TV Movie: “Fender Bender”

While it’s easy to dismiss a lot of TV movies, and networks that show them, one can’t deny that occasionally a good one does come along. It may still not be the best, but hopefully the story and experience are enough to make it worth it. Tweeting along with other TV movie lovers can only get you so far.

The Shout! Factory movie “Fender Bender”, is quite fun and effective for a movie with about 25 minutes worth of commercials in it.

This thriller stars Makenzie Vega (“The Good Wife”, “Heartbeat”), Dre Davis (upcoming episodes “Pretty Little Liars”, “Outliving Emily”), Cassidy Freeman (“Stitchers”, “NCIS”), Kelsey Montoya (“The Guest”, “Placed (Short 2012)”), Harrison Sim (“Gunslinger” “Pizza Girl Massacre”), Steven Michael Quezada (upcoming “Outlaws and Angels”, “The Condemned 2”), Lora Cunningham (“Dig” “The Scorch Trials”), and Bill Sage (“Hap and Leonard”, “The Preppie Connection”).

The movie is written and directed by Mark Pavia (“The Night Flier”, “Drag (Short 1993)”).

The movie debuted on June 3, 2016 on Chiller.

I knew there was a reason I loved this network! Maybe not all of the things it shows, but enough. I heard about this movie early last week, and this day slowly arrived, and I am so glad I made plans for this movie! I fully expect most TV movies to suck, or be so bad they’re good, but when it comes to effective thrillers or horror like movies, that’s a different story. They’re difficult to get into or even find remotely scary. Plus, adding an interesting wrinkle, if you’re like me, you’ve got thumbs poised over a phone, ready to tap away and send a snarky tweet about something. In this case, while it helped make the film a bit more fun, it didn’t hurt the experience or help in the typical ways that I’ve discovered for other TV movies. That’s a plus! This movie just worked. Well, well enough. Seeing as the next TV movie I watch probably won’t be as much fun, I’ll take what I can get!

Oh the suspense! Who would’ve thought that even a little suspense could be cultivated in a two hour TV movie? Certainly not me! Because I was so pleasantly surprised by how the suspense and fear was built up by Pavia, I find this movie to be a success. I don’t know what I thought I’d get, but it probably wasn’t anywhere close to this. Right away, this movie established the exact type of horror thriller it was going for. One that used fear to lure you along and keep you well on your toes. Predictability was there, but at the same time it broke with a lot of traditions, which is good.

Even better is the fact that, as this is a TV movie, there are the expected commercial breaks. Many of them. And while it was sometimes tiresome that they had to be there, I found a time or two that I needed them. I’d gotten so into some of the blocks of story time that I was a bit more frightened than expected and needed a breather. Now, I’m sure not everyone reacted this way, but if you can get into it a bit and be genuinely surprised, that’s good enough. I found that because of this, and my repeated ability to get scared after the commercials wrapped, Pavia achieved something that was difficult from the get go. He accomplished his obvious homage to classic horror slashers, and was able to, in an age when not much horror can be effective, get a bit under your skin. I’m now a bit more scared of being in the house alone and am glad I can’t fit under my bed. It’s little things like that that can make all the difference with a TV movie such a s this.

The one downside though, even Pavia can’t resist the jump scare. There were a few jump scares, but they never felt wasted. I felt that I earned being scared. The setup is what dictated this, or at least, tried to. More or less these setups were effective, but even that’s so rare these days.

Adding an interesting aspect to this movie, the score. Pretty early on I picked up on what it was doing. It was creepy and maybe a little menacing, but it was also a pretty big call back to the ‘70s and ‘80s slashers we know and love. I definitely thought about John Carpenter. I loved every bit of score I heard, and truly believe that this a big reason I responded the way I did. This alone says so much about who Pavia is as a director and what he was going for with this film.

My primary reason to watch this obscure TV movie was Vega. Vega was great! I was getting the opportunity to watch her in another role, and I couldn’t pass that up! Overall her character was worth it! She embodied so much that we still don’t see in most horror films, which itself was refreshing. Her friend Rachel, played by Davis wasn’t bad either. She too was given the smarts to survive to a certain point, and make you cheer for her and wish she’d made it longer. However, the killer was very calculated and his job was a lot easier. But, back to Vega! She proved herself! I was amazed, that I could quickly forgive her for some of the dumber things she did throughout the film. I mean, come on, how can you not recognize your bathroom in a picture that was taken while you were using it? She had to walk all the way to the bathroom and compare the photo to the real thing. That’s sad. But, again, she proved herself time and again, and I got over her dumb choices.

And, oh my god! That ending!! Perfect! And I just realized, okay, it’s not so much that I realized it just now, it’s that I finally came around to it, but I can’t tell you squat about the ending. Sorry. If you do choose to watch this it’s what will help make this film all the more fun to watch! Granted, you also have to be able to bring your expectations down to the TV movie level.

When it comes to TV movies, apparently you can and should have some level of expectation. At the least, you could be pleasantly surprised. You’re already expecting something subpar, or flat out bad, what harm could come from watching a TV movie you randomly learned about? If you didn’t like them enough already, you may find that they’re the best ways to spend time. For me, a lot of fun can and has come of a mediocre TV movie. And I’m once more reminded of that fact with this highly enjoyable movie!

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