Toronto After Dark Is On Now: “Nursery rhymes…always the mark of a madman.” So says Commissioner Peterson (played by Catherine Curtin) as she inserts an aptly named sucker into her mouth. As a police chief of a small town she’s visiting a murder scene unaware that this has only begun.
Welcome Founders Day to Toronto After Dark:
The latest creation by the adroit Bloomquist Brothers (Erik and Carson) is Founders Day a cinematic political slasher that surprises its audience with horror-ingenuity.
Co-writers Carson Blomquist and Erik Blomquist (who also directs and co-stars in the film) invite you to the town of Fairwood celebrating its tricentennial and in the midst of a contentious mayoral election.
If Scream was all about “do you like scary movies?” then Founders Day is all about “do you like scary politicans?” The incumbent, Mayor Blair Gladwell (Amy Hargreaves), is campaigning on consistency, while her adversary, Harold Faulkner (Jayce Bartok), is advocating change.
Divided along campaign lines are their children: Faulkner’s put-upon lesbian daughter Melissa (Olivia Nikkanen) and his son Adam (Devin Druid) who used to date Gladwell’s daughter Lilly (Emilia McCarthy). Sadly the audience doesn’t get to vote for their favourite character for too long.
The killing begins when candidate Harold Faulkner in a heated exchange with his daughter Melissa prompts her to leave their home in a classic teenage huff. She’s on her way to a date with her girlfriend Allison (Naomi Grace). The political optics of their relationship irk Harold. Soon, Allison and Olivia venture to the lover’s bridge, where their romantic moment is abruptly interrupted by the sudden appearance of headlights and the reveal of Founders Day’s villain: The Founder!
The Founder wears a judge’s robe and his ugly mask is distorted with a tell-tale white wig (old school America) and brandishes a gavel that doubles as a knife from the handle. It’s a solid slasher outfit: the mask is evocative, and the weapon serves multiple purposes in different attacks as the bodies pile up. (Even though Melissa is the first to go…yes! Be patient: a pointy campaign sign is used as a murder weapon at one point.)
Just like in Jaws all the bodies means the current mayor, Blair Gladwell grapples with town tragedies and the upcoming tricentennial celebration of the town, known as Founder’s Day. All the killing and focusing on municipal politics dilutes the political value of Founders Day the movie. It could have been a sinister commentary on America echoing the Purge movies but it failed to commit to the criticism.
A slasher is lots of `80s fun, though some self-aware ‘90s Scream would naturally add spice to the classic recipe. (Founders Day is a slasher and a murder mystery set in a small town which aligns it with Scream. You can tell the Bloomquist Brothers have enjoyed slashers growing up. There is a visual tribute to that genre’s fantastic legacy.)
Beyond the insider references, Founders Day effectively introduced a new villain with a special twist. Expect gloriously bloody murders that saturate the screen in vivid crimson. (Red is after all one of the primary American political colours right? No Comment…)
Ultimately Founders Day is a patchwork of contrasts. The indie movie unfurls a tapestry where the cynical machinations of local politics weave a fresh narrative thread, and the enigmatic visage of the killer dons a visually striking mask that captures the imagination.
Yet, the brilliance of these elements is somewhat dimmed by the uneven performances and the occasional stumbles in the intricate machinery of the plot. Founders Day beckons with curiosity, a tantalizing enigma for the discerning viewer, but one can’t help but ponder the untapped potential that could have been unleashed with a touch of refinement.
Sammy Verdict: This’ll be a fun one to watch with the Toronto After Dark crowd. Go! #PantsWorthy
Sammy Younan is the affable host of My Summer Lair: think NPR’s Fresh Air meets Kevin Smith: interviews & impressions on Pop Culture.