Founders Day Review: A Dull Political Slasher That Lacks Bite

Founders Day sets itself up as a mashup of slasher horror and political satire, taking place in the small town of Fairwood amid a heated mayoral election. As the incumbent Mayor Gladwell fights to fend off her challenger Harold Faulkner, a masked killer dressed as a founding father judge begins targeting the town’s teenagers. Complete with a powdered wig and wielding a bloody gavel as a weapon, the ominous Founders Day killer cuts an imposing figure stalking the streets. With the contentious election as the backdrop, the film attempts to blend classic slasher tropes with commentary on the divisive state of modern politics.

The central group of potential victims are the typical assortment of hormone-fueled teens you’d expect in a slasher – the insecure girl who dies first, the cypher-like best friend, the hot-headed jock type, the class overachiever, and the bickering former couples caught up in new relationships. While they hit all the familiar slasher character beats, the performances and dialogue struggle to make them particularly memorable.

As bodies start dropping, the mayoral candidates try their best to keep up the facade of civility and not appear too opportunistic in the face of tragedy. But it’s clear the filmmakers want to make a point about how politics and personal agendas can reduce complex individuals to mere stereotypes performing prescribed roles.

The kills themselves run the gamut from tame to viscerally unsettling, with a couple exceptionally disturbing moments. However, the overall lack of creativity or any real sense of danger undercuts the intended horror. The movie can’t quite decide if it wants to be an earnest scary movie, a tongue-in-cheek satire, or just an excuse for some creative gore set-pieces.

With both its political commentary and slasher elements lacking much depth or originality, Founders Day finds itself trapped in the middle – not quite provocative enough with its satire, but also failing to fully deliver the gory goods expected of the genre.

Should you watch Founders Day (2023)?

Founders Day

Unfortunately, Founders Day never quite finds its footing as either an effective horror slasher or a biting political satire. The script by writer/director Erik Bloomquist and his co-writer/editor sibling Carson Bloomquist sets up some potentially intriguing ideas, but fails to follow through in a meaningful way.

On the horror front, the Founders Day killer makes for an undeniably creepy visual with the wig and gavel weapon. A few of the death scenes also manage to be shockingly brutal in their execution. However, the movie lacks any real sense of sustained dread or creative kills that elevate it above standard slasher fare. The final girl Allison tries to buck conventions as a Black lesbian character, but she’s given so little to work with that she falls flat.

The political satire angle shows even more wasted potential. While the dueling Mayor Gladwell and Harold Faulkner campaign against each other with empty platitudes, the film’s insights never move beyond surface-level “both sides are corrupt” cynicism. Any deeper commentary gets lost amid the rote slasher plotting and lack of distinctly drawn characters representing the opposing viewpoints.

Founders Day can’t quite decide if it wants to be an over-the-top gore-fest, a sly satirical takedown, or just a straightforward retread of 80s slasher classics like Scream. By trying to straddle those different tones, it ends up feeling muddled and unsatisfying on all fronts. The Bloomquists show flashes of creativity, but this particular melding of horror and political themes needed much sharper execution to truly work.

Founders Day can’t quite decide if it wants to be an over-the-top gore-fest, a sly satirical takedown, or just a straightforward retread of 80s slasher classics like Scream. By trying to straddle those different tones, it ends up feeling muddled and unsatisfying on all fronts. The Bloomquists show flashes of creativity, but this particular melding of horror and political themes needed much sharper execution to truly work.

Founders Day represents a missed opportunity to breathe new life into the slasher genre or provide insightful commentary on our divided political times. While the Founders Day killer cuts an iconic figure, the rote plot points and thinly-sketched characters surrounding him fail to leave much of a lasting impression. The movie seems to want to point an accusing finger at the corruption and opportunism inherent in politics, but its insights don’t go much deeper than “they’re all bad” surface-level cynicism.

There are some gnarly kill sequences spattered throughout that will surely satisfy gore hounds. However, the lack of any real tension or creative death scenes prevents Founders Day from joining the ranks of more memorable and impactful slasher films. It’s a shame, as the premise held such juicy potential to satirize our increasingly polarized political discourse through an unsubtle horror lens. Alas, this particular melding of slasher tropes and topical messaging ends up feeling mostly muddled and toothless when it could have been deliciously deranged and provocative instead. A missed opportunity that sadly doesn’t cut very deep.

Check out the trailer below

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