Friday, May 05, 2023

Third Saturday in October Parts V & I

The annual Alabama-Mobile Seahawks game against Tennessee A&M Commonwealth is a lot like the Alabama-Auburn or Michigan-Ohio State rivalries, but the schools are fictional, so they can’t sue. Their annual game is always around Halloween. As a result, everyone around the ‘Bama-Tennessee border always drinks too much during the game, which makes it the perfect night for an inhuman serial killer to strike—and he keeps striking. Conceived as the fifth and first instalments of a lost 1980s-spanning slasher franchise, screenwriter-director Jay Burleson’s companion films Third Saturday in October Part V and Part I both release today on VOD.

For the viewing experience Burleson intends, start the fifth film, supposedly produced in the early 1990s and then go back to watch the original film, retro-crafted to look like 1979. His concept invites is to watch them out of sequence to approximate the video store experience, when horror fans had to rent whatever was in-stock.

Of course, it is not too difficult to pick up Jakkariah Harding’s backstory in a hurry. He is an unstoppable serial killer, who survived a ride in the electric chair and now terrorizes northern Alabama every Third Saturday in October. In
Part V, Maggie is a baby-sitting final girl, very much in the tradition of Laurie Strode, who is looking after PJ (the film’s Tommy Doyle substitute). However, she has the extraordinarily bad idea of taking the little girl to a party hosted by Peter, a womanizing Alabama-Mobile superfan, who gets tied to his bed as joke by the several women he is trying to seduce, at an incredibly inopportune time.

We can sort of appreciate Burleson’s gimmick, but if you only want to watch one of the films, it should be
Part I. It turns out the “original” is always better. The fake-1979 series launch is probably just as successful as an homage to post-Halloween slashers, but it is funnier as a send-up and the characters are far more compelling.

Ricky Dean Logan and Vicki Newton are two grieving family members of Harding’s victims, who witnessed his resurrection from the electric chair and followed him to Hackleburg. Whereas everyone in the first/fifth film is aggressively annoying (except little PJ), Logan and Newton are highly watchable. In fact, if Burleson ever fills in any of the “missing” sequels, they absolutely must feature Darius Willis and K.J. Baker, as Logan and Newton.

Harding is also scarier in
I, because he only adopts what apparently became his franchise-defining Halloween mask towards the end. There is something about the maskless Harding that makes his kills more personal and more visceral.

The truth is almost three hours of faux-retro VHS slasher horror is a lot. However, the consistency of Burleson’s style and the tacky period details are weirdly impressive. Again, if you only watch one, it should be #1, which even boasts a genuinely funny conclusion, very much in the slyly knowing vein of the
Scream films. Third Saturday in October Part 1 is definitely recommended for vintage slasher fans. Real hardcores might want to take Part V along for the ride as well, but that is at your own discretion, when the companion films release today (5/5) on VOD.