Review by Cole Groth
To put it simply, Founders Day is fine. People with a proclivity for campy kills and stupid dialogue, this film is for you. For those uninterested in slashers or who aren’t already fans of this genre shouldn’t use this as the slasher benchmark because it’s a tonally confusing mess for the most part. With a few decent scares, this is only a bit worse than your average slasher flick.
Founders Day tells the story of a small town shaken up after a masked killer begins hunting down the various townspeople in the days leading up to an unusually intense mayoral election. Twists and turns ensue. There are plenty of characters to follow, but the leads here are two teenagers, played by Naomi Grace and Devin Druid. Rounding out the cast is a smattering of decent actors waiting to be slaughtered, including William Russ, Amy Hargreaves, Catherine Curtin, Emilia McCarthy, Jayce Bartok, and Andrew Stewart-Jones. Each character is pretty interesting, and most are nicely acted.
The biggest place this film struggles is in its politics. It’s nice that the movie is trying something new with a political twist, but it falls flat because of its lack of nuance. There’s a generic asshole politician who’s a clear stand-in for Donald Trump. He’s brash and obnoxious — a clear villain from the start. It’s all so eye-rollingly evident from the get-go and has nothing new to say. Even if it’s pretty cringeworthy, another big fault is that it doesn’t go far enough with the politics. It’s just cringy enough to be noticeable but not ballsy enough to go all out.
As far as the kills go, this is decent. There are a few creatively inspired deaths and a few standard ones. It’s a good mix; this is where slasher fans will enjoy the film. The kills are just silly enough to be fun but also scary enough to be taken seriously. That said, the special effects on so many of the kills fall flat. Digital blood is used in a few kills and looks absolutely ridiculous. Some of the practical stuff is weird, too. There’s one throat-slitting kill where the knife slides at an odd angle. It takes you out of the immersion, and that’s important for horror films.
Like the kills, the technical stuff is a mixed bag as well. The cinematography is pretty good, but the lighting is all off. Sometimes, it’s a visually interesting film. Other times, it’s plain and uninspired. The score is generic as far as slashers go. Don’t go into this expecting a great-looking movie. The editing is a little manic, too. Sometimes, it’s hard to follow. The big killer reveal at the end is convoluted but also plenty of fun.
By the end of it all, Founders Day amounts to a campy yet mostly enjoyable time. If I had to describe it briefly, it would be “Scream if it was political and much worse.” The kills are alright, the characters aren’t very good, and the writing sucks. It’s a little forgettable but ultimately a little better than its worst moments. Again, if you enjoy this genre a lot, you might have a good time. If you don’t like them, you definitely won’t like this, either.
Founders Day releases in theaters starting January 19.