That accident is the most upsetting thing about “Founders Day,” and it’s not for want of trying. The movie’s worst kill scenes try to rub viewers’ faces in the sort of de rigeur nastiness that’s come to define the recent post-Craven “Scream” sequels. I say “try” though because the filmmakers behind “Founders Day” don’t seem invested in vicarious sadism, not even when one victim is dragged across a movie theater aisle full of glass. Death has no sting here, making it hard to care about who’s right and who’s relatable in this wan body count flick.
The above-mentioned accident stands out because it’s exceptionally disturbing. It’s also disappointing in hindsight given how little the filmmakers make of it. By forcibly casting aside a prime suspect, director Erik Bloomquist and his co-writer/co-editor Carson Bloomquist ostensibly deepen Fairwood’s across-the-aisle grief. Kids are dying, no matter who their parents are voting for—that’s a promising development! (for a horror movie) Unfortunately, the Bloomquists (“She Came From the Woods”) don’t dig deep enough into the town’s open wounds. Adam’s as blinkered as Allison, who’s as upset as Adam’s dad, and also as angry as Lilly’s mom. A false unity of grief subsumes Fairwood’s barely distinguished stock personalities, which only makes sense given the movie’s strained anticlimax finale. Nobody wins or makes it out happy, not even the people who seem to get what they want. What a bummer.
More often than not, “Founders Day” seems like a missed opportunity for something darker or more provocative. So much time is wasted on setting up false expectations that it sometimes seems like the filmmakers’ greatest ambition was to point out that there’s corruption and opportunism on both sides. The Gladwells and the Faulkners are only believably alike in the sense that neither household is above politics, which are dirty because they reduce individual personalities to their prescribed roles. That takeaway might have been the stuff of rich irony in a slasher movie, especially now that the genre seems more kitschy than brutal. Nothing really matters by the end of “Founders Day,” not even the nihilistic sanctity of cheap thrills.