Founders Day (2023) Review – Popcorn Frights
The Bloomquist brothers, director Erik and co-writer Carson are back with their second film this year, following up their summer camp horror She Came from the Woods with Founders Day. Billed as a political slasher has an interesting history to it. The original concept dates back to 2011, and a script that was considered for inclusion in Project Greenlight. They even made a conceptual trailer for it before the project collapsed. And what better time to revive it than now in a time of political division and violence?
In the town of Fairwood, two things are fast approaching, its 300th anniversary and the election of its next mayor. The race is a contentious one, the first image we see is of a campaign sign being destroyed. It’s not long after that we see two groups of supporters shouting at each other in the street.
But worse problems are about to arrive. As Melissa (Olivia Nikkanen, The Society, Girl Followed) tries to convince Allison (Naomi Grace, Gridiron Grind, Tangled Web of True Love Tales) to stay in town a little longer they notice someone watching them. Melissa confronts them only to be beaten and thrown from the bridge by a masked figure as Melissa helplessly watches.
The murder itself is bad enough, but making matters worse, Melissa’s father, Harold Faulkner (Jayce Bartok, Trapped Ashes, Cop Out), is one of the candidates for mayor. And his estranged son Adam (Devin Druid, 13 Reasons Why, CAM) is a close friend of Allison. And just to further complicate matters he has history with Lilly (Emilia McCarthy, Zombies, Hemlock Grove) the daughter of Mayor Gladwell (Amy Hargreaves, Hungry Dog Blues, The Warrant: Breaker’s Law).
Founders Day is the first feature we ever wanted to make. The one we’ve been chasing for over 12 years. After being conceived in the laundry room of a college dormitory, the first draft was written in the spring of 2011. Fast forward to summer 2013, and a Founders Day concept trailer was the first project produced under the Mainframe Pictures banner.Erik and Carson Bloomquist
There are also plenty of potential suspects with the reasons you’re more likely to see in a slasher like this, love, hate, jealousy, etc. By the hour mark, I had no idea who was behind the mask. That’s when, with forty-five minutes still to go, Founders Day throws the viewer one hell of a curve that really complicates matters. I won’t do more than state the obvious, the killings are not over.
If you’re wondering, Founders Day doesn’t take sides on the left-wing vs right-wing divide but, like Alice Cooper’s “Elected” takes aim at the system, political ambition, and the hunger for power. I just wish they’d used it instead of the songs they did include, but that was probably beyond their budget. Thankfully the budget does run to some nice practical effects from John Lauterbach (Red Eye, The Nest) including slashed throats an impalement, and even a flayed face. It’s not intensely gory, but it is far from bloodless.
Similarly, the characters aren’t incredibly deep or complex but they’re not one-dimensional either. And kudos go to Catherine Curtin (Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black) for a hysterical turn as Commissioner Peterson. Her deadpan delivery of “That’s a positive identification” as someone goes into hysterics at the site of their dead child is a highlight of the film.
Founders Day is a lot of fun and manages to make a point or two without getting overly preachy or serious apart from the obligatory part where the killer explains their motives. I’ve enjoyed the Bloomquists’ films that I’ve seen and this is no exception, it can stand next to Ten Minutes to Midnight as one of their best.
Founders Day made its world premiere at Popcorn Frights Film Festival on August 18th and will have its international premiere on August 28th at FrightFest. You can check the film’s Facebook page for other screenings and release news.