One of the nice side effects of the popularity of DVD is that the general public is seeing many films that they would not have seen before. The more people that have DVD players in their homes, the more budget titles hit store shelves. Therefore, people are more apt to pick up a title sight-unseen, and some pretty descent direct-to-video films that would never have made it into theaters have found new life in the home theater market.
Warner Brothers knows a good thing when they see it, so they have created a company that produces horror movies with the specific intention of releasing them in the direct-to-DVD market. The first film in the three-picture package is Rest Stop: Dead Ahead This is the story of Nicole, a young girl that runs away from home with her boyfriend to make it big in Hollywood. On the way, the couple pull over at a rest stop. As it turns out, this is a very bad idea.
If you have seen Jeepers Creepers, you probably know where this film is heading. Here’s the thing, though; horror films have reached an iconic status, much like westerns. Though there are many conventions that make up the standard horror film, the thrill of the pieces doesn’t necessarily lie in the clever plot, but in the execution, so to speak. In this manner, the film certainly succeeds. It is not overly ambitious, but it is very good at the basics. As a direct-to-video film, it certainly works. In fact, I would say that its status as a low-budget horror film actually helps it, in the way that drive-in movies or late-night broadcasts of B-movies somehow makes them better.
The Raw Reed line of films is a great idea. They have set out to make some nice little lob-budget horror films that are creative, yet don’t stray too far from what makes horror movies so fun in the first place… a pretty girl, blood, kills and jump scares. I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes along with the next couple of films in this series.
The audio quality here is good, but certainly not great. The 5.1 audio format is utilized, but certainly not up to its fullest potential. Surround speakers are used sparingly, and bass tones are pretty weak. The score, however, is really great. All original music, used to maximum effect, while avoiding all the standard horror cliches.
There are really two different schools of thought with video quality. On the one hand, I want to see a clean transfer, with no problems with inaccurate colors or excessive grain. On the other hand, I want a transfer that is going to allow the filmmaker to tell his story in the best way possible. This transfer is the latter. Like the film itself, the video quality is purposefully dirty, grainy, dark and frightening. I was actually quite pleased to find that the film did not have a slick, clean transfer. It deserves to be a little dirty.
The extras kick off with a collection of trailers for this and other similarly-themed releases. The disc also contains three alternate endings, presented in full screen and with stereo sound. Personally, I prefer the films original ending, but it is always fun to see alternate imaginings of the story;s conclusion. On The Bus: a view of the activities that happen on the old yellow bus is a collection of still images of the victims from the film. This is really more of a deleted scene than anything.
Finally, we have Scotty’s Home Movies: a unique family album from one of the oddest characters in Rest Stop This is a really bizarre short film that shows the still photographs and home video recordings of a mentally challenged character from the film.
Truth be told, this is a pretty descent collection of extra features for a low budget picture such as this one.
The folks at Warner Brothers / Raw Feed know that a big part of selling a DVD as an impulse buy is spending some money up front on quality packaging. Therefore, this release has been given the full A-list treatment, complete with a foil slipcase and first-rate package layout. This is one of those great films that you may catch on a movie channel late at night, and watch it out of sheer boredom. A couple of days later you may look back on it and think that was actually a pretty entertaining bit of pulp storytelling. Decent A/V specs and an acceptable set of extras makes this one an easy recommendation for true horror fans.