Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Fender Bender: Accidents Will Happen

In horror movies, punishment is often outrageously disproportionate to the crime. For instance, in this New Mexico town, failure to properly report an accident can get you hacked to pieces. He is not a Progressive agent, he is a serial killer who perversely exploits the expected information exchange following minor accidents. When he rear-ends someone, the whiplash is pretty severe in Mark Pavia’s Fender Bender (trailer here), which premieres on Chiller this Friday.

The hits just keep coming for Hillary this fateful day. First she learns her jerky jock boyfriend Andy is two-timing her, then she has a minor fender-bender that is absolutely not her fault, but still causes her parents to leave her home alone on the weekend of a long planned family outing—to teach her responsibility. Lets go back to the second bummer of her day. This is not an innocent accident. It is “The Driver’s” M.O.

Assuring the flustered teen it was all his fault and they need not involve the authorities, the Driver initiates the ritual trading of phone numbers and insurance information. He also includes a street address, which seems wholly unnecessary, but his stressed-out victims inevitably follow suit. At least Hillary has the presence of mind to snap some photos with her smart phone, giving the Driver additional business to take care of when he comes round in the evening. However, he will not catch her alone. To further complicate matters, Hillary’s besties Rachel and Erik have come over to eat pizza and dis on Andy.

Seriously, Hillary’s parents ought to be tried as accessories. They have criminally bad timing and appear constitutionally incapable of being helpful. Hillary really doesn’t have crackerjack “final girl” instincts either. It is like she is constantly begging the Driver to pop up on his feet again and re-commence terrorizing her. Most Likely to Die looks like a minor genre masterpiece in comparison, because its characters do exactly what we would like to think we would do if we found ourselves in a 1980s style slasher film.

It is a shame because Makenzie Vega plays second act Hillary with some appealing gumption. Bill Sage’s performance as the Driver is also nearly as creepy as his “bring out the Gimp” fetish wardrobe. There is something very unsettling about Pavia’s premise, sadistically exploiting the behavior norms of a minor traffic accident. Yet, the predictably familiar ending pays off nothing, leaving us to wonder why exactly Pavia wanted to take us to this place.

Considering Pavia’s previous film was the 1997 cult favorite The Night Flier (featuring Miguel Ferrer in fine caustic form), he cannot be accused of grinding out cookie-cutter films. While Fender Bender had the potential to really unleash viewer paranoia, Pavia’s unremarkable execution minimizes its traction. Entirely intended for throwback slasher fans, the ultimately disappointing Fender Bender airs this Friday (6/3) on Chiller.