"Founders Day" loses race in becoming the next annual holiday slasher

Founders Day (2024)

There’s never been a holiday slasher set around a small town’s tricentennial celebration. Writer-director-editor Erik Bloomquist and brother/co-writer/co-editor Carson Bloomquist (“She Came from the Woods”) take care of that with “Founders Day,” a political slasher flick with a sizable ensemble. After the ‘90s-inspired “Thanksgiving,” it must have been wishful thinking that this could have been the next entry in a new slasher boom. Alas, the result is an also-ran with little to recommend it outside of a few gnarly kills.

Leading up to a heated mayoral election, the New England town of Fairwood is rocked by the overnight disappearance of teenager Melissa (Olivia Nikkanen), the daughter of change-promoting political candidate Harold Faulkner (Jayce Bartok). That night, Melissa’s girlfriend, Allison (Naomi Grace), was about to leave town for North Carolina before witnessing Melissa being attacked on a bridge by a masked killer in a powdered wig and wielding a double-edged gavel. Meanwhile, incumbent Mayor Blair Gladwell (Amy Hargreaves) is running for re-election against Faulkner and trying to keep Fairwood alert but encourage them to make the right choice. Faulker’s son Adam (Devin Druid) also manages the local movie theater, where Allison used to work, and has been recently jilted by Lilly Gladwell (Emilia McCarthy), the mayor’s daughter, who’s now seeing a Billy Loomis-type bad boy (Tyler James White). Finally, high school government teacher Mr. Jackson (William Russ aka Cory and Eric Matthews’ dad) is there for everyone but remains neutral. With a killer out there, both parties’ campaigns are on the line and the body count is just beginning.

First, the good. “Founders Day” is a small production, well-shot and solidly assembled. The killer’s mask itself is effectively creepy. A kill in a movie theater is well-staged and nasty, and you can’t wait to see the worst, most troublemaking couple, Tyler (Dylan Slade) and Britt (Kate Edmonds), get dispatched after they foolishly decide to have sex in high school detention. The murderous use of a campaign sign is also wickedly amusing. The bad? Nearly everything else. The Bloomquist brothers’ script actually seems concerned about the characters, but it’s so overcrowded with teenage romances and other tumultuous dynamics that it can’t really balance them all and make us care enough about a single one. The performances—oh, the performances—either consist of soapy, lip-quivering or shouty scenery-chewing. Sure, the hypocrisy of politics is being satirized here and laid on with a gavel, but that’s hardly a pass for a scene with the most overbaked drunk acting in recent memory. Read the full review at GuyAtTheMovies.com

Grade: C

Dark Sky Films is releasing "Founders Day" (106 min.) in theaters on January 19, 2024.