‘Founders Day’ is a Brutal, Twist-Filled Ride [Popcorn Frights 2023 Review]
I have been a fan of the Bloomquist brothers since I first saw She Came from the Woods. The filmmaking duo demonstrated a keen understanding of the rules of the slasher genre in their previous outing and used that knowledge to subvert audience expectations at every turn. I am pleased to say that was no fluke. The Bloomquist siblings have, once again, delivered a slasher film that shows love for the genre whilst taking a fresh and unexpected approach that kept me guessing.
Founders Day unfolds during an emotionally charged mayoral election in the small New England town of Fairwood. The sleepy hamlet goes from idyllic to perilous when residents suddenly begin to turn up dead. A killer in a mask and powdered wig is running amok and slaughtering townsfolk in gruesome and depraved ways. A sense of paranoia quickly spreads through the area and leaves locals unsure of who can be trusted.
Like She Came from the Woods did before it, Founders Day frequently upends expectations. Characters that seem like they’ll be around for the duration turn up dead at the most unexpected times and characters you expect to succumb to the killer early on do not. It’s clear that the Brothers Bloomquist have a knack for subverting that which viewers are likely to anticipate. And I am here for it.
Since the film features several characters that are quite likable, that unpredictable approach adds an extra layer of unease. Nearly any character may be killed off at any time. No one is truly safe (except the killer). So, that keeps the audience on edge. Inversely, there are characters that I didn’t expect to stick around long that actually persevered. As much as that uncertainty rattled me, I love to be surprised. I love it when filmmakers don’t play it safe. And I love watching a film and getting the impression that the screenwriters asked themselves what would normally happen in any given scenario and then go in the exact opposite direction.
The unpredictable nature of the proceedings inspires a sense of paranoia where we’re not sure who can be trusted. That uncertainty is further complicated by a turn of events that unfolds right before the beginning of the third act. That scene daringly disrupts expectations by revealing information often reserved for the denouement; leaving the viewer completely gobsmacked and unsure of what’s next.
In addition to being unpredictable, Founders Day is also really funny. Though I wouldn’t necessarily call the film a horror comedy, it absolutely has a wicked sense of humor. Similar in tone to Scream, the comedy here is more subtle and never supersedes the scares. And there are some ridiculous characters that pop up to occasionally lighten the otherwise somber tone. Pranksters Tyler (Dylan Slade) and Brit (Kate Edmonds) steal several scenes. In one such sequence, they stage an attack at school and after the jig is up, they roll around on the floor and make out. It recalls memories of the SNL sketch, ‘The Boston Teens’, where Sully (Jimmy Fallon) and Denise (Rachel Dracht) can’t keep their hands off of each other. The scenes that feature Brit and Tyler possess a similar energy that kept me laughing.
On the whole, I am a big fan of Founders Day. I only have a couple of minor critiques; the first being that there are some minor technical issues, like a lack of adequate set lighting in some of the darker scenes and audio that can be either too quiet or too loud. The other is that some secondary characters don’t quite nail the performance aspect. But those qualms are minor and don’t detract much from the overall experience.
Minor misgivings aside, I wholeheartedly recommend that you check Founders Day out when you get the chance. It is suspenseful, unpredictable, and opts to write its own playbook rather than follow the template set by the early slasher efforts.
The film is slated to make its world premiere at Popcorn Frights on August 18. From there, Founders Day will go on to screen at FrightFest, beginning August 28.
Fresh and unexpected, with likable characters, ‘Founders Day’ is sure to delight slasher enthusiasts.