Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Emulating the best in an endless chain of 80s and 90s horror sequels, The Third Saturday in October Part V is a bloody fun micro-budget indie slasher. Written, directed, produced, and edited by visionary Jay Burleson, the film is very neatly presented as a long-lost movie that would fit in nicely amongst cheesy classics like Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Psycho III, or Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3. An opening crawl clues us in on the exact intent behind a movie like this—playful slash-tastic entertainment that essentially becomes an instant classic. Supposedly, the original movie, The Third Saturday in October, came out in 1980 as a cheap cash-in answer to 1978’s Halloween. Successful enough to warrant a bevy of low-budget follow-ups, the “series” became a franchise that eventually faded into obscurity, and became a relic lost to time. Until now.

Hilariously enough, the second film in this now-franchise, titled The Third Saturday in October, is also playing at Popcorn Frights Film Festival. An escaped death row inmate wreaks havoc but once a year. Donned in a creepy skull-style mask, Jakkariah “Jack” Harding has defied death at every turn, and now he’s back in 1994’s The Third Saturday in October Part V! In this entry, a curious narrator ties together a scattered story that very much captures the Halloween 4/Halloween 5 vibes. Cute young girl PJ (Poppy Cunninham) and her pink-haired babysitter, Maggie (Kansas Bowling), are hanging out for the night. Even though PJ desperately wants to go to local family dinner hotspot Catfish Cabin, the two become entangled in the chaos at a local watch party for the big game between the Alabama-Mobile Seahawks and the Tennessee A&M Commonwealth.

Jay Burleson captures nearly every aesthetic detail one could want, down to a Halloween-style synth score from Kelvin Wooten, ultra-cheesy dialogue such as Peter the douche proudly boasting of his threesome with “three bodacious babes,” the 90s nostalgia of the HORROR VHS section of a videostore, period-accurate television ads, and, most importantly of all, memorably, ultra-gory kills. Gardening shears really do a number on a couple of these characters, and the practical effects are up to snuff for all the bloodthirsty fiends. This movie is accurate down to the end-credits font emulating Halloween! The “boogeyman of Hackleburg” is menacing and creepy. He’s not exactly Michael Myers, yet that mask makes him an imposing figure regardless. He never speaks a word the entire film—as it should be, because this adds yet another layer of creepy grime. 

That stupid sports game between the Alabama-Mobile Seahawks and the Tennessee A&M Commonwealth is constantly mentioned, with one of the characters being so passionate about them that he came to the watch party dressed as a referee, complete with an annoying whistle. It practically becomes a character on its own, expanding the scope of Hackleburg in the process. The beating heart of the movie is the beautiful friendship of PJ and Maggie. Though they do not face off against Jack Harding until the final fifteen minutes, the showdown is well worth the wait. By that point, he will have chopped and sliced his way up to an impressive body count. Guessing how this direct-to-video throwback will end lies somewhere between tongue-in-cheek fun and effective imitation. Don’t miss The Third Saturday in October Part V if you still reminisce about those HORROR aisle days, when a VHS cover would be enough to warrant a rental without the security blanket of looking up a title on YouTube. More than anything else, it transported me to a bygone era for just over an hour and a half, and for that I will be forever thankful.

The Third Saturday in October Part V screened at 2022’s Popcorn Frights Film Festival. 

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