The Bloomquist Brothers – Erik and Carson – (She Came From The Woods) are back with another horror this summer as their political slasher Founders Day heads to London for its international premier at the UK’s top horror festival, FrightFest.
The movie sees a small town shaken by a series of ominous killings in the days leading up to a heated mayoral election. As accusations fly and the threat of a masked killer darkens every street corner, the residents must race to uncover the truth before fear consumes the town.
We spoke to Erik Bloomquist about his love of slasher movies, taking on multiple filmmaking responsibilities and how the killer’s wig was the biggest diva on set…
Founders Day has taken around 10 years for you to make, is the version we see today the version you and your brother originally created?
It very much still is a love letter to formative slashers in autumn in New England but over the years, it’s evolved as our sensibilities sharpened and then a relatively recent infusion of this election that’s happening in the town.
There was a mayor, there was this crisis about what the town was going to do in terms of going forward with this festival after the first body turns up, but in terms of it being a hot-button election issue, that happened in the last year or two. We thought of that probably two years ago and everything just popped into place when that happened in terms of putting the commentary we want to make and raising the stakes and making characters more defined.
So it still very much has the same heartbeat that it’s always had. It’s now a fully formed version as it evolved, as we have evolved. I think the path for all the other movies that we’ve made has led us full circle here.
What were your slasher influences?
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention [Scream]. I mean, they’re huge for me. We watched it a little too young and we got it from the library on a winter afternoon.
We’re definitely different in the sense that we’re not referencing movies. I love how they do it. It’s perfect but Roger Jackson isn’t on the other end of the phone in our movie. I think what we really glean is this sense of mischief and play and curiosity and intrigue and puzzle, and having a degree of fun in the whole thing too.
We definitely want to scare people, but we also want it to be a bit of an adventure, like everything we make. We want it to be something that people watch maybe when they’re a little too young for it, but in a good way…
What do you think it is about Scream and those classic slashers that have resonated with people to create their own?
I think people, certainly me and Carson, love speculating and seeing all the different paths people are going to go down. We loved Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid and I think it’s similar to that, where it could be anything and then seeing what it is and people having multiple identities, like metaphorical masks and when those metaphorical masks are off, it just feels like play in a really fun way.
Horror in general is just a really great way to have a community experience and an individual experience at the same time. That’s why I’m really drawn to the genre in general. But this one’s been a long time coming, so we are very excited to see it with a crowd.
Founders Day has a very unique mask – how did the idea for that come about?
It was really important to us. The idea originally was that it’s like a comedy/tragedy mask fused together so that on one side there’s a frown and then if you turn, he’s smiling. We wanted to make the look that was very, as Carson says “distinct but not gimmicky”. Which is very hard to do.
We thought about it a lot. We liked the idea of simple, tactical, and something that applied to judges’ robes and the mask had to feel worn but not necessarily old.
We worked with Tony Gardner’s company which was amazing and we decided to go red instead of white with the mask. Going red just felt really right to us both in terms of being distinct and in terms of camouflage and in terms of being a devil judge. There was just something about it. We wanted it to be simple but distinct and I’m very happy with how it came out.
There’s also a fun weapon – that was something that developed as we did the movie. So all these little touches will hopefully work together to create something that is very distinct for people and has a character of its own.
The slasher’s costume also comes with a wig… is this the first killer with their own wig?!
It might be! Yeah, because it’s usually the hood right? That wig was fun to shoot with and there are outtakes where we’re in the middle of a kill and the wig just falls off and then the person behind the mask would look at the camera and just shrug. So there was a lot of tape and adjusting. Probably in real life it would fall off a lot if someone was actually killing in that wig, but movie magic is good.
So the wigs were the biggest divas on set…?
Exactly. We had three of them. They’re in my closet right now. We have three masks and three wigs. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do some publicity stunts with them at some point but there won’t be quite as much violence so hopefully, that won’t be as much of an issue!
What’s the writing process like with you and your brother Carson?
It changes as we go. We write relatively chronologically, but sometimes we’ll work on a linchpin scene first and work backwards from there. Sometimes we’ll be in the same room and just pass a laptop back and forth. We refine all this work and at some point, we’ll have a draft and we’ll just go through it together and redline it and change it.
Then working very closely with the actors – I have a real acting background, I still act. I act in this movie and it informs the way I direct and change the script as we go, just to fit the voices of the characters. There are things that I think are really important that we try to keep in there – structurally and character-wise – but it’s really cool when we can have that marriage between voice and actor.
You directed, co-wrote, produced, edited and starred in Founders Day. What’s your favourite role in the filmmaking process?
For me, the most foundational part of it all is acting. I’ve been acting since I was little and that evolved into me directing and knowing how to work with actors and then writing my own stuff and then producing and learning how to do that out of necessity.
I really enjoy wearing multiple hats. I know it might be perceived as fatiguing to an extent but for me, in a lot of ways, it’s energising. Because if I’m in the middle of problem-solving a scene and can just jump in and act for a second, I get to act on instinct and then I get to look at the monitor and make sure the shot looks right.
It’s a really fun way to make sure that I’m staying fresh. I find that when I’m acting within a scene that I’m also directing and I can set a tempo or tone from within the scene. Then Carson’s behind the monitor just making sure I’m not making weird faces!
Was it always planned for you to star in Founders Day? Was the character written for you?
He was a relatively new character actually, as it became an election movie we just figured that [mayor] Blair Gladwell needed a right-hand man. It made sense for me because we have these two ensembles – we have the high school ensemble and we have the adult ensemble. And deputy Miller played by Adam Weppler and I kind of bridge those two and live in both of those generations just to unite the town.
It was important to us to establish that everybody in this town kind of knows of each other. Has an opinion about each other. I think that the fact that we are both adults in the town but also still kind of the younger generation is a way to just establish scope and intimacy at the same time. I just thought that’d be really fun to do.
How would you describe the movie’s main protagonist, Allison?
I think that she is somebody who in some ways feels bigger than this town but is also tied to this town and is a very loyal person. And I think that that makes for a really interesting person to follow – there is a loyalty to this place, to her dad, to her girlfriend, to her teacher, to her school, and that really makes her believably want to figure out what’s actually happening, even though she’s on the route out of there.
What was it like having Naomi Grace, who plays her, on board?
Naomi is wonderful. She brought a real goodness and enthusiasm in front and behind the camera. She made it happen in a really engaging way and she was just so lovely to work with. I know she’s so excited – she is going to be in London and I am very excited to have her see it!
The movie has lots of great kills! Do you have a favourite?
They were so fun to do, and I wish we had even more time to do them. But I’m really happy that we were able to do as many pieces as we did.
There is one in particular that is pretty theatrical, almost choreographed to music and that one I’m particularly excited to see. There are kills in the movie that I didn’t think would necessarily jump out as the first piece of the conversation and I love that everyone’s going to have their own.
Some are fun and some are particularly brutal. But I like that they’re all character driven to an extent. That they feel distinct not just because of how they happen but because of who they’re happening to and when they’re happening and I can speak more about that if you catch me after FrightFest!
I’m just very excited to see those and I’m glad we got the amount of blood that we were able to get. I mean it’s not it’s Terrifier, but there’s blood!
What do you want audiences to take away from the movie?
I’m excited for people to have the conversation about ‘who did you think it was? And when did that change and why?’ I’m excited for me to hear that, just to overhear those side conversations.
Ultimately [I want] for people to be energised and to continue to think about things. We don’t want to be preachy, but we do want to be outspoken. I think the ultimate feeling we want people to take away is that it was fun and thoughtful and ultimately has a little bit of bite beyond when the final credits are over…