Movie Review ~ Founders Day

The Facts:

Synopsis: A murder mystery surfaces in the midst of a heated mayoral election in a quaint New England town.
Stars: Naomi Grace, Olivia Nikkanen, Devin Druid, Emilia McCarthy, Amy Hargreaves, Catherine Curtin, William Russ, Erik Bloomquist, Tyler James White, Adam Weppler, Kate Edmonds, Jayce Bartok
Director: Erik Bloomquist
Rated: R
Running Length: 106 minutes
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review: Though they’ve been a bit uneven, the greatest gift the reboot of the Scream series has given us is the return of the whodunit slasher film. While they’ve never truly gone away, changing tastes, audience fatigue, and declining budgets have relegated the once thriving guilty pleasure genre to the periphery, with only a choice few breaking through in the past decade. That’s a far cry from the stretch in the early 2000s when you could expect at least one a month in theaters and double that coming direct to video.

A movie like Founders Day would likely have been a title that dropped into your mom-and-pop video shop with little fanfare but quickly became a hot commodity. When I worked at a video store, under-the-radar fun like this developed good word of mouth, often turning into a one-copy option we couldn’t keep on the shelf. While it won’t win any awards for pace, performance, or polish, there’s always something interesting around the corner in Founders Day.

It’s getting to the end of a contentious mayoral election in the sleepy town of Fairwood, and both candidates are neck and neck in the polls. On one side, current Mayor Blair Gladwell (Amy Hargreaves) is focused on winning at all costs while preparing for the annual Founders Day festivities. Conversely, challenger Harold Faulkner (Jayce Bartok) intends to present the picture-perfect family, even though his home life is anything but. When Faulkner’s daughter (Olivia Nikkanen) becomes the first victim of an efficient masked killer, everyone becomes a suspect as each murder uncovers new secrets in the once idyllic town. 

Written by brothers Erik (who also directs and has a small role as Gladwell’s aide) and Carson Bloomquist, it’s clear the siblings spent a lot of time growing up in the horror aisle of their video store. No trope is left un-trooped, and no cliché is left unclinched. It is almost a miracle how it manages to steer clear of being a spoof or overly self-aware. Yet, it takes itself seriously (maybe too seriously), making it consistently enjoyable if a bit labored in its execution. It’s hard to predict who will make it to the end credits and even more challenging to decide on exactly who might be behind it all – just when you’ve selected your suspect, they are brutally offed.

The film could lose about 15 minutes (along with several characters and their murders) and remain a fresh addition to the horror genre…but that’s just me wanting my slasher cake and eating it, too. There’s an enormous cast to contend with, so there is naturally some major slicing and dicing to be done, this gives us an opportunity to see some good character actors like Catherine Curtin (Werewolves Within), William Russ, and Devin Druid (The Pale Door) run for their lives. I can’t forget Naomi Grace, who makes for a dependable lead. Even as it begins to strain at the bonds of its runtime, the brothers Bloomquist have delivered a slasher throwback with Founders Day that will keep you guessing. 

Founders Day had its world premiere at Popcorn Frights Film Festival on August 18 and its international premiere at FrightFest on August 28. Look for its wide release soon!