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Score: 60%
Rating: Not Rated
Publisher: Candy Factory Films
Region: 1
Media: DVD/1
Running Time: 75 Mins.
Genre: Horror/Drama/Historical
Audio: English 5.1 Surround Sound

Bender is a horror film based on the real life Benders, America's first serial killer family living in the desolate prairies of Independence, Kansas in the late 1800's.

The film begins with a narration by Edwin York, twin brother to Dr. William York (Jon Monastero, Aaah! Zombies!!), a small-town doctor who goes off in search of the family of a former patient when they never arrive at their destination. Dr. York decides to retrace the steps of his former patients along the Great Osage Trail in Kansas, especially since a number of people seem to have been disappearing from the area. He comes upon an unassuming home marked as a grocery and decides to gather some provisions for the rest of his journey. It is here that he meets the odd family of homesteaders.

He is first greeted by Mrs. Bender (Leslie Woodies), who offers him dinner and a place to stay the night, for a small fee, along with his requested provisions. They are soon joined by daughter Kate (Nicole Jellen), who considers herself a healer and a spiritualist. It is clear that Kate is intrigued by the doctor and thinks she may finally have met the man for her, but when he disparages her "healing abilities," it soon becomes clear that this family dinner isn't going to go as Dr. York may have expected. Soon, their young son (Chance Caeden) and Old Man Bender (James Karen) come in, with the boy barely uttering a word, and the father muttering barely comprehensible conversation. Now, personally, if Mrs. Bender had offered me "the seat of honor" next to a brown splatter-stained tarp with flies on it, I'd have passed on dinner, but Dr. York is just too polite and soon discovers that when Father Bender announces they are having pork for dinner, it means something else entirely. He falls victim to the family, but little do they know that his twin brother is not going to ignore his brother's disappearance so easily.

When Edwin York (also Jon Monastero) shows up at the Benders inquiring about his brother, Kate thinks she has another chance with this York and begins to woo him, in her strange "Little House on the Prairie" sex kitten way. He spends a good bit of time there, in the hopes of finding information on his missing brother, and things are going well, until Old Man Bender and the boy return home. The Old Man wants "pork" but Kate wants her man and calamity ensues. Now, who knows what truly happened, but the story is based on actual victims and does attempt to recreate what may have happened.

Linda Purl (Designated Survivor) and Bruce Davison (Last Resort) both have small roles, as a patient and a posse-gathering mayor, respectively, and they are pretty much the only recognizable actors in the movie. The worst part of the film was the acting, specifically Nicole Jellen as Kate and Jon Monastero during the opening narration. They are the opposite of natural, and their speaking is so stilted, it comes off as ridiculous. Also, the murder scene of Dr. York is silly, with flashes of what is happening that reminded me of an art house flick. It was painful to watch, and I ain't talking about the head hammerin' or the throat cuttin'.

What I can say is that I learned a few things and watching Bender did cause me to research this family, since I honestly had never heard of the Bloody Benders before now. The sets, while sparse, did appear to stick closely to the actual photos of the Bender family home/crime scene, so I'll give them credit there, but a little less art house and a little better acting would have gone a long way towards improving this film greatly. If you are interested in America's first serial killer family, you may want to check out Bender, but you can also just read the Wikipedia article and save yourself some time.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins
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