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Rest Stop (2006)
7th Jun 07
A young woman is repeatedly terrorised by a mystery killer in a deserted rest stop. Sees dead people.
Every watched a movie which involves some younglings taking a back road through the US and ending up as the meat in a big fat serial killer sandwich? I'll bet you have. That's because it's a tried and tested formula that will never fail to fascinate genre audiences - elements like undistilled backwaters fear and moonlit isolation are a steadfast backdrop on which to let your characters fight for survival. Or die. Horribly. It started in 1973 thanks to Tobe Hooper's masterful chainsaw flick and it's a template that has been imitated many times since, and often to very pleasing effect, too.
Rest Stop sees young couple Nicole and Jess run away from their homes in small-town Texas to seek a new life in sunny California. Unluckily for them, they use an old deserted highway where they are almost run off the road by a yellow pick up truck. When Jess freaks out and angrily attempts to confront the driver, the truck speeds off. All the excitement gives Nicole an urge to visit the toilet, which is when they pull up to the titular Rest Stop. Cue ominous music and cliché.
When Nicole returns from a rather unsanitory washroom, Jess, along with his car, has vanished, but in the distance she sees the yellow truck approaching, before it turns around and drives off again. It reappears later that night, for the first of many, many times. The rest of the movie is a relentless series of ‘truck pulls up, guy gets out, terrorises Nicole, guy gets back in truck, drives off’ episodes, laced throughout with unexplained occurrences usually involving someone appearing then disappearing. That’s because there is much more to Rest Stop than initially meets the eye.
On the surface, its is a relatively straightforward affair, but once characters begin vanishing from sight – at least in Nicole’s sight – you’ll begin to wonder just what the hell this movie is trying to do exactly. Not being one to ignore the best website in the world (for geeks like us), I took a little look at the forums on imdb.com and was reassured to find a lot of other people trying to make more sense of this little movie. Without going into much detail, some people (who I will call 'Group A') believe it to be a plot-hole ridden, single-layered slasherama, while 'Group B' knowingly profess that this is a ghost story which is as complex as it is well-executed.
It is a ghost story – this much is obvious, but the only clear impression is that director John Shibhan and his writing team have bitten off more than they could chew, because although their intentions are honourable enough, the end result is a real head-scratcher - a confusing, bloody mess which leaves viewers with an impulsive urge to research, to find the truth. Shibhan is a veteran of various X-Files episodes so if the truth was out there then he should’ve found it. I don’t know about you – I like a rural slasher movie as much as the next deadhead, but if you’re asking me to go online to find the answers for a movie like this then you can run and jump – the film should work by itself.
Unwoven narrative threads notwithstanding, there is some decent gore here - certainly enough to give road movie horror fans their money’s worth. The killer is presented as serious sicko who takes victims to his caravan where he performs some pretty gruesome procedures and although these short sequences are effective, their effect is likely to be short-lived and before long you will again be figuring out how to untangle this series of finger biting (literally) episodes and peripheral characters whose place in Rest Stop’s scheme of things aren’t very clear.