Almost sounds like a cheesy plot to a Scooby-Doo episode right? Although I didn’t see any unexpected cameos by Don Knotts or Phyllis Diller, I was dealt with a cameo from Joey Whoooaah Lawrence and a slew of other “ghosts” that haunt this little old rest stop. There are some nice scenes of gore, some bizarre “Texas Chainsaw Massacresque” family values and a plot almost similar to The Vanishing (and I’m talking about the 1988 Dutch version, not the one with Keifer Sutherland and Liam Neeson) but it features QUITE a few plot holes that leave waaay too many things left unsaid.
I picked this film up at Wal Mart last weekend, thinking it was a new horror film that I’d never seen or heard of before. I looked on the back of the DVD case; and it seemed gory, unique and directed by John Shiban who was a writer on the X-files. So I figured I’d give it a try and took the rather inexpensive DVD home. The plot follows your similar horror film, I instantly began to think of The Hitcher’s (remake version) opening sequence of a cute couple going on a road trip to somewhere in the West.
It isn’t too long before they get hot and horny and decide to screw in the wilderness as a creepy 70’s Fordpick up begins to stalk them for the first time through out the picture. Shortly thereafter, they go to a REST STOP to go freshen up. Nicole Carrow (in the obvious role of Rex from The Vanishing) goes in, but when she comes out – she finds that her boyfriend Jess has vanished (ooooh). She goes on a mission to find out where he has gone, since their car has disappeared as well. Her only other source to the outside world is a locked ranger station and a RV that has a flashing camera coming from within the back, but with a locked door in the front that does not respond to her incessant knocking.
Nicole ends up hanging around the Rest Stop until dark, and strange things begin to happen. Her car has returned, as has the For Pick Up, which drops her bashed cell phone on the ground and drives off without a word. You are left intrigued and your blood pressure begins to rise as you are somewhat left on the edge of your seat – trying to figure out what is going on. Nicole breaks into the Ranger station and is able to reach some help on the CB radio, and she even discovers a bottle of booze to pass the time. She ends up getting pretty drunk, goes in and out of the rest stop, and again something creepy happens when she hears something coming from within the rest room’s closet.
Nicole ignores it, wanders outside and she sees the pick up truck waiting for her. She screams at the trucker, whose only reply is to play the recorded message of her on the CB when he was secretly talking to her. The trucker continues to play a little game of cat and mouse with her over and over again; and then pretty much something happens every time that Nicole has to go into the restroom. The following things happen nearly each time:
1) She ends up meeting a girl, Tracy, that is locked up by “The Trucker” since the 70’s. She is a little mangled and vomiting up blood. Nicole vows to save her, tries to pry the door open, has an intellectual conversation with her (as intellectual as a horror film’s dialogue can get) but when she turns around and looks back at the girl, she has disappeared.
2) Nicole runs outside and is able to jump into that roaming RV before they pull off. Inside, rests a rather dysfunctional family that holds up your typical, “horror family values” of punishing the sluttish and wicked. There is a Preacher father, a mother that incessantly screams at Nicole by calling her a whore, two teenaged twin boys who act like they are brain dead and in the back of the RV are the flashes from a camera. Nicole is destined to find her boyfriend, and decides to go into the back of their RV without their praise, and when she does; she discovers a disfigured dwarf in a wheelchair who constantly takes photos. The family doesn’t like what she has done so they drop her RIGHT back at the rest stop.
3) She discovers that she has an opportunity to drive away in her car. But just as she does, the Trucker reappears and repeatedly slams into her car. Nicole screams at him, tries to figure out what the Hell he wants; instead he just calmly drives away and leaves her to her oncoming insanity at the rest stop. Later, Nicole shacks up at the Rest Stop some more where a police officer Michael Deacon (played by Joey Lawrence) has finally come to her rescue. At first you think Deacon is in on it all after he talks to the Trucker and he tries to persuade Nicole to come outside and say it was all a misunderstanding. The trick is on Deacon though, as the Trucker smacks into him, smashes his spine and repeatedly runs over his knee caps.
4) Deacon is barely alive, and Nicole is able to drag him into the bathroom. The couple barricade themselves into the restroom as the Trucker begins to fill it up with gasoline. Deacon freaks out sooo badly that he doesn’t want to be burnt alive, so he commands Nicole to shoot him in the head before he burns to death. After much disputing, Nicole finally complies, shoots Deacon in the head – but MISSES! Yeah that’s right, even though the gun is in his mouth, she misses and it ends up firing off from the side of his temple. He screams at her “YOU MISSED!” and she has to shoot him again. Once he is finally dead, she tries to escape out the window and notices that his body is no longer there.
There is this reoccurring theme of “vanishing” elements that continue to leave you asking – “WELL, WHAT THE HELL IS TRULY GOING ON IN THIS FILM?” You never really end up knowing. The bathroom ends up getting torched, just as the trucker drops off her video camera that features her boyfriend being tortured to death. There are also some other scenes of people getting tortured, that you will get your gore needs met (there is a pretty cool scene where someone gets their thigh drilled into that spurts out blood like a tiny hole in a water balloon). There is also another gorey scene where the Trucker locks Nicole up in the bathroom and she sticks her finger out of the keyhole only for the Trucker to suck on her finger and then bite it off.
In the end, it comes down to a final showdown with the trucker, and she throws a Molotov cocktail at him in a little game of chicken. She thinks she has defeated him, but he ends up popping behind her totally burnt and scarred and everything fades to black. We start off a brand new bright day where the rest stop is busy and thriving. Another girl goes into the rest room (which has just been redecorated and painted after the fire) and hears Nicole begging to be let out from the same closet that ..:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags”>Tracy was locked in. Well, the new girl goes to find the Ranger who unlocks the bathroom closet and sees that no one is there. The girl and the Ranger leave, and Nicole pokes her head from around the corner with blood pouring from her mouth similar to Tracy.
This is just one of four possible alternate endings for the film though. One features Nicole being safe at home with her family and the truck driver pulling up outside her house. Another shows Nicole safe at home, truck pulls up to the house and then the driver just appears at her door step. Pretty much all of the endings and bonus footage get you wondering how many people are tied into these murders, do these murders even happen or are we seeing ghosts or delusions of someone’s mind? By the end of the film, I was left with the following unanswered plot holes:
- Are these people all ghosts, or was Nicole just drunk and seeing things?
- If it was all about ghosts, why did “just the audience” end up seeing Tracy’s blood flowing out from underneath the closet door?
- What is the deal with the RV family? There is a small feature called Scotty’s video blog who is the little mangled midget in the back of the van. He initially takes a photo of a dead body in a ditch, and his father yells at him to say, “This is our secret!” At the end of the feature, the Trucker ends up sneaking up on the family and butchering all of them. He slowly approaches Scotty and he takes a photo of the Trucker.
- If so, was the RV family the masterminds behind this all? There was a “Missing Persons” bulletin board that features a photo of Nicole on the board.
- Was the Ranger tied into all of the murders? He ends up saying a line about punishment very similar to the RV family when people begin to question about the Rest Stop being trashed.
Overall, I could tell you that this was quite a bit more enjoyable than your average run of the mill straight to dvd/video horror feature. The gore was satisfying and the plot was rather confusing. Also, for the WHOLE picture, I didn’t care about Nicole’s survival at all. I typically will side with the heroine most of the time in horror films, because if you don’t, you will have no audience support or participation in your film. And without audience support – who really cares where your film is going to go and it is not going to help at all if they are confused all of the way. But, somehow or another, a sequel to Rest Stop has already been planned for 2008 and Nicole will be reprised by the nine fingered Jaimie Alexander, but who really cares. Unless they totally wow me and the rest of the horror fans with some proper explanations that tie up ALL of the loose ends – that will be one of the few reasons why I will take love into another of these mindless “stranded in the middle of nowhere” horror films.