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Founders Day (Film Review)

3 min read

There is no denying it—slasher films are on a roll. With legacy sequels ruling the box office and fresh fare making a splash, it feels as if we are in the second golden age of the slashers after the industry boom following on from John Carpenter’s legendary Halloween. Popular culture is once again all in on the genre, which means that we find ourselves getting a new slasher film on a regular basis. Some of these are fantastic and elevate the concept of the slasher to new heights, but others are simply riding the coattails of the market trend. Unfortunately, Founders Day finds itself as being part of the latter.

There’s a lot of missed potential here, as Founders Day desperately wants to make a splash with its political setting but plays everything way too safe to make a statement. Instead, it struggles to really cement itself as it’s own thing and comes across as more of a copycat of other iconic slashers than anything else. The story is set in a small town that is shaken by a series of ominous killings in the days leading up to a heated mayoral election. Blair Gladwell (Amy Hargreaves) is fighting to remain as mayor against rival Harold Faulkner (Jayce Bartok) but their bitter rivalry has divided the town and its people.

The film begins with Allison (Naomi Grace) and Melissa (Olivia Nikkanen) as they are out walking one night and are terrorised by a masked killer wearing a barrister’s wig—very topical considering the town’s very fragile political climate—where Melissa falls victim as the first in a killing spree that infects the town. What ensues is a satirical political slasher where there is a lot of crazy, over the top gore, teens being stalked and killed, and a fair amount of cheesy dialogue.

This is a film that has serious identity issues. At points, it is your usual teen slasher with the tropes well recognised within the genre. We have the final girl, the masked killer, a whodunnit storyline, and some great gory kills. In other parts, Founders Day is trying to be a political satire, but it has very little of substance to say. Any political views that this film tries to tackle are weakly executed and very underdeveloped, to the point that these sections of the film really hinder the narrative pacing. It all just feels like a gimmick inserted to try and make this film standout from the slasher crowd, but in reality, it just bogs it all down.

Founders Day suffers from having no clear protagonist. The film introduces such a plethora of characters in the opening thirty minutes that it is difficult to feel attached to any one of them—least of all remember any of their names. We have a trace of a final girl, but we never spend enough time with the character to build a significant connection to her. She remains very one-dimensional throughout and fails to stand out from the overcrowded cast. There are some good and quirky performances here – particularly from Hargreaves and Bartok. These two chew the scenery and then some and easily have the best scenes in the film, bringing some much-needed comic relief and fun to the narrative. Everyone else is forgettable unfortunately, and the narrative chops and changes between plot lines that it all turns into one big anti-climactic mess.

The main thing that this film gets right is that the mystery of the killers identity is actually very hard to predict. There’s a lot of red herrings sprinkled throughout and when the killer is eventually revealed, it is genuinely surprising.

Founders Day is now available on digital platforms