Creature. A expedition to Titan uncovers an alien being, that goes on a rampage. Creature was called Titan Find.

Richard Tillman will next appear in the December 12th release of the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Rest Stop: Don't Look Back is Julie Ward's only horror credit. She will next appear in Gidspeed, a dramatic thriller set in the lingering light of the Alaskan midnight sun. Charlie Shepard is a modern day faith healer, a man who claims that if you let go and believe, then his power to heal is very real indeed. Living a hand-to-mouth, blue collar existence with his wife Rebecca and young son, Charlie ekes out a meager living from his "healing" sessions. With his marriage failing, and an old drinking habit coming back to haunt him, his family is brutally murdered by unknown assailants for seemingly no reason whatsoever. Six months later, Charlie has abandoned his former life and the house his family lived in, moving through the days' slow existence more like a ghost than a man. But then a young, mysterious girl named Sarah appears in town, and seeks out Charlie. She will become the link to his family's killings and to the murderers themselves, ultimately leading to tragic, violent consequences for all. "Godspeed" is a film that explores faith, grief, and the dark, violent nature that may very well exist in all of us -- where man is still truly lost and at the mercy of the Last Frontier of the great Alaskan landscape.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hated 'Rest Stop'. Making a sequel to it is like remaking one of the later Puppet Master sequels - unbelievably pointless.