Don't look back! Judge David Johnson's a'comin'!!!
Our review of Rest Stop: Don't Look Back, published October 3rd, 2008, is also available.
No rest for the wicked.
The sequel to the surprise slasher hit that I saw but can't quite remember why it was so awesome pits some new young, attractive victims against the diabolical Rest Stop killer.
Facts of the Case
Tom (Richard Tillman) is a decorated combat soldier who's returned from overseas with one mission: to find his little brother, who disappeared with his girlfriend while on a road trip to L.A. The story of their fate was told in the original. So with his plucky comic relief sidekick and his bombshell girlfriend in tow, Tom sets off on his own road trip to figure out what happened to his brother.
It's not long into the trip until the @#$% hits the fan. After the stop at the titular Rest Stop, our heroes are stalked and savaged by a crazy hillbilly killer in a pick-up truck. And when he gets his victims to his evil lair, it's all about the torture. Meanwhile, a religiously zealous family in an RV with their weird-looking son patrols the roads searching for the next person to freak the heck out.
So there you go, another slab of torture porn, with an added touch of ghosts and nipples and an old Indian legend!
The first Rest Stop was a semi-effective little scarefest, featuring a cool milieu and a whole lot of bloodshed. The premise of a mysterious redneck in a truck that takes pleasure in applying bodily torture through power tools remains largely intact in the sequel. And despite the talk of "mythology" in the making-of featurette, there's not a whole lot added to the storytelling besides some of that half-baked Indian legend stuff.
But Don't Look Back is indeed a direct sequel and even features some guest reappearances by the actors from the first film. That the misadventure isn't a completely new and interesting journey isn't a big deal, considering that the filmmakers have only one goal: to make you squirm with torture scenes.
If "torture porn" has become an acceptable genre moniker, then Don't Look Back earns the credentials. There's a hefty amount of build-up to the bloodshed, taken up mainly by developing an eerie atmosphere and popping off some exposition and getting one of the actors soaked in fecal matter. Once those pleasantries are taken care of, it's power tool time and on that level this Rest Stop delivers.
Me, I have little use for torture porn, but I can objectively say the zaniness that goes down here is hella-intense. We're talking power drilling into the knee-cap, driving nails in the quads, plucking an eyeball out with a knife, and another batch of drilling dangerously close to the crotch. What's shocking is that there aren't any cutaways. You want to see the drill bit go into the thigh muscle? Take a nice long look. How about the eyeball and it sticky optic nerve slowly pulled from the socket? Suck it up! The gore effects are top-notch and the blood spews freely, so count on looking away now and then, no matter how strong a constitution you might have.
Unfortunately, the story spins out of control at the homestretch, swapping what could have been a satisfying, bad-ass slice of revenge for convoluted "twist" ending and a meaningless display of pyrotechnics. Also, the killer himself isn't terribly interesting, just another version of the psychotic white trash dude we've seen in legions of other slashers.
The Blu-ray version is certainly the best-looking and best-sounding treatment of the film, but as far as the most complete release, the DVD version has it beat, surprisingly. While the standard definition disc has extras (commentary, featurette, deleted scenes, alternate ending), the Blu-ray has squat for bonus materials. However, if that matters little to you and you're more interested in a sharper picture and a more robust sound, then of course opt for the HD version. This is a sun-scorched film, with most of the action taking place in the desert. As such, you can expect lots of burned-out oranges and yellows, and the HD picture handles the colors deftly. Don't Look Back pops on Blu, and even when the story shifts into darkness, the detailing holds strong (despite some minimal grain). The 5.1 TrueHD track pounds, particularly when the action heats up, and represents an audible bump in quality from the DVD release.
Again, though, no extras? What's up with that?
Rest Stop: Don't Look Back is an uneven horror outing, but should still satiate lovers of torture exhibitionism. The Blu-ray bests the DVD in picture and sound, obviously, but the missing extras scuff some of the luster.
Not guilty. It was loud and looks great, even though the torture stuff is really starting to grate.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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