Micheal Bafaro’s Wrecker is an undistinguished entry in a familiar horror/road-movie hybrid that finds a metaphorical, suggestively unseen and evil truck driver tormenting those who dare tread his path. When Bafaro isn’t quoting Steven Spielberg’s Duel, he’s staging remarkably unexciting chase sequences in which a diesel-spewing tow truck pursues a hot-red Mustang GT inhabited by two pointedly gorgeous party-going women, played by Anne Hutchison and Andrea Whitburn. Insert shots are intended to tell the audience that the Mustang is desperately hurtling along the landscapes of the American Northwest at speeds upward of 120 mph and beyond, but medium exterior shots often relate a different story of a sports car leisurely making its way along vast and winding scenic roads.
The truck and the Mustang often aren’t in the same frame as one another either, which will strike the attentive viewer as a possible necessity born of a strict budget. Which is to say that Bafaro lets his formal seams show. Time and again, the filmmaker cuts the money shot meant to theoretically cap a sequence, most gallingly in the climax, when the truck takes a fateful tumble like the monstrous vehicle in Duel before it. Bafaro cuts from the truck about to fall to it laying lifelessly on the bottom of a rock bed—the payoff to the film’s boringly repetitive build-up ineffectively elided, catharsis denied in favor of a kind of inadvertent comedy of impotence.
Wrecker occasionally offers minor pleasures. Bafaro employs clever point-of-view shots from the perspective of windshields, intensifying the viewer’s immersive unease. One such image even provides an effective fake-out, as it’s revealed to be positioned from a car whose vantage point has yet to be clarified. It’s also creepy, and a little funny, when the driver of the murderous tow truck is revealed to have an upside-down crucifix and a pentagram dangling in his windshield. But this is still, unavoidably, a chase film in which pursuer and prey often barely seem to be within a 100 feet of one another.