One half of a note-perfect double feature playing at 2022’s Popcorn Frights Film Festival, The Third Saturday in October actually serves as a prequel to The Third Saturday in October Part V! Here it is—the long lost “original” movie, said to be a cheap Halloween knock-off, has finally arrived! An opening crawl recalls the eerie narration of John Laroquette’s legendary introduction for 1979’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The title is said with a flair for the dramatic, as if we should have heard of this horrifying series of events, circa 1979. The tonal shift from V to this film is a bit jarring, but that also makes sense considering The Third Saturday in October is destined to become a low-budget franchise favorite.
This time around, we are taken back to the fated night of Jakkariah “Jack” Harding’s execution via the Yellow Mama electric chair. We see Harding killed in real time, complete with onlookers and protestors with massive signs. He is supposed to be buried immediately that night, but of course, after a thick fog of “pure evil” at the cemetery, Doctor Loomis stand-in Ricky Dean (Darius Willis, 2019’s Spiral, Little Fish) and his sidekick, Vicki (K.J. Baker), look on in horror as Harding escapes. For most of the movie, Harding is mask-free, his nasty eye having been affected from the electrocution doing the share of the scary legwork instead. Ricky Dean and Vicki, who have both lost relatives at the hands of Jack Harding, will stop at nothing to make sure his horrible evil is defeated.
Just to get one thing out of the way: The Third Saturday in October is nowhere near as clever or fun as V, and thusly I enjoyed it overall less than its predecessor. Similar to V, this one also features a wide array of victims having football watch parties, and just like that entry, Harding dispatches them one by one in grisly fashion. Strangulations, slit throats, garden shears, hammers—the film wastes no time in gifting us with ample kills and impressive practical effects. Harding isn’t quite as scary without the mask, but he still channels his best Michael Myers impression. Kelvin Wooten’s original score is again a highlight, though I could have used even more of the synthy sound from the beginning and ending.
The aesthetic is on point once more, this time focusing on 70s kitch instead of 90s simplicity. The Third Saturday in October can still easily pass as a long-lost movie from the very start of the big slasher boom. Cheesy lines and propped-up bodies that have become known as a “dead man’s party” smooth out the rougher edges. Sprinkling in details that will later pay off in V could retroactively make that an even more fulfilling movie to watch, including the origin of the hearse and Harding’s mask. Writer/director Jay Burleson loses some of the charm by playing it a bit too serious, but The Third Saturday in October is more fun with one’s new favorite horror icon: Jack Harding. I’m entirely confused by where the chronology could go from here if more sequels are made, but bring on either The Third Saturday in October parts II-IV, VI, or a stylish modern requel. I’m game for wherever Jay Burelson wants to take us from here!
The Third Saturday in October screened at 2022’s Popcorn Frights Film Festival.