Friday, June 13, 2014

Rest Stop (2006)

One of the best things about horror movies is how they can be so imaginative, taking common ordinary places and ideas and turning them dark and morbid. Jaws did it for the beach, Psycho did it for taking a shower and some other movies did it for weird obscure things you wouldn’t expect. Well in 2006, some genius had the bright idea to make one about a rest stop on the highway. Did they succeed?

Well, it sure struck a fear in me of Winnebagos full of circus freak Addams Family rejects, and of getting my finger bitten off. Given that my standards are so low after many years of running this blog, I count that as a Grade A success.

Director: John Shiban
Starring: Jamie Alexander, Joseph George Mendicino

Review co-written with Michelle.

The cover art tells me a lot about this movie – it’s about a pair of legs fighting a truck at a rest stop. Sounds exciting to me!

I’ve reviewed movies from directors I’ve called despicable scum, incompetent or just plain strange. But this is one of the only ones where I have to come to the conclusion that the director was literally insane. Because clearly there’s no other explanation for what happens in this jumble of incoherent “plot” elements trying to pose as a movie – really it’s more like whatever this thing was skinned and flayed the concept of movies and is now masquerading as some grotesque Leatherface-esque parody of one. And that sounds good to me!

We start off this movie with a lady taking a shit, which is probably how the idea for the movie came about. “Hey, I’m making this awesome movie about a rest stop with ghosts and torture and an RV full of crazy people that adds NOTHING to the overall story!” “Sounds awful. How’d you come up with such a mental abortion?” “I was taking a shit and…” “Oh.”

After she gets killed, we get introduced to our main characters, Jess and Nicole – a couple heading out for Hollywood to become movie stars. Clearly if they were going to star in anything good, they would have done that instead of appearing in Rest Stop, I mean you know THIS isn’t gonna be a shining point on your resume when it has a several minute long sex scene put in for no damn reason, and filmed in really awkward close-ups. I mean I for one am glad the characters in this movie aren’t porn directors. They’d probably just focus on the elbows and knees of the participants.

And yeah, while you’re wondering – it really IS a good idea to have sex in the middle of the day in some random field right next to the road. Gotta live dangerously! And no there’s no point to this except to add in some nudity. I guess they couldn’t figure out a way to shoehorn THAT in with everything else and the kitchen sink later on.

So what are these characters’ personalities, you ask? Well, Jess is an asshole boyfriend. In the beginning of the movie, he’s introduced to us by pretending to let Nicole get in the car, then pulling away. Who does that? Also, most of his dialogue is comprised of telling Nicole “not to be such a fucking baby” in regards to going on this road trip and not telling her parents. Yeah! Because not telling your parents and making them think you’re dead, kidnapped or something else horrible? TOTALLY grown up. What an asinine character. I sure do hope he gets murdered with a disease-infected rusted rake with acid covering it.

This really does put a thorn in the side of anyone arguing AGAINST the "girls only go for douchebags" argument...sadly.

Nicole pretty much just cries a lot when the camera zooms in on her. It’s not even dramatic movie crying. It’s baby-crying.

They come to this rest stop so she can take a piss, and when she comes out, Jess and his car are both gone. She stomps around like a temper-tantrum-throwing toddler for a bit and then intones angrily to herself about what an asshole he is. She isn’t even that surprised that he left – she just thinks he’s an asshole for it. That’s how much of a worthless dick-cheese this guy really was. “Dammit, he did this to me again! I should really learn to stop going on road trips with assholes who just leave me at random rest stops in the middle of nowhere!”

Yeah I'm sure they'll answer the fuckin' door if you try a TWELFTH time. I mean, maybe they just didn't hear you the other eleven godforsaken times you knocked.

Also, HOW LONG could she have been in the fucking bathroom for Jess to have been taken by the killer already? Did she just drink an entire aquarium that morning before they left and was in there for a half hour just peeing? Or does the killer of the movie just take after The Flash in terms of his superpowers?

So then we get the best use of time in a movie ever: Nicole just sits around for hours and hours in a security guard shack drinking a Wild Turkey and doing nothing. Yup, apparently after a few minutes of being stuck there, she just gives up all hope, hides in a dark room and starts drinking herself to death – on alcohol that doesn’t belong to her, no less. What a great main character.

Seriously though, you can’t just start walking in either direction and look for some car to help you?

No? No proactive ideas beyond just sitting around on your ass?

Sigh. Wellp, I guess that does it. Truly sitting in the dark drinking is the solution here! WASTING TIME IS THE ULTIMATE PINNACLE OF CINEMATIC FILMMAKING! I’m so glad we’ve come so far from The Great Train Robbery on through Dr. Caligari and then to Citizen Kane and Casablanca, and then to Bonnie & Clyde, The Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction and more, all leading up to the cinematic genius of Rest Stop, with its masterful understanding of economy and time in storytelling. Truly this wouldn’t have been the same without a near-five-minute scene of the main character doing nothing. It doesn’t even matter that it’s the complete antithesis of good writing, as the main character should be taking some kind of action in any scene that occupies the screen so dominantly as this does. Because, really, the main character doing nothing but admitting defeat and drinking heavily is the height of our cinematic progress in the modern world.

On second thought, no, I don’t really like this.

Then she goes outside and gets attacked by the killer. She escapes by leaping headlong into that weird Winnebago that’s been sitting outside the rest stop THE ENTIRE TIME up to now, which for some reason is now leaving. Yeah because you know, I guess the people inside were just hibernating the entire day until now. What the fuck were they doing sitting there ALL DAY? Maybe they don’t require oxygen to perform basic utilitarian functions, because they’re idiots – I’m going with the second one.

Okay, guys, I’m gonna level with you here: what happens next was probably part of a different movie just accidentally spliced into this one – or maybe it was on purpose as a joke, as the actual story doesn’t make sense with itself anyway, but I digress. Nicole enters the Winnebago and is greeted with a crazy old lady who constantly talks about masturbating, and two creepy teenagers who I think are on leave from the set of Funny Games:

But trouble starts when Nicole sees some flashes from the back and goes to check, finding ……… a weird baby midget thing playing with a camera.

It’s never explained, has no relevance to the story, and is completely ridiculous to boot. Maybe if we had any context as to who these people are or what their story is (or even why the fuck they’re hanging out at some random rest stop in California) it could be weird in a TCM-ish way, but we get nothing. Oh, except the crazy lady screaming and calling Nicole a whore.

Don't eat me!

Oh, well in THAT case I totally see the point of all this! Hilariously enough, they drop her right back at the stupid rest stop where she started. So that whole bizarre thing you just watched was sort of like a commercial just haphazardly shoved into the middle of the movie. We now return from these messages from our sponsors at Barnum and Bailey’s Circus to your regular showing of ludicrous bullshit.

The truck guy chases her back into the bathroom again, because most good movie heroines do nothing but cry and hide, you know? There she sees that apparently everyone killed by this Rest Stop Killer wrote very detailed graffiti on the walls about what happened to them – y’know, in case a shitty horror movie was ever made about it and the main character needed a hackneyed way to find out the killer has been doing this for years! Just picturing the victims crawling back into that bathroom stall and taking the time to write all that shit on the wall about what the killer did to them, is so funny it's insane to me.

Then she finds a naked girl in the closet of the bathroom. She talks to the girl and finds out her name is Tracy, and that she got tortured by the killer for an indeterminate amount of time. It’s eventually revealed that, gasp, she was a ghost the whole time and wasn't really there, and this was all a big ol’ red herring! Apparently she died in the ‘70s. It makes sense though, as she said she was going to see the Rolling Stones, and nobody in 2006 would really do that ever.

Oh, great, disgusting torture scenes; that's what horror's, I've talked too much about these scenes in recent reviews. Copy paste generic "torture scenes suck" rant here.

Then it’s time for the old cliché “cop shows up and gets killed” scene – we get the true rising star of the police academy coming to check out the rest stop and finding her panicking and scared. Oh, wait, you say that isn't quite what we get this time? Well, color me surprised! Not to spoil it, but what happens is actually even more ridiculous, however...

He gets her inside the guard cabin and asks her a series of way-too-slow questions that don’t accomplish anything – he COULD just take her away from there, given she’s obviously panicked and something is going on there, but nope. He has to go outside and talk to the guy in the truck that is CLEARLY exactly what Nicole was describing. But because the guy lies and says he’s just asking for directions, the cop does nothing.

Yeah, buddy, you just stand there at the site where a dangerous madman is potentially lurking and ask her dumb questions about what he looks like. I'm surprised he doesn't go into even more inane detail in these questions. I mean, why not go all the way? Have him ask her to describe the killer's hat, his boots and the tires on the truck he's driving! It's all adding up to nothing but a contrived scene where things go bad again, anyway.

… I just don’t get it. How did they let this guy be a cop at all? I mean, clearly since the girl is so scared, it at least merits some questioning, as well as taking Nicole away from the area to safety. But nope, he just lets the guy go. And so the killer is free to do wacky things like run the cop’s legs over, then back up and do it again, then back up and do it a third fucking time:

Well, personally I think the cop deserved that, so I’m good. It is pretty funny that the killer seems to agree – I don’t really know why else he would continually hurt THIS guy and not the girl he’s supposed to be hunting, anyway…speaking of which, why hasn't he captured her, again? He clearly has many opportunities to do so, and she's so dumb and helpless it's like hunting a wounded, retarded, blind animal. You'd think he would have just kidnapped and tortured her after this many hours of cat-and-mouse nonsense, but I guess that would make the movie too short!

So she drags Mr. Super Cop into the rest stop bathroom again, because it’s the stupidest option available – it’s closed in, there’s nowhere to run and it puts Mr. Super Cop in agonizing pain every time she lifts him up under his arms to move him. Clearly she’s as qualified for this as Roman Polanski is to run a girls’ boarding school. But I digress.

The cop then takes an agonizingly long time to complain about how he’s dying, and shows Nicole pictures of his family. He says his son wants to be like him – oh ho ho, buddy, I don’t think that’s a good idea. You’d better call him up in your last breaths of his life and tell him to follow his dreams as an escape artist/stuntman/alcoholic, because clearly that would be less dangerous than imitating YOU. This scene just goes on for way too fucking long – he clearly isn’t mortally wounded if he's still cogent and able to talk this long, so I don’t get all his ballyhooing about how he’s dying. And Nicole just sits there and cries while the camera does more close-ups; we haven’t had enough of that yet, please give us more!

"I could actually try to act, but that would be more than this movie deserves, so...have fun with nothing but endless crying scenes from me!" Seriously, I could do a whole other review-length post with nothing but the pictures of this girl crying - it's insane how much of that there is in this.
"Yeah, I'm really dying here; that's why I have time to make this over-five-minute scene with nothing but faux-emotional sappy drama! And yes, we're really doing this tired, trite scene again even though you've seen it in a dozen other films!" 

Then they finally get an idea to DO SOMETHING. Nicole sticks her finger out the door to try and unlock it (I guess the killer locked them inside while we were being bored to death by Super Cop’s amazing stories…), and then the killer comes up and bites her finger off:

Did he just have shark teeth implanted? Otherwise, no, I have no idea how he just bit her finger off with just his teeth.
It is astounding to me how many shots there are in this movie of her whiny ass crying. At least this time it's because of a legit reason - she got her finger bitten off. But if I didn't tell you that, you wouldn't be able to tell this scene apart from the other three dozen close-ups of her scrunched up face whining like a bratty child.

I personally think it’d be hilarious if this actually wasn’t the killer biting her finger off, but instead just some random homeless guy walking by. That’d be pretty funny.

More hilarity comes when the killer starts dousing the rest stop bathroom in gasoline and trying to blow it up. Not wanting to die in fire, the cop tells Nicole to take his gun and kill him right there. He tells her to put it in his mouth, of course, because THAT’S also the stupidest option available – seeing as how shooting someone in the mouth might not automatically kill them. Why not just tell her to shoot you in the forehead, where it’s much less likely to miss and leave you alive still? Which is what happens exactly – she puts the gun in his mouth and misses, leaving a big hole in his head, and has to shoot him a second time.

To go with the easy joke of "he just didn't have a brain," or to not go with that joke...tough choice....

While I think it would add to the comedy to have her keep missing and having to shoot this moron even more, the movie doesn’t have time to waste – yes, this movie is done wasting time now! So she goes out on the roof and does a Die Hard jump off the rest stop building just as it’s blowing up. Amazing. I’m sure this obvious Die Hard rip off will really add to the movie’s charm levels.

Yeah, somehow not as good as Bruce Willis jumping off a burning building with a firehose around his waist...I can't imagine why that is....

So after some more running around aimlessly in the woods, it’s daytime now, and she takes off her shirt to give the audience some more boob shots – I guess it’s been so long since the beginning of the movie’s nudity, the director figured he’d show some mercy and have more at the end. She goes outside, fills that Wild Turkey bottle with gas from a car, and then firebombs the fuck out of the killer’s truck. But he appears behind her, looking like a cartoon drawing of the Boogeyman when you were young, and presumably kills her:

Then later on, the rest stop is SUDDENLY full of people, including cops. Where was all this for the whole rest of the fucking movie? She was there for nearly a DAY, and almost NOBODY showed up! Did they just decide that after a dozen fucking people had gone missing there, NOW it was time to remodel the place and start making sure no one else died there? Some girl goes in the bathroom, hears Nicole’s ghost saying help me, and then we get this dumb shit to end the movie:

Oh, fuck off; what, did you use all your money on the amazing gore scenes from earlier and now you just have to resort to crappy third rate Halloween vampire makeup from the party store?

This was amazing. I really can’t believe this movie was serious at all. It being a complete joke is the only explanation. Nothing made sense – every single random plot element, from the overly long drinking and doing nothing montage to the crazy Winnebago people and the cop’s humorously overlong “dying” monologue, just served to pad the movie out unnecessarily. It’s literally just like the director was getting paid by how long his movie was, so he added in random bullshit that had nothing to do with the story – it’s hard to convey exactly how pointless so much of this film really is to the overall “serial killer tortures woman at rest stop” plot.

Not that THAT plot is really good at all either. It’s mostly just a generic “serial killer is CRAZY and gets his kicks TORTURING PEOPLE” thing, with added insanity by way of having the kills date way back to the 1970s – picturing a geriatric old man doing all this does make it funnier though. And isn’t that really the greatest thing Rest Stop can lay claim to? I mean, it is pretty fucking hilarious. I’ll take that any day over super-serious, pretentious ass-shit like The Collector or its even worse sequel. As these are truly standards to be proud of, Rest Stop can rest easy knowing that.

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.