Thursday, October 6, 2016

FENDER BENDER (2016) (Blu-ray Review)

FENDER BENDER (2016) 
Label: Scream Factory 
Release Date: October 4th 2016 
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 91 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0, DTS-HD 5,1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Mark Pavia 
Cast: Bill Sage, Cassidy Freeman, Dre Davis, Harrison Sim, Kelsey Leos Montoya, Steven Michael Quezada, Lora Martinez-Cunningham, Makenzie Vega

Scream Factory ventured into the world of making original movies with the made-for-TV movie Fender Bender (2016) helmed by writer/director Mark Pavia (Stephen King's The Night Flier) whose throwback slasher movie does a decent job of bringing back the stalk n' slash thrills of the 80s to this contemporary slasher. It opens with a woman arriving home after experiencing a minor fender bender. Having exchanged information with the man she comes home and jumps into the bathtub with a glass of wine and her cell phone. While immersed in the bubbly water she receives a text from the other driver, the text conversation starts off slightly weird and then get creepy real fast. Not unexpectedly this culminates with the masked killer arriving on scene and murdering the woman in a brutal stabbing scene that relies more on some nice editing and sound design than blood and gore. 

The very next scene we introduced to our final girl, teenager Hilary (Makenzie Vega, TV's The Good Wife) who is bumped from behind by "the driver" played by Bill Sage (The Boy), who while exchanging insurance information with Hillary stares at her with a quiet intensity. Right away you get a weirdo vibe, this guy is obviously the killer, which I think is a huge misstep for any slasher movie to make, you just do not reveal the identity of your killer in the opening scenes, that's just bad form in my opinion. 

Anyway, Hilary returns home and confesses the accident to her parents who are rather upset by the very minor damage to her mom's brand new car, but she borrowed it without permission and is now paying the price. As punishment Mom and Dad leave her behind for the weekend while they head to a concert of some sort, an event that seems to be an annual event for the  family, and she is totally crushed by it. Left alone at the house Hilary mopes about, after a shower she begins to suspect someone might be in the house with her, and just when she seems about ready to crack someone in the head with a baseball bat her two best friends show up to cheer her up with a pizza ... but that doesn't mean someone wasn't watching her, which soon becomes apparent when the killer arrives on the scene. 

Fender Bender does quite a bit right for a contemporary slasher movie, there are a metric ton of retro-slashers coming out these days, and not a lot are great. Here they get the atmosphere and scenario right, Makenzie Vega makes for a damn decent and sympathetic protagonist - though she is a bit on the annoying side if you ask me, but as I age I find these young folks increasingly annoying - kill 'em all I say. Vega feigns vulnerability well and does a decent job of mustering up some inner-strength when she needs to for the role. Her friends Rachel (Dre Davis) and Erik (Kelsey Montoya) are also decent, I liked Dre Davis quite a bit, thought for a second the short-coiffed blond might end up the final girl early on, but nope. 

Hillary's cheating boyfriend also arrives at her house in a drunken effort to win her back but he becomes the killer's first kill of the night, and as the obvious asshole it was only right he should be the first to fall. The killer wears a leather jacket and a leather mask. His mask has an automotive design about it with the mouth and eyes looking a bit like the grill and headlights of a car, so he has a nice distinctive look about him, which is always a plus. The killer is plodding and slow-moving, like Jason Voorhees is a leather mask, he never moves fast but is always one step ahead. His weapon of choice is a custom knife, which at first looked like a grout float, but n closer inspection was a blade mounted on a car door handle, which is weird but does go along with the car-themed killer. 

The kills are pretty decent, this was a movie co-produced by the ChillerTV  where it also debuted, so accordingly the gore is not outstanding, but a few of them are somewhat brutal, enhanced by some decent sound design and bloodletting, but nothing too gruesome aside from a above average throat slash with loads of blood. 

Mark Pavia does a good job creating some tension throughout, particularly the scenes of Hilary walking through the house suspecting that someone might be watching her, the scope aspect ratio is used to great effect in these scenes, anticipating the masked killer might jump out from the corner of the screen at any moment. The movie is also greatly enhanced by the use of Nightrunner's synth-wave score which brings you right back to the eighties. All in all this was a fun watch, its not a classic slasher, but it certainly gets more right than it gets wrong, which is more than I can say for most modern slashers. 

Fender Bender arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory looking solid, the image is crisp and clean with some nice depth and fine detail. Colors are nice and vibrant, the shadow detail is strong and skin tones look natural throughout. The disc includes the option of English DTS-HD MA 2.0 or 5.1, the surround sounds great, with some nice atmospheric use of the surrounds when appropriate, the Nightrunner synth score sounds terrific. 

Audio/Visual: Scream Factory offer up some decent extras for their first original movie including two audio commentaries, one from the producer and another from the director, which is moderated by Shock Waves podcast co-host and Blumhouse.com's Rob Galluzo. Both tracks are informative and well done, the producer's track also doubles as a fun drinking game! We also get a brief behind-the-scenes featurette, trailer and a TV spot. My favorite extra on the disc is the very cool "Retro VHS" version of the movie, presenting the movie with a very authentic looking fullframe VHS quality image, the colors are desaturated and there are tracking lines. It also features a short intro and alternate Scream Factory logo, which was a nice touch.

Another nifty extra is the forty-minute Scream Factory slasher trailer reel featuring trailers of Scream Factory releases. The single-disc release also sports a slipcover or O-ring and a reversible sleeve of artwork. The alternate illustrated artwork is awesome, with artwork from Scream regular Justin Osbourne whose work you might recognize from the Scream covers for Phantom of the Paradise and John Carpenter's The Fog among others. Unfortunately they do not use his artwork on the O-ring, which was unfortunate. 

Bonus Features

Digital Copy of the Movie which Expires October 4th, 2017.
- "Retro VHS" Version Of The Film In Which You Can Watch The Film In A Re-created Mode That Takes You Back To The 1980's And The Heyday Of VCRs
- "Slashback" Trailer Reel – A Collection Of Vintage Scream Factory-branded Slasher Previews (39 Mins) 
- Director's Commentary moderated by Blumhouse.com's Rob Galluzzo 
- Producer's Commentary
- Behind-The-Scenes Featurette (9 Mins) HD 
- Original Trailer And TV Spot (2 Mins) HD 

Fender Bender is a fun watch, as a slasher I do wish it had more visceral kills and some nudity but like I said before, it does more right than it gets wrong. Scream Factory have done a bang-up job with the extras with some fun commentaries and I love that retro VHS version of the movie. 

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