FrightFest review – Founders Day

FrightFest review – Founders Day

In the 1970s, American horror films were deeply informed by the tempestuous politics of the era.  This has remained to be the case, on and off ever since, though the extreme polarisation of recent years (let’s face it, in the big shadow of Donald Trump) is proving tricky to address – it’s too huge, blatant and (frankly) cartoonish to be relegated to subtext, yet the likes of the Purge series, American Horror Story and The Hunt have risked being shown up by headlines scarcely more unbelievable than the nightmare takes of horror.  British horror has the same issue with Brexit.

Director Erik Bloomquist, who scripts with his producer brother Carson and takes a small key role, made the impressive, issues-tinged She Came From the Woods and follows up with this more explicit contribution to the debate with a Scream-type slasher mystery set during a hotly-contested small town Mayoral election.  Mayor Blair Gladwell (Amy Hargreaves) is for continuity and challenger Harold Faulkner (Jayce Bartok) is for change, but we suspect they’re both hollow people – and neither are identified with any political party or issue, which may well be deliberate but both-sidesism doesn’t really work in an environment when the foibles of one side are vastly outweighed by the criminal lunacy of the other.  Faulkner’s rebellious gay daughter Melissa (Olivia Nikkanen) is attacked and thrown off a bridge by a slasher fiend wearing a scraggy judge’s wig and robes, a disfigured grinning mask and wielding a spiked gavel.

Later, as Melissa’s brother Adam (Devin Drudd) comforts her girlfriend Allison (Naomi Grace), the stalker murders Gladwell’s daughter Lilly (Emilia McCarthy), suggesting a bipartisan campaign … and casting suspicion on a whole range of local folk, especially the ones who seem most reasonable, including the police commissioner (Catherine Curtin), the deputy (Adam Weppler), the majority leader (Erik B), a history teacher (William Russ) and town troublemaker Rob (Tyler James White).  Other victims, including some non-aligned just-plain-annoying juvenile delinquents, are added to the tally, and the sleuthing is interrupted by musing on the responsibilities and rights of local government, and even the efficacy of democracy.  Which is heavy stuff, but we get a lot of smart talk, amusing character byplay, nicely set-up scares and ingenious twists – several deaths come too early or late to quite fit in the pattern, and foreshadow a Scream-type intricate explanation.

Here’s the FrightFest listing.





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