If you have yet to see it, make sure you track down The Night Flier and give it a watch. Based on a story by Stephen King, the 1997 film is a low-budget masterpiece, a creepy and gory vampire tale with a killer ending. It’s relevant here because it happens to be the last movie Mark Pavia directed. Until now. Pavia is back with Fender Bender, an original he wrote and directed for Chiller and Scream Factory! Operating on what is possibly an even lower budget than his last feature, Pavia shows he still knows how to craft an effective genre flick. This is Chiller’s best original movie yet.
Despite the frequent presence and use of smartphones, Fender Bender maintains an old school vibe throughout, starting with an opening sequence that introduces viewers to the killer. A woman comes home after a long day at work and a minor car accident. After unwinding with a bubble bath and glass of wine, she gets a text from the other driver, “your fender bender friend.” She is disposed of after discovering an unwanted guest in her bed.
Cut to our Final Girl, Hillary (Makenzie Vega). She is in tears after discovering her boyfriend Andy (Harrison Sim) with another girl. Making matters worse, she is rear-ended on her way home while driving her mother’s new car. The driver (Bill Sage) exchanges information and photographs with her, and Hillary thinks that’s the end of it. She has her parents to worry about and doesn’t think much about the fender bender.Unfortunately for her, he hasn’t forgotten about her. Apparently making a habit of killing women across the country, he sneaks into Hillary’s home while she is taking a shower and snaps a photo with her phone that he sends to her. All alone after her parents go out of town without her as punishment for the car accident, she thinks an inebriated Andy is playing a prank on her. Same with the “Sorry” cake she finds on top of the car. It must be Andy looking for forgiveness. Of course it’s not Andy, and before long the driver is done playing mind games and ready to move onto physical violence.
While none of this is startlingly original (save for the nifty and somewhat unexpected ending), Fender Bender works by keeping it simple. Set almost entirely in one location, Pavia manages to generate a few jumps, some of which are admittedly a little cheap and annoying. However, others are highly effective, including the previously mentioned bedroom surprise and a sequence where Hillary realizes how much danger she’s in just as an out-of-sight killer begins shutting off all the lights in the house.
Other assets include an insanely catchy and synth-like score from Night Runner that sounds straight out of the ‘80s (in a good way) and some brutal, fairly graphic stabbings. Chiller isn’t skimping on the carnage. There’s also some nice utilization of technology for tension and a supporting cast that’s good enough to make you care about them at least a little before they are dispatched with. Sage is a solid villain and Vega an appealing Final Girl.
Yes it’s all routine and as expected, characters do dumb things like not call 911 despite possible mortal danger because “they’ve caused enough trouble” and need to resolve the situation on their own. The flaws are easily overlooked as in the end Fender Bender is a lean and mean little slasher that accomplishes its modest goals. Slasher fans should be fully satisfied by the time the end credits roll. Fender Bender will air on Chiller June 3rd.
WICKED RATING: 6/10
Director(s): Mark Pavia
Writer(s): Mark Pavia
Stars: Makenzie Vega, Bill Sage, Dre Davis, Kelsey Montoya, and Harrison Sim.
Release: June 3 (Chiller)
Studio/Production Co: Scream Factory/Brainstorm Media/EchoWolf Productions
Length: 90 minutes