Fender Bender

Remember Mark Pavia?  Probably not.  I do because he directed 1997's The Night Flier, one of my favorite films of all time.  That was twenty years ago.  Once I fell in love with said picture, I waited and waited (and waited) to see what Pavia would do next.  Whispers of a sequel surfaced (or sloped skyward, if you will) only to dematerialize straightaway.  You can bet your bottom dollar that I kept waiting like a good cripple.  I waited until last year.  Italicized for emphasis.  Look, I don't want to blame Pavia.  The filmmaking industry is cruel and loony like a perambulating zeppelin punching small children for antelope treason.  KNOW WHAT I MEAN?

So Fender Bender.  It's no The Night Flier, but I didn't go in with a "compare/contrast" mentality.  This is a different animal.  In fact, it's a different subgenre.  It's a slasher!  I wish it were a little more original, I must say.  A serial killer rams into the back of vehicles driven by pretty goils (sexist!).  Eventually, he stalks his way to their house and knifes their caboodles.  That sounded filthier than I intended.  He just stabs chicks.  No particular body part.  Any-fucking-way (get me out of this paragraph), it reads as a milquetoast, heavy-handed reshuffling of Joy Ride and The Hitcher.  And Jeepers Creepers. And Duel.  "Road rage" horror, basically.

But that's just how it reads.  In actuality, it's a well-shot, well-primped platter of suspense that recalls John Carpenter without plagiarizing him.  There are plenty of steadicam shots that establish mood, and while Fender Bender could have been set during any season, it did feel awfully autumnal.  The lighting is on-point.  That's the one thing this movie has in common with The Night Flier; both productions look fabulous, taking lithe budgets into consideration.  Ah, I misspoke...they have two things in common.  I forgot about the excellent leads!  Makenzie Vega gives a warm, rounded performance as the vulnerable heroine.  Also, kudos to the intimidating Bill Sage. Fucking creep.

If you hop over to IMDb (don't), you'll see a lot of the same complaints spring up.  They're not wrong.  Fender Bender is discernibly flawed, from the leaden pace (the second act dies) to the boorish dolt characters (make sure the fucker's dead).  The bitch of it is that Vega's Hilary never comes across as a boorish dolt until the climax.  She deserved better writing, damn it.  All in all, I'm torn on Mark Pavia's second feature-length chiller, but I'm going to go ahead and recommend it.  It's a solid Saturday night rental.  If I may be candid for a flash, I merely need Fender Bender to do satisfactory business so that Pavia can bankroll another project.  Maybe The Night Flier 2???

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