Watching The Third Saturday in October Part V made for an enjoyable time watching a parody of the slasher sequel. However, director Jay Burleson was not done with his mission. Now was the time to deliver the original story in his faux franchise. However, it was not enough to build out the lore of his slasher. Instead, he continued to build the world behind the scenes of his franchise. Doing so allows The Third Saturday in October to deliver as a quick knockoff of John Carpenter’s Halloween. This move creates a fiction history behind the scenes and, while never addressed with names, allows his latest work to parody a particular era in horror.
While The Third Saturday in October Part V worked as a sequel, this entry tells the origins of Harding. After a guilty verdict for murder, the state sends a serial killer named Harding to the electric chair. However, he never died and may not have been human at all. Soon, Harding begins hunting in his old town. Ricky Dean Logan (Darius Willis), the father of Harding’s original victim, realizes the danger at hand. He brings another survivor of Harding’s attacks, Vicki Newton (K.J. Baker), to stop him.
In the aftermath of Halloween in 1978, the world of movies got hit with a lightning bolt. Of course, there have always been movies that follow the big hits of the day (Orca and Grizzly both landed immediately after Jaws). However, it became clear that studio executives misunderstood the aspects of Halloween that resonated through the culture. They saw sex, death, and serial killers sold.
Many projects of this ilk were quickly put into production. Knowing Carpenter had achieved his triumph on a low budget, these other films were given microbudgets. Without Carpenter’s artistic vision or cinematographer Dean Cundy’s work, these films rarely held up. However, with so many released, horror fans began to find the best of the knockoffs and championed a second tier of horror films.
The structure of The Third Saturday in October leans directly into the similarities of Halloween. Burleson wisely pushes us directly into the similarities. Logan’s role clearly mimics that of Loomis and becomes the definition of a horror harbinger. Logan enlists the help of the police force, who are skeptical of Logan’s claims about the killer.
Some elements separate The Third Saturday in October from the Carpenter classic. However, it begins to embrace prominent elements in the other rip-offs. For example, Harding’s botched execution leaves him disfigured. Characters like Tony Todd’s Candyman and Warrington Gillette’s Jason Voorhees show significant scarring. The imagery also pulls from My Bloody Valentine (1981) and Prom Night (1980). With so many references to these films, Burleson showcases a vast knowledge of the era in horror.
Perhaps most important, Burleson softens the purpose of having a black villain in the South. Letting Willis not only become the film’s hero but actively fight against racism becomes a huge positive. Black characters often become the victims of violence. Even when they act heroically, they rarely survive (e.g., Night of the Living Dead). In this case, Burleson provides space for Willis to serve as the only sane character in the movie continually. The Third Saturday in October firmly pushes back against this criticism of the first feature in the franchise and also fights horror stereotypes in the process.
The Third Saturday in October delivers laughs as well. It’s a funny story and features some ridiculous gags as a result. None make the audience laugh harder than girl scouts trying to sell cookies, only to be met with a serial murderer. The laughs set up more dramatic moments, and The Third Saturday in October thrives here.
However, playing into the parody of this era also means that the actors are forced to subdue some of their emotional releases. These moments accomplish what Burleson hopes to accomplish most of the time, but occasionally, they fall even flatter than he envisioned.
Still, The Third Saturday in October takes a step up from its predecessor. It brings more context, more storytelling, and has better kills. Additionally, Burleson gets to spoof a specific time in the slasher world. Showing a parody of a subgenre through a different lens than his previous work speaks to Burleson’s creativity. We will undoubtedly be excited to see whatever he comes up with next.