How do you make the fifth entry in your slasher series feel fresh and innovative? Simple — just skip about about three movies and sum them up in the opening montage. Genius! For The Third Saturday in October Part V, director/writer Jay Burleson has created a light-hearted homage to 80s slashers that delicately balances satire, extravagant gore and character stereotypes.
Set in the fictional Alabama town of Hackleburg, the story revolves around the murderous Jakkariah Harding, who was executed in the first entry but returns from the dead annually during (ahem) the third Saturday in October to wreak havoc. Although Part V is only the second entry in the series, the written synopsis recommends starting here. The opening montage refers to the first film as “lost” to history, already creating a mystique outside the series that winks at the various “cursed film” superstitions that swirled around 80s films like Poltergeist.
As a killer, Harding in the opening minutes appears difficult to take serious. He wears a goofy Halloween mask similar to a shocked skeleton expression, drives a literal hearst, and shambles around in a confused manner. That is, until he finds a victim. In adherence to the 80s era, Harding is adept at using anything handy for kills, conjuring memories of films like The Burning when he utilizes garden hedge shears and Michael Myers with his knife-hacking acumen. But in true subversive manner, just when the viewer might start taking our monster too seriously due to the brutality, we’re given scenes of tension-breaking absurdity like Harding doing victory jigs after kills and haunted-house style cackling.
Although most of the cast serves as canon-fodder, everyone makes efficient use of their camera-time to establish clear personality traits despite carrying familiar stereotypes. Peter (Taylor Smith) is the obnoxious, horny jock who borderline bullies his friends but can show tender moments. George (Daniel Cutts) is respectful to women but has a stuttering issue and is jealous of the attention Peter gets. Lester’s (Bart Hyatt) childlike innocence is a nod to the wheelchair-bound Franklin from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Mark Jarvis from Friday the 13th Part 2. However, unlike those unfortunate souls Lester gets a special moment via the coveted horror deus ex machina horror trope that won’t be spoiled here.
Another area where Part V excels is its female characters. Instead of playing with the stock characters we usually see (virgin final girl, slut, stuck-up rich girl etc.), Burleson opts to go with well-rounded, emotionally mature young ladies like Angela (Devan Katherine) and Holcomb (Autumnn Jaide) who give Peter an embarrassing comeuppance for his lust. And even a lowkey character like Sharon (Parker Love Bowling) stands out for being a straight-forward person with no ulterior motives despite potential love triangle strife with Maggie (Kansas Bowling) after breaking up with George.
Speaking of Maggie, her and young PJ (Poppy Cunningham) represent the “heart” of the film. Think of the quasi “big/little sister” dynamic of Rachel and Jamie from Halloween IV. If there’s one flaw in the storytelling it’s the cast size prevents more scenes of them working together against Harding. However, we get more than enough to have a vested interest in rooting for them both to be standing on that “Final Girls” podium by the end credits.
For those who grew up on or appreciate the bygone era of slashers, The Third Saturday in October Part V will bring a smile to your face and likely have you later binging your 80s favorites. At a time when the horror genre is littered with films seeking to deliver heavy social commentary (we still love you, A24!), Part V aims at good fun with the only deeper message being too much college football with a killer on the loose is bad for your long-term health.
The Third Saturday in October Part V is available to stream through August 21 via The Popcorn Frights film festival.