I remember REST STOP (2006) being a decent DTV horror movie. I remember nothing else. I thought maybe it was about a slasher who hides in a rest stop restroom or something. I don’t know. So the opening of the sequel, REST STOP: DON’T LOOK BACK (2008) was a little befuddling. It starts in 1972 on “The Old Highway,” when a “Yes Jesus Loves Me” singing family picks up a hitchhiker in their RV. Weirdo mother Diane Salinger (CREATURE) ends up seducing him and then screaming in delight when her husband (Michael Childers, SOUTHERN JUSTICE) catches them together and kills the guy. The family – also consisting of twin sons and a disfigured dwarf – delightedly bury the body at a (the) rest stop, but suddenly the guy they’re burying appears, chops them all up, and buries their bodies.
Okay, so it’s a ghost movie, I don’t remember this at all.
This one follows Tom (Richard Tillman, SUPERHERO MOVIE), the brother of Jesse, who I guess was in the first one. Jesse disappeared one year ago while Tom was on a tour in Iraq. Now that he’s home and had his hero’s welcome barbecue his first order of business is to drive to California to look for his missing brother. His girlfriend Marilyn (Jessie Ward, Wicked Wicked Games) reluctantly comes along, and she’s not happy that he also for some reason invites Jared (Graham Norris, a writer on iZombie), an obnoxious friend of Jesse’s girlfriend Nicole, who also disappeared.
They happen to stop at a creepy gas station run by creepy Steve Railsback (LIFEFORCE), who Jared notices is selling something that belongs to Nicole. And then they’re being followed by The Yellow Pickup Truck, which I now sort of remember is the villain of the REST STOP saga, although Brionne Davis (EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT) now plays the driver this time and was not in the first one.
The truck charges at and then knocks over a port-a-potty that Jared is taking a shit in. Which is just mean. The very next scene is about Marilyn seeing odd things in the rest stop’s women’s bathroom – this is a horror series mainly based on our fears of having to use nasty public toilets.
Lots of ghosty shit happens. Jesse and Nicole and the driver appear and disappear. The women’s room is new and clean and then old and trashed and referred to as “a ghost bathroom.” The dead RV family pick people up and talk about fornicators and “dirty boys.” Jared finds Nicole in her bra, caked in dirt and blood, and soon she starts kissing him. Among the many reasons why he should ask for a rain check is that he was just recently covered in other people’s shit and piss and only partly wiped it off. I know this is a guy who wears pajama pants and Crocs but still, he’s gotta feel extra not-sexy.
This one’s definitely influenced by those movies they were derogatorily calling “torture porn” at the time. Jared and Marilyn both get tied up and there are drills involved, eyeballs pulled out, nails, etc. There’s a whole mythology about how the ghosts recruit victims to be new ghosts, or whatever. And they figure out what they need to do to stop the ghost trucker. Permanently, maybe, because they never made a part 3.
Honestly the most interesting thing about the movie was the casting of the lead. I thought Tillman had a burly boy scout presence that seemed very authentic for a veteran, and then I found out something surprising. Although in the days of the auto-fill-in biography, this is all IMDb says about him…
…it turns out he’s the brother of Pat Tillman, the NFL player who became an Army Ranger and then was killed in what turned out to be a friendly fire incident (initially covered up). Richard himself got some notoriety from an honest, tearful speech he made at Pat’s memorial service. After hearing John McCain and Maria Shriver talk about his brother being in Heaven, Richard went to the microphone and tearfully said, “Pat’s a fucking champion and he always will be. Just make no mistake, he’d want me to say this. He’s not with God. He’s fucking dead. He’s not religious so, thanks for your thoughts, but he’s fucking dead.”
Of course Bill Maher had to have him on his show for saying something atheistic. On Real Time Richard explained, “I don’t go into your church and say ‘This is bullshit,’ so don’t come to my brother’s service and tell me that he’s with God.”
Richard was already an actor when his brother died, having had a bit part as a waiter on a show called Miss Match in 2003. Maybe his most prominent role before this was as “Leg-Shaving Wolverine” in SUPERHERO MOVIE, and he’s only had a few more credits since this one. But it’s interesting that through the medium of straight-to-video horror he’s exploring this touchy subject of guilt over the death of a brother, but reversing it so that he’s the one away at war and the brother who died was at home. That couldn’t have been a walk in the park for him.
Director Shawn Papazian was the producer and second unit director of the first REST STOP. He also directed HORROR HIGH (2005) and GHOST SOLDIERS (2012). Part 1 writer/director John Shiban (The X-Files, Breaking Bad, Hell On Wheels, Better Call Saul) returned to script again.
REST STOP was the first movie made by Raw Feed, a division of the Warner Premiere DTV movie factory. Created by Shiban, Tony Krantz (OTIS) and Daniel Myrick (THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT), it was a label for unrated DTV horror movies. This was their last movie, though, and in between they only made SUBLIME, BELIEVERS, OTIS and ALIEN RAIDERS.
I only recently discovered that this sequel was made ten years ago. I guess it’s not that great of a discovery. But I should at least say that a ghost movie set at a rest stop is a pretty good idea. Here is this place that’s designed for many people from all over to pass through briefly, but not for anyone to spend consistent time at unless they’re giving out coffee and McDonalds orange drink. If some place is gonna be haunted by people who have been there and things that have happened there, this should have a higher likelihood than most places. Plus, it’s remote by definition. Out in the middle of nowhere, drowning in memories of drifters and hitchhikers.
I’m not saying see the movie, but I’m not gonna stop you either.