Horrorhounds like myself have come to know and love Scream Factory for their great editions of modern horror classics in desperate need of a quality Blu-ray release. For many of us, it always seemed inevitable that the boutique home video label would want to join in the fun by making a horror film of their own eventually. Enter Fender Bender, a co-production with ChillerTV that shot just about a years ago and premiered via limited theatrical run in May and on ChillerTV’s television network in June. The film was well received and subsequently slated to be released on Blu-ray and DVD just in time for Halloween.
As we all have come to expect from the collector’s favorite horror home video distributor, the Blu-ray from Scream comes with many special features and amazing artwork. One thing that sets it apart from most releases is that it also includes a digital stream/download code, since the film is theirs and they own full streaming rights of the film. The code is redeemable via VHX, a platform now owned by Vimeo that is designed for independent filmmakers. It is via VHX that I screened the film on my first watch, then again on Blu-ray to compare quality and check out the features. Both versions looked fantastic, but it’s the film itself that is truly something special.
In this year of strong horror contenders, Fender Bender is among the best releases in the genre. At its core, it’s a standard slasher with a home invasion film built in. Yet, it really feels like something fresh and fun in an era where supernatural films seem to dominate the horror landscape. There are no ghosts, no aliens, nothing otherworldly… just a psychopath and a great setup for said psychopath to stalk his victims.
Based on the title and the opening scene, we know what the killer is all about from the beginning. A suave yet creepy man rear ends a young girl driving parents’ car. She exchanges information with him and then heads home, where her parents are upset and decide that she’ll be staying home instead of going on a much anticipated family trip. She’s bummed, but soon after they leave her home and head out, a few friends come by. Then, the excitement begins but a few moments later.
As to avoid spoilers, I won’t talk about who lives or who dies. I won’t mention anything about how any of the kills happen or if they involve use of the villain’s sweet car. I won’t discuss what about the ending I liked or didn’t like. Instead, I’ll simply praise the film for being willing to use tropes while avoiding becoming a slave to them. And, I’ll also praise the fantastic performances, primarily of the two leads, Bill Sage and Makenzie Vega.
Sage is the killer, aka “The Driver”, and performs his creepy role extremely well. His effectiveness is in both his performance and the great costume design. Vega (little sister of genre star and frequent Robert Rodriguez cast member Alexa Vega-Pena) is the girl who is left home by her parents, Hilary Diaz. Vega has a good badass quality about her, while also portraying the various emotions a teenage girl would experience with her friends, at school, and when faced with the frightening situation she finds herself in. Her screen presence is undeniable and she truly seems to be a scream queen in the making, should she choose to go that route.
The film isn’t something groundbreaking or genre defining, but it’s certainly a ton of fun. Horror fans who can’t appreciate this film should be few and far between, as far I’m concerned. It’s truly a great little horror film and one you should include in your Halloween celebration viewing this October.