Erik Bloomquist’s “Founders Day” is a terrible new teen slasher movie, the kind of junk Eli Roth’s “Thanksgiving” successfully lampooned just weeks ago.
Feeling like a middling early-ought horror movie (like “Soul Survivors” or “Halloween Resurrection”) and featuring some of the worst dialog to be heard in a theatrical release, this stinker will be remembered at year’s end, if at all, as one of 2024’s lousiest films.
A series of murders shakes up close-knit town preparing for a local election. The presence of a serial killer elevates the desperation of the local politicians and the teens who just want to work at a local movie theater, graduate high school and make out atop their least favorite teacher’s desk (you know, like all teenagers).
Playing a high school English instructor (and, apparently, the only teacher in the entire school) is veteran character actor William Russ, who gives, by far, the best performance in this. The rest of the actors are unable to rise above the material, and no one is playing a character with any depth.
It’s not unusual for the audience to root for the killer in films like this. I just wanted the movie to get on with it – the big set pieces are separated by long bouts of melodrama, politicians discussing their campaigns, father/daughter chats, classroom scenes and characters behaving suspiciously to throw off the audience.
It feels like a Lifetime TV movie with violent murder scenes thrown in.
The production values are surprisingly strong, serving a screenplay that needed, for starters, a few more drafts before the start of filming. Many scenes just lay there, devoid of life, purpose or enthusiasm.
There’s no political angle explored here: A town politician has a campaign slogan of “consistency,” which amounts to nothing. The masked killer, sporting a Founding Father-style wig and a gavel as a weapon, is flavorless. Imagine “Urban Legend” minus the style, satire and energy and you have this movie.
David Arquette’s killer-in-a-President-Reagan-mask slasher, “The Tripper” (2006), already has this covered.
Admittedly, there’s a second-act murder that takes place in a movie theater that is nasty enough to merit a cocktail clap from Fangoria subscribers. Likewise, a scene where arguably the most irritating character is vividly sliced into ribbons deserves a mention.
Otherwise, this barely leaves an impression. Even “Sleepaway Camp” had more going for it.
Come to think of it, the movie this resembles the most is Wes Craven’s “My Soul to Take.” Again, I’m not being complimentary.
There’s a campiness here that is odd when it’s unintentional, and later it’s irritating when its clearly on purpose. Characters that are intended to provide comic relief are especially unlikable, while the big dramatic moments feel like send ups of Oscar clips. It would help if this was so-bad-it’s-good, but it’s not.
There are dozens of examples to cite in which characters utter sentences that don’t sound plausible, let alone human. If it turns out Tommy Wiseau was an uncredited script doctor, please remember I was the first to suggest this as a possibility.
Don't look under the bed in our exclusive clip from the upcoming political slasher, 'Founders Day'. https://t.co/swvaeqw3tN
— Dread Central (@DreadCentral) January 17, 2024
The ending is flush with twists, false conclusions and still more false reveals. I can admire an attempt to take the audience off guard and generate surprise, but this is one step too far.
If you think about what we’re finally told about who the killer is and how this individual accomplished what we see, it doesn’t make any sense. Neither do the wrap-up scenes, setting up a follow up that suggests an unearned optimism by the filmmakers.
“Founders Day” forces and wastes its holiday-themed horror angle. I love teen slasher movies, but this one reeks. Perhaps, instead of a sequel, the creators should just plan a remake?