Nostalgia for 80s slashers isn’t new. When Scream hit theaters in 1996, it re-ignited a brief slasher-lite phase. Plenty of other horror movies have tried to specifically replicate the grainy and seedy retro-aesthetics of ‘Golden Era’ slashers such as Steve Mena’s Malevolence or Dude Bro Party Massacre III. Now Dark Sky Films and director Jay Burleson are taking a different approach to the nostalgia. Last week, Burleson’s The Third Saturday in October and The Third Day in October Part V hit VOD platforms. No, there isn’t a Part II, III, or IV. And you’re technically supposed to watch Part V first.
As college football fans gather for The Third Saturday in October matchup between Alabama and Tennessee, depraved serial killer Jack Harding arrives with murder on his mind. Following a brutal killing spree, Harding is sentenced to death and strapped to the electric chair. But the execution fails and Harding escapes to continue his killing spree.
The Third Saturday in October Re-Creates the VHS Era of Slasher Movies
Kudos to writer and director Jay Burleson for at least adding something different to the retro-slasher movie. It’s not just an experiment in style and content – Burleson wants to recreate the experience of getting to the video store late and being stuck with the later sequel because the other movies are already rented. Rent and watch Part V first, and go back and get the original The Third Saturday in October when it’s back on the shelf. There’s something clever to the idea. On one hand, Burleson has made two retro-slashers that bookend the look and style of the Golden Era. If Part I taps into the seedy late 70s slasher, Part V replicates the unstoppable killer found in late 80s slashers like Jason Lives.
…Burleson has made two retro-slashers that bookend the look and style of the Golden Era.
Both movies perfectly recreate the looks of the eras in which they’re rooted. If you can forget that Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez already took this retro approach over a decade ago with their Grindhouse double-bill, the idea feels initially fun. Most importantly, Burleson remembers what initially attracted horror fans to these sorts of movies – all the practical effects gore. And there’s plenty of cheap-o killings in The Third October in Saturday and Part V to takes fans back in time. In addition, Burleson includes plenty of nods to slasher classics from Friday the 13th and Halloween to the lesser known The Town That Dreaded Sunset.
The Third Saturday in October Doesn’t Always Hit Its Intended Mark
Neither The Third Saturday in October nor its ‘sequel’ perfectly hit their intended marks. Arguably, Part V works much better on its own as a silly send-up of the subgenre. While no one’s going to write home about the performances or characters, Part V at least offers two likable protagonists in Kansas Bowling (Christmas Bloody Christmas) and the young Poppy Cunningham. Don’t expect any characters that remotely resemble real people. Just about everyone in each movie represents a caricature, which may very well have been the intent. Yet it makes it difficult to fully invest in the movies, particularly when there are large gaps where nothing happens. Pacing is a recurrent problem where Burleson may not have completely understood the assignment.
Don’t expect any characters that remotely resemble real people. Just about everyone in each movie represents a caricature, which may very well have been the intent.
As for the killer who stalks our football fans across two movies, Jack Harding makes for a pretty nondescript villain. Maybe Burleson wanted a silent killer in the tradition of a Jason or Michael Myers, but Harding just doesn’t have the appeal of the classic slasher villains. For better or worse, Burleson also weaves in quite a bit of eccentric tics to his movies. There’s recurring jokes or bits about cats the pop up. One character repeatedly call another by their first and last name. Another character seems to be a reference to Franklin from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Horror fans will either appreciate these idiosyncrasies or find them increasingly annoying.
The Third Saturday in October and Its ‘Sequel’ Should Be a Fun Double-Bill for Diehard 80s Horror Fans
Neither Third Saturday in October is a perfect movie – they may not even technically qualify as ‘good movies’. Still there’s no denying that they make for a wildly fun retro-slasher double-bill. Burleson perfectly recreates the retro vibes of two different horror time periods. And the practical effects recall the same eras, which should satisfy Grindhouse horror fans. Yes, the pacing overestimates the appeal of what’s basically a low-grade slasher. Yet Burleson includes enough idiosyncratic ticks to his movies to set them apart from other retro-inspired slashers. As a double-bill, The Third Saturday in October and its sequel or prequel are destined to be a cult classic.