'Founder's Day' review: Low-fi slasher already a contender for worst movie of the year
Courtesy of Blue Finch releasing
They say imitation is a form of flattery and if that’s the case, then co-writer and director Erik Bloomquist’s tongue-and-cheek slasher “Founders Day” loves to flirt. Unlike Eli Roth’s slash-tastic fall offering “Thanksgiving,” which redefined the way anyone ever looks at the yearly turkey dinner, “Founders Day” is so entangled with itself, it never manages to turn a hilariously convoluted plot into something memorable. I never expected a January release to reach the highs of “Scream,” but the B-level pulp of something like “Urban Legend,” seemed within the realm of possibility. Turns out, even that was a lofty expectation, and aside from the occasional practical effect, “Founders Day'' squanders any and all potential.
Its premise, one Bloomquist conceived with his brother Carson, earnestly tries tapping into the fraught political climate by way of a small-town mayoral election. One where the stakes are so incredibly high, the town of what seems like 300 people feel the need to protest in the middle of the street (the only thing missing is someone yelling “Stop the steal!). Indeed, people bicker and holler about their respective affiliation and there’s even a moment of desperation where we see each side beg a young woman of color to join their cause. It’s also the foundation for a murder spree where a masked killer systematically bludgeons people close to the election with a gavel. Although, I’m not sure why considering the two candidates, played by Jayce Bartok and Amy Hargreaves, never explain how they’ll make the town more prosperous, nor do they present a convincing argument why anyone should vote for them. At one point, when the masked killer begins slashing their way through the community, the two opponents want to go on with business as usual.
There is a crop of teenagers, of course, though none of them have any defining character traits beyond their name. The final girl of the brigade, Allison (Naomi Grace), probably has the most levity, playing someone who has endured tragedy which makes her, by default, the most emotionally vulnerable. But despite Grace’s best efforts to keep this hollow movie grounded, there’s nothing in the script to make you genuinely care about what happens to her or the group, made up of Devin Druid, Emilia McCarthy, and Olivia Nikkanen, of whom are all on the chopping block. But I must give a shout-out to actor Dylan Slade, who plays an ill-fated bro named Tyler, for looking like the poor man’s version of singer Machine Gun Kelly and who finds themselves in the most awkward display of teenage intercourse. That alone is almost worth the price of admission.
By the time we get to the big reveal, all the momentum has stifled due to horrendous dialogue and silly red herrings that never make satisfying use of the small-town political angle (you know, like how all politicians lie for their benefit and will do anything to cling to power?). The motive is never justified and its loose connection to the overall purpose of Founders Day is mid at best. In fact, the only real thing that’s discovered is the sense of one’s time being wasted as the movie is outfitted with cheap production values and a failure to have its finger on the pulse of modern-day issues. You can “find” me heading for the exit.
FOUNDERS DAY opens in theaters Friday, January 19th