Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Any upcoming slasher movie is always cause for excitement, let alone one led by filmmaking brothers the Bloomquists (Night at the Eagle Inn). I was excited to see what they would bring to the table with politically-charged Founder’s Day. The concept and aesthetic should be an instant home run—who doesn’t want to see a maniac in a powdered wig slashing people up with a makeshift knife-gavel? It is almost as if the idea was hatched without fully incubating.

Swept up in a challenging battle for the next mayor, the entire town seems on edge. Protestors rage on either side of the divide, stationing outside the local movie theatre. Lesbian couple Allison (Naomi Grace) and Melissa (Olivia Nikkanen) have an uncertain future together, considering Allison’s inevitable move to Raleigh before senior year. In the best sequence, Allison is padlocked to a bridge by her belt loop, helpless to save Melissa as a savage attack plays out. Melissa ends up thrown off the side of the bridge, and Allison runs for help. Surrounded by a comically tiny amount of protestors, Allison lets out a ferocious scream. The title card comes rushing at us, in 80s flair: FOUNDER’S DAY.

An intriguing start certainly, but the movie loses steam rather quickly afterward. Founder’s Day has arrived—with it comes the big town tricentennial. This gives the small-town locale some flavor, and an actual reason to fill it with bozos. A cast of unlikable characters—outside of the lead Allison and her close friend, Adam (Devin Druid)—really tests one’s patience. The bullies are obnoxious. Even during detention, they are content to have sex on the teacher’s desk. Founder’s Day does have a decent roster and body count; if the majority of scenes weren’t just folks arguing, it may actually be easier to recommend.

Brutality in the kills aside, the gavel only stays exciting for so long before it begins to grow stale. The murderous judge figure lacks a solid stage presence, even though the mask is rad. If the final act didn’t try so hard to throw every random twist at the viewer to see what would stick, I would almost admire it for the sheer audacity. The whodunnit element falls flat, mainly because those behind the mask leave something to be desired. As it stands, Founder’s Day is far from the worst slasher ever. Yet, with so many greater slasher films in the last few years, why bother with one that fails to fully push the envelope?

Founder’s Day screened at 2022’s Popcorn Frights Film Festival.

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