I’ll admit I went in to Mark Pavia’s “Fender Bender” expecting almost nothing and was shocked at how effective it was in the end. It’s a solid stalk and chase slasher film mixing “Death Proof” and “The Hitcher” and director Pavia delivers a strong genre entry suitable for a lazy Friday night and some beers. “Fender Bender” centers on young Hilary, a girl living in New Mexico with her parents who just got her license. After a terrible break up with her cheating boyfriend, she accidentally runs in to another driver causing a minor fender bender. The stranger in question is a very forward and charming man who is very generous and friendly to Hilary after exchanging information.
Set to go on a trip with her parents, she’s grounded and left home alone while her parents go off on their own. Despite dealing with the horrors of boredom and isolation, Hilary soon begins to fear she’s being watched, as she notices a mysterious black car outside her house that hasn’t moved, and also suddenly hears activity around her house that is out of the ordinary. Though “Fender Bender” takes a little while to start up, once it does get moving, it delivers well with some great action and mystery. There’s a lot of shadow play and working with sound, along with tight editing that helps “Fender Bender” start out of the gate as a thriller and then get steam rolling in to a full fledged slasher flick.
Makenzie Vega gives a stand out performance as young Hilary, who is most times self centered and anxious to break free from her punishment, but realizes much too late that she’s in a battle for survival. The majority of the film centers on Vega and her character’s personal situation and Vega does a damn good job playing a savvier and tougher heroine than we’re used to. Though she does slip up on occasion, she also ends up being a pretty fascinating final girl you root for. Things go from bad to worse when her two best friends become accidental pawns in the unusual game of cat and mouse, eliciting some well filmed and grotesque moments of carnage and murder.
The killer himself is quite interesting as he has a real bondage based get up that makes him very imposing. Director Pavia keeps him mostly in the dark until the final half and he ends up drawn as an ambiguous slasher based around some interesting motivation. Our masked killer isn’t a protagonist per se, but in the end it’s implied he feels a lot more like someone who perceives himself as justified, rather than just a slasher hacking up young girls. Despite pacing issues in the first half, “Fender Bender” is a fun slasher that seems to try to re-invent the old tropes of the killer battling the final girl. It’s a slick, and creepy entry to the sub-genre I’d most definitely re-visit.