Just as Halloween or Elm Street had done before it, Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s teen-romp-cum-violent-slasher Scream totally changed the horror landscape at the back-end of the ’90s. With its overwhelming success, came a series of clones – almost identical adolescent whodunnits – covering everything from urban legends, to a Valentine’s Day killer with a bow and arrow. Fallible killers that were usually just townspeople in masks.
So it seems only apt that some twenty-something years on, with the return and resurgence of the now Scream franchise, a whole new generation of sleepy town slashers is on the rise. And if Erik Bloomquist’s Founders Day is the first of the pack, and a sign of what’s to come, we’re certainly in for some fun from this new class of hugely derivative, but exceptionally entertaining and yes, happily bloody, new killers.
In fact, Bloomsquist and his brother Carson’s script has it all; a quaint suburban white-picket-fence of a town, a vaguely recognisable cast of exciting young actors, and a bold, defiantly themed new killer – sporting a gruesome rubber mask, a powdered wig, and of all things, a murderous gabble for a weapon.
It is incredibly familiar, and the Bloomsquists’ attempts at theme and subtext are hilariously unsubtle to the point of almost parody (it’s about America’s political polarisation, if it wasn’t obvious from the title, the killer, or the main plot revolving around a heated local mayoral election). But none of these things hold Founders Day back from being a total riot of a watch for genre fans.
For one thing, considering the budget level, it’s an admirably smart-looking film, packed tightly with superbly shot slayings and the occasional well-paced chase. The Founder is a perfectly characterised killer, again – not a million-miles from Ghostface, but with a look striking enough to stand on his own two feet. And the overall mystery isn’t exactly Agatha Christie (or even really Billy and Stu) but just about twisty enough to keep us on our toes. Even if by the end, the cast list has been whittled down so much, that there’s not really many other options to choose from, beside the obvious.
Sure, it’s occasionally silly, and even schmaltzy in places, but above all, this is a fun-time for those looking for a horror that delivers on the promises of its predecessors.
It’s hard and unfair to pick too many holes in a film that clearly loves the genre it’s imitating, after all. Especially given smart, studio-backed slashers don’t really exist in the same breath that they did post-original Scream. So if cheap indies like Founders Day are the way the spirit of the sub-genre lives on, then so be it. Especially when they’re as consistently fun and crowd pleasing as this one.
Founders Day was screened as part of FrightFest 2023.