• Fender Bender

    Released By: Shout/Scream Factory
    Released On: October 4, 2016.
    Director: Mark Pavia
    Cast: Makenzie Vega, Steven Michael Quezada, Cassidy Freeman, Bill Sage, Dre Davis
    Year: 2016
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    The Movie:

    After exchanging insurance information following a minor car accident on a Friday, Jennifer can't wait to get home, have a glass of wine or six, slip into a hot bath, and crawl into bed. She's well on her way to accomplishing all of her week's end goals, when she gets a tub-side text from her "Fender Bender Friend", apologizing for the accident and telling her to enjoy her bath. Mildly perturbed at the thought of being watched, Jennifer heads downstairs to find that she's left the front door unlocked...and did she leave that window open? Who knows? One thing is for sure, Jennifer is beyond caring, opting to forget about the whole thing and go to bed. Unfortunately for Jennifer, crawling into bed reveals a blanket-wrapped assailant in a bondage mask with a massive, spring-loaded blade that rips her to pieces as she tries to flee from the house. The deed done, the killer climbs into his black classic muscle car and slowly drives away.

    Hilary (Makenzie Vega) might not be having the crappy kind of week that Jennifer is, but her life is still not a basket of flowers. Finally taking some relationship advice from her friends, she tracks her boyfriend Andy down to a patio bar where she spots him with his tongue in the mouth of a pretty blonde. Speeding away after Andy attempts to console her, rather than confronting the issue, Hilary eventually pulls over to wipe the tears from her eyes, when her mom's brand new car is suddenly forcefully rear-ended by...you guessed it, a big, black muscle car. Following protocol, Hilary exchanges information with the driver of the black car (Bill Sage), who is eerily taken by the fact that it's her "first time" in an accident...that she's essentially a "virgin". The stranger drops his sexy smooth talk, though, when Hilary suggests taking photos of the car and driver, reluctantly agreeing with a distant stare.

    Poor Hilary doesn't realize that her cheating boyfriend and this unfortunate exchange are only the start of a bad day; returning to the family's isolated property, she's immediately set upon by her very strict parents, furious that she hasn't answered her cellphone and that the new car is ruined. The punishment is severe, as well, in that Hilary will not be accompanying the family overnight to see a show that she's been waiting to see all year. Instead, she'll spend the night alone, after sorting things out with the insurance company. And sure enough, her parents are barely out the door when Hilary gets a text from her "Fender Bender Friend", who somehow knows that she's in the house alone.

    For a new, essentially straight-to-video horror flick, Pavia's Fender Bender comes off as a breath of fresh air in a sea of garbage, but certainly not because he's reinventing the wheel. Most of what makes the film likable is the throwback to 70's and 80's horror, which is acknowledged in the more subtle editing and lack of bombastic surround speaker freakouts, and the natural aesthetic used as opposed to the wave of blue/black HD video entries flooding the market. Acting is solid right across the board as well, with Vega holding her own as the lead, and Sage injecting just enough menace to actually make him creepy. There's a fair amount of nastiness in here, with scenes of vicious violence that will appeal to viewers more than the CGI gore splashes that we've all grown weary of. The extra cast member here has to be the original music by Night Runner as well, which hearkens back to the days of synthesizer horror scores, incorporating a bit of Angelo Badalamenti as well...it's so rare to find a satisfying soundtrack in a straight to video endeavor, but this one fits the bill. Also interesting is the question that the film poses...in this day and age of technology, is swapping insurance information really a great idea? As a young female, I would be more inclined to do everything through the police.

    Of course, it's a horror flick, and there are a fair number of missteps here. Plot holes, stupid, stupid decisions made by characters plague the picture, including a number of real headscratchers. There's also quite a bit of over-explaining to the audience, which, combined with some of those aforementioned stupid decisions, gets annoying. Obviously, those of us who grew up with 80's slashers are no stranger to yelling, "Why are you going back in there???!!!", but here it showcases that Pavia isn't quite there yet as a fully competent screenwriter. Still, all things considered, Fender Bender is most definitely one of the more accomplished and enjoyable entries in modern STV horror in quite some time.


    Shout!/Scream! Factory brings Fender Bender to Blu-ray (with optional HD download code) in an AVC-encoded 2.35:1 transfer that looks great, and really takes advantage of the cinematography. The fall colours look striking here, and night scenes don't suffer from a lack of clarity at all. Detail is solid throughout with deep blacks and a good range of contrast. No edge enhancement, compression or other artifacts are visible.

    Audio comes courtesy of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track available as an option. The mix here takes advantage of the low end and the surrounds, but not to any great exaggeration, which is nice. Tasteful use compliments the soundstage, with dialogue front and center for the most part, allowing the effects and original score the chance to breathe. No hisses, cracks, or pops are evident.

    English Subs for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing are also available.

    First up in the supplements is a "Retro VHS" Cut of the Film (1:31:59), that plays out like a dubbed TV copy from the 80's. Station bumpers are included here, giving it an air of authenticity...not to mention those wicked tracking lines that pop up...and, unlike films that include useless "Black and White" versions, it's actually pretty amusing to watch for about 10 minutes, if you've already seen the film.

    A Behind The Scenes (9:16) features Writer/Director Mark Pavia discussing his love of 70's and 80's horror and specifically John Carpenter, while the cast chimes in about their roles and challenges in filming. On-set footage is sprinkled throughout, and there are plenty of spoilers, so watch after the feature, obviously.

    The "Slashback" Vintage Trailer Reel (38:39) is a gem of a bonus, featuring horror trailers, mostly from the 70's and 80's (though a few others get in there), not cleaned up, but in AVC-encoded hi-def with lossless audio. Almost 40 minutes trailers from Halloween II, Visiting Hours, Sleepaway Camp, Psycho II, I Saw What You Did, and Motel Hell, not to mention many others, it's a great way to kill time and a pretty neat supplement.

    An original Trailer and TV Spot (2:07) for Fender Bender is also included.

    The disc also features two commentaries, the first one featuring Director Mark Pavia, moderated by Blumhouse's Rob Galluzzo. Pavia talks about a number of subjects here, including the need to hook the audience right out of the gate and shooting in New Mexico, but also gets down to the technical details of filmmaking and analyzing different shots. He's pretty hyper and enthusiastic, and also discusses the score and his love of 80's synth soundtracks, as well as the casting, and the advantages of being Writer and Director of a film.

    A Producers' Commentary with Carl Lucas, Josh Bunting, and Gus Krieger may cover a lot of info on the film, but I wouldn't know, because I shut that annoying thing off 15 minutes in. Why the producers thought anyone would want to hear them playing a drinking game based around the movie is beyond me, but maybe somebody will be into that. Anyway, if you want to hear about the making of the movie, check out the Director's commentary.

    The Final Word:

    A few missteps aside, Fender Bender is a pretty solid effort from Mark Pavia. The writing lacks just enough to prevent this from being too notable, but Pavia's skills as a Director shouldn't be ignored. The Blu-ray is a great way to see the film, however, and the extras are a welcome bonus. Except for that producer's commentary. That is not a welcome bonus.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!