FOUNDERS DAY Review: Throwback Slasher With a Political Bent

Lead Critic; San Francisco, California
FOUNDERS DAY Review: Throwback Slasher With a Political Bent

Moments into Founders Day, the latest film by co-writer/director Erik Bloomquist (She Came From the Woods, Weekenders, Long Lost), two small-town teens, Allison Chambers (Naomi Grace) and Melissa Faulkner (Olivia Nikkanen), discuss the seemingly inevitable end of their high-school romance as they take a stroll on a desolate, nighttime bridge.

Little do Allison and Melissa know, though, but they’re not in an indie teen drama or straight-to-streaming comedy. They’re right smack in the middle of a calendar-themed slasher and said slashing, dicing, and mallet-wielding masked killer shows up out of nowhere, leading, in turn, to the obligatory desperate fight for survival for Allison and Melissa against the killer.

Not surprisingly, their encounter with a masked killer doesn’t go well. Allison somehow manages to survive, mostly by running extremely fast in a straight line. Before the credits even roll, Allison becomes both the First Girl and Final Girl typical of the genre.

She also literally runs headlong into a vaguely defined demo/protest between supporters of the town’s current mayor, Blair Gladwell (Amy Hargreaves), and her chief rival, Harold Faulkner (Jayce Bartok). In an underwritten, clumsy attempt to mirror the divineness of our current political climate, Gladwell represents a tired, circling-the-drain old guard (“consistency” reads one of her placards. Simultaneously, the clean-cut Faulkner, a used-car-salesman-turned-political-candidate, runs on a nebulous promise of “change.”

Gladwell and Faulkner don’t represent two sides of the political spectrum (their actual politics remain frustratingly vague, presumably to avoid alienating audiences or a subset thereof) as much as two sides of the same political system, promising change with newer, fresher candidates, while always delivering the same level of me-first, self-aggrandizing, ultimately corrupt politics. Applied to Bloomquist and his co-writer and brother Carson and their view of the world outside the screen, it’s also a deeply corrosive, cynical view of politics and the political system.

It’s also borderline unrealistic (minus the borderline) why these politicians running on practically nothing would not only split the town roughly in half but also engender so much enmity between their supporters that they would spend their late-night hours screaming at each other across what passes as a main street. Possibly a coincidence, possibly not, the town’s main theater has become a focal point for demonstrations and protests. Not having something with a political theme or subtext (real or imaginary) playing at the theater is an opportunity lost, like so much else in Founders Day.

Of course, like any filmmaking duo, the Bloomquist brothers are entitled to bring their ideas, however shallow and self-defeating, to whatever project they write and direct. Founders Day, however, was meant — at least via the marketing materials (e.g., poster, trailer, and so forth) — as a slasher first and foremost. On that level, Founders Day delivers a handful of bloody, gory kills, though only one or two counts as passably entertaining, let alone memorable. Several pull away too soon or end the stalker vs. prey chase too soon, likely the result of a limited budget and a shortened shooting schedule.

Kill quality aside, that leaves Founders Day and its over-familiar slasher story. Borrowing bits and bobs from any number of slasher entries, including Scream and its sequels (minus the meta-fictional qualities), Founders Day oddly keeps Allison off-screen for long periods.

Worse, it makes her an incredibly passive character, understandably withdrawn at first given her trauma, pulled into a guilt-streaked relationship with Melissa’s younger brother, Adam (Devin Druid) later when she decides to re-engage with the people around her, and eventually stirred into delayed action by the killer (or killers) targeting others close to her. It’s only in the closing moments that Allison, like the myriad Final Girls before her, starts to act and react like one.

Almost every other character in Founders Day, including Allison’s father, Thomas (Andrew Stewart-Jones), a classmate and not coincidentally, the mayor’s daughter, Lilly (Emilia McCarthy), and Allison’s ubiquitous high-school history instructor/council member, Mr. Jackson (William Russ), exists as either a potential victim or a potential suspect. Lightly, sometimes broadly drawn, they leave little impact or trace when they inevitably exit stage left or right.

Add — or rather subtract — uneven performances from a cast rushing through barely functional dialogue and Founders Day eventually feels like what it ultimately is, a promising slasher that, like too many of its long-forgotten predecessors, fails to live up to that promise.

Founders Day opens nationwide Friday, January 19, only in movie theaters. To find locations, visit

Founders Day

  • Erik Bloomquist
  • Erik Bloomquist
  • Carson Bloomquist
  • Naomi Grace
  • Devin Druid
  • William Russ
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Carson BloomquistDevin DruidErik BloomquistFounders DayNaomi GraceOlivia NikkanenWilliam RussHorrorMysteryThriller

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