Tuesday 7 May 2024

Founders Day (USA 2023: Dir Erik Bloomquist)

Bloomquist's previous features have included some smart takes on the horror genre, including 2020's Ten Minutes to Midnight and the following year's Night at the Eagle Inn

Founders Day is a slasher fashioned in a decidedly post Scream way, fitting right in with the most recent instalments of that franchise.

Against a political backdrop in the small fictional town of Fairwood (in reality New Milford in upstate New York), two politicians are slugging it out in the lead up to Mayoral elections and a forthcoming tricentennial. Present incumbent Blair Gladwell (Amy Hargreaves) is facing opposition from the slick Harold Faulkner (Jayce Bartok) who is worried about the impact on his reputation from his out lesbian daughter Melissa (Olivia Nikkanen) and her girlfriend - who is also black - Allison (Naomi Grace). The Montague and Capulets situation is exacerbated by Melissa's brother Adam (Devin Druid) having dated Gladwell's daughter Lilly (Emilia McCarthy)

When Melissa is attacked by a killer with a mask, her body thrown over a bridge into the fast moving river, everyone assumes that she's dead; the town responds with horror and there's a request to postpone the tricentennial celebrations. But the (political) show must go on, and as the subplots pile up, and characters reveal their collective back stories, it looks like no-one in the town is safe.

The movie wears its cynical heart very much on its sleeve; despite the attempts of the politicians to engender respect, small town life seems to revolve around petty rivalries and people being mean to other people. No one is likeable here.

The killer - sporting a Founders wig and wielding a gavel that doubles as a knife - is a threatening presence, but the overall animosity on display means that his actions become just one more nasty thing in a community of horrible people; clearly the social media trend of forcing binary opposites  - pick a side! - seems to be a significant contributor. A lollipop sucking (please!) police chief, Commissioner Peterson (Catherine Curtin) proves fairly useless as the body count rises, but in the end that's irrelevant; the killer reveal comes too quickly in the movie, ruining the pacing and making the thing about half an hour too long. 

Where Founder's Day does have something to say is in the inanity of contemporary political discourse, although its script isn't smart enough to fully exploit this, and it doesn't have the resources to convince the audience of a town in crisis, what with sparsely populated crowd scenes and a shallow plot. Rather disappointing. 

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