Sometimes one sees a film that definitely isn’t straight-up horror, and doesn’t contain excessive violence and gore, and fits more into a thriller which appears on the surface as a made for television, but Fender Bender works at many times as a fun flick. The director and writer Mark Pavia, known for his film The Night Flier (1997) which came out 19 years prior to this movie, shows clearly he never follows any trends, but nails an interesting slasher with a what-if scenario that is very believable and contains an element of fear to real life. As with the slasher genre, the killer has a unique look and enjoys stalking his targets in isolated locations (here in home invasions), and given a bit of supernatural unstoppable intentions with fiendish luck.
The title of the movie gives away to the premise of the film, in many ways using a common incident that 80% of drivers will experience at least once in their lives (or 1.8 million in 2013) and manipulating it into a terror-stricken fuel ride though intended for the small screen. The films opens with a woman (Cassidy Freeman) working on washing away the grime of life and the stress of a minor traffic incident, enjoying a glass of wine, while strangely receiving a text message from a new friend, it is from this moment the chase of terror starts, yet ends quickly. This opening volley serves more as an appetizer than a full course, developing the entry of attack and terror yet exploring it too fully, allowing more of intrigue and interest for the viewer. Hilary (Makenzie Vega of Saw (2004)) takes the lead in the film, with her learning of her boyfriend Andy (Harrison Sim) cheating on her, and then has a fender bender at a stop sign with a stranger who’s completely at fault for rear-ending her. As a newly minted driver (about 17 years old), she’s quite calm for a frazzled incident, but goes by the numbers of what she needs to do, exchange information (phone numbers and addresses), snap photos, all while The Driver (Bill Sage) strikes up an interesting discussion. His approach well rehearsed, unusual and yet downright creepy mixing innuendos in the terms of virginity, impactful, trembling, and shocking feelings. Once home her parents go way over the top of ticked off, and never once seem concern for their daughter’s well being, rather blame her for everything and hence exclude her from the family trip planned for over a year. Additionally, Hilary’s punishment is that she has to call the insurance company and learn responsibility. After her parents leave, later in the day she receives the text someone claiming to be her new friend, everyone knows where this leads. Hilary takes a shower later, she notices her phone is in a different spot and the pictures very different than before and with a planned jump scare her friends Rachel (Dre Davis) and Erik (Kelsey Leos Montoya) surprise her at the house, her with pizza. In addition, drunken entitled ex-boyfriend Andy, none of it plays out well on a stormy night. Soon enough our Driver, appears clad in a leather and freaky S&M mask similar to that in The People Under the Stairs (1991) and from the game turns itself on full blast. The ending of the flick reveals all and allows more paranoia to enter into one’s own life.
As opposed to many slashers and thrillers, in fact any genre film, the identity of the killer stays hidden for as possible as it is a sequel, however, this movie presented the maniac clearly. Although what appears as random choices actually contains deeper meanings, and with no verbal jokes, a nonsensical approach ensues with as this man driven to excel in his mission with a dash of sick slick delights. His entire manner sometimes mirrors that of actor William Sadler in his role in Die Hard 2 (1990), as a relentless individual with focused demeanor. The supporting cast does a fine job, in their limited roles and it boils over into a nice simple story for the small screen, hence the bloodshed vastly limited.
The plot while simple enough to comprehend does miss to raise the tension higher, and this comes from excessive display of text messaging, one understands trying to appeal to younger horror fans with the technology aspect about it must have a balance. However, when the bull rush from The Driver takes form on the screen, the suspense builds nicely, but it stumbles with the setup showing strangely a repeat of the first victim to the second actions. Overall, the production values match well with the film falls nicely into any cable time slot, thanks to Shout Factory, and in the end that provides a successful horror thrill ride for any night of the week.
The entire film truly develops on the old concept where people need to talk to each other, assessing the issue and working from there, rather burying their heads into technology, and herein the terror extends itself into the real world. Our villainous driver takes the risk and reward method to another level, but mostly from the kindness of others, allowing him an entry into their world, an open invite, many of the manners used in the film could allow for more terrorizing storylines. Horror fans might miss the blood-splattering but the film does strike some good points, and hence take the chance, and enjoy something a tad different, just remember when the exchanging information visitations may extend.