[review by Joseph Henson]
|There's a killer on the loose with a political axe to grind in FOUNDERS DAY.
FOUNDERS DAY, the new political-themed slasher from writer/director Erik Bloomquist, hits the campaign trail running with an admittedly tense opening murder sequence where clever use is made of a padlock, a belt loop, a gavel, and a bridge. Unfortunately, like a lot of the politicians it seems to want to skewer, it makes big promises and delivers (next to) nothing.
In a small town, anywhere USA, a mayoral race is heating up between incumbent Blair Gladwell (Amy Hargreaves from BRAINSCAN (1994), and the film's lone standout character) and her opponent, Harold Faulkner (Jayce Bartok). Not above mugging for the public to secure votes, the two soon find themselves dealing with more than differing political ideologies as they become embroiled in a sinister murder mystery that hits close to home, the intended targets-to-be their very own offspring and others from the teenage population, led by Allison Chambers (a nondescript Naomi Grace), who is busy dealing with the aches and pains of wanting to leave town for a better life (or, perhaps, a better movie). Her fellow denizens, meanwhile, are watching the mayoral race with bated breath just as the Founders Day holiday quickly approaches. But when the bodies start piling up, a town meeting is held to discuss putting the kibosh on the upcoming festivities, to no success. The Founders Day holiday celebration goes on as originally planned, with half the town's constituents in an uproar and the two mayoral candidates at each other's throats to secure the election. The killer, dressed to the nines in dark political robes and wearing a blood-red founder's mask, strikes again, trusty gavel in hand, until it becomes clear to everyone that he/she is hellbent on electing a third-party candidate, by any means necessary.
|FOUNDERS DAY features both political backstabbing and the literal kind.
Again, FOUNDERS DAY starts things off with a bang. I sat up in my seat and took serious notice during those opening moments, perhaps like an idealistic voter hoping their political candidate of choice delivers big on his/her word. What follows is quite indescribable; one of the most desperately awful slashers I've seen in quite some time, with character motivations and plot beats so muddled, you'd sooner find logic in electing a fish to run your city. First and foremost, a good slasher lives or dies by its characters, and the individuals here are so flat and uninteresting that when one or more dies, you barely notice. There's also not a lot of variety in the murder set pieces (gavel beatings reign supreme), and while it does get decidedly bloody in spots (I admit to wincing during the rapid-fire carving of one victim's face), the kill sequences are much too one-note to elicit any real fear. If you're looking for anything suspenseful, like a good chase scene or a boxed-in suspense sequence, look elsewhere. Perhaps the one surprising thing here is how exactly this made it to theaters. It's cheap-looking and produced with all of the oomph of a Kickstarter project (and I should know; I made an even shittier one). Think of a Lifetime Movie of the Week day player cutting a soggy fart into a podium microphone before a crowd of hisses and jeers, and there's the film's momentum. Characters who should matter to the story arc often disappear for long stretches of the runtime (this clocks in at nearly two hours, by the way) - including the supposed final girl (like, what?) - while minor characters simply waltz in and out of the story looking and sounding as miserable as possible (would it have killed someone to crack a single smile?). There is no sense of danger to be had because we don't get enough time with anyone to understand whatever plight they may have before they're bumped off. And I am not one to call out a slasher film for its acting (circumstances depending), but let's just be generous and say no one here is likely to move on to bigger and better things based on these performances. Trusty character actors like Amy Hargreaves and William Russ try to enliven things in smaller roles; Hargreaves in particular has her moments as a two-faced mayoral candidate (she goes full camp during a drunken campaign speech that kind of made me smile), but they ultimately look like they too see the writing on the wall and simply hope the checks clear.
|Teenagers pay for the sins of the Fathers.
Now, it's not all bad, or rather I should say: it's not all bad *because* of how bad it is. You're likely to laugh at a howling decibel, much like me, at some late-in-the game plot turns, where it's revealed who is behind the mask and what drove them to carve up this small town. If you're one of those individuals who wants a film to show and not tell, you'll get your wish with a couple of delightfully-goofy and SCOOBY DOO-esque flashback sequences that detail just how the killer instigated his or her ruse, but whether or not you buy it depends on how much laughter needs stifling. Sadly, I don't think we were meant to laugh. I also must admit to chuckling at the spate of "uh oh, he/she's the killer, wait, no he/she's not" moments, where characters behave in such a way as to throw you off the scent of the real culprit, who meanwhile is standing around doing their best Roy Burns, neon sign impression (hint: look for the one character who has no business being here). The political slant, meanwhile, feels phoned in. The killer muses at one point during the anti-climax that a town will eat itself alive when it comes to following false campaign promises, and that no one truly cares enough to make any significant changes to the system. All well and good, but where is the bite? The open-ended narrative closing gag tries to inject a little bit of clever cynicism into the mix, but by that point, it starts to feel like no one is ever going to stop tallying the votes and you're left in deadlock purgatory. It's all just so one-note and dour, and you could honestly remove all of the half-baked political undertones and nothing really changes.
Ultimately, FOUNDERS DAY just doesn't work as a slasher, it doesn't work as a political satire, and it doesn't work to do any of its characters any favors. You may get a few guffaws out of this, and I will contend that opening scene is fantastic (but belongs in a much better movie). But, when the final girl is missing from half of the movie and you don't even notice, you know you're in deep trouble. Like a lot of sniveling politicians who consistently go back on their word, may FOUNDERS DAY, too, rest comfortably atop the ash heap of history.
BODYCOUNT To Be Continued...
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