Mike’s Review: Third Saturday in October (2022 Popcorn Frights Film Festival)

★★★.5  out of ★★★★★
Written and Directed by Jay Burleson.

Many horror films try, but equally, many films fail to concoct the perfect period piece. Often times concepts for period pieces in the world of horror seem to be centered around someone’s uncle who has a really mint 1977 Trans Am. Seems like an easy tasked to build an entire film around some funky vintage clothes and a sweet ride, but more often than not it’s a task where many fail. 

To concoct a world of yesteryear with little to no budget? Well, that takes some really doing. A task that the Third Saturday in October manages to pull off with much aplomb. But it’s not just the groovy ascots and the boss rides. This film has a very specific cinematic vision that you don’t see in many horror films. 

The Third Saturday in October follows a sleepy SEC community as they prepare for the deeply fictitious rivalry game between the Alabama-Mobile Seahawks and Tennessee A&M Commonwealth in 1979. In the interest of full disclosure, the rivalry sounded so perfect that this reviewer actually had to look up whether it was real or not. It case you’re wondering, it’s not. 

Also taking place on this same Saturday in 1979 is the execution of deranged serial killer Jakkariah Harding (Antonio Woodruff). While Harding had killed many there’s only two of his victim’s families that show up to his execution — Ricky Dean Logan (Darius Willis) and Vicki Newton (K.J. Baker). In a hysterical running gag, Ricky Dean Logan refers to himself as “Ricky Dean Logan” and only refers to Vicki as “Vicki Newton.” 

While many are settling in to watch the big Seahawks-Commonwealth game many sadists in the community have set up to watch Harding fry to a crisp. Turns out he does fry to a crisp, but in a very Voorhees-esque turn, he’s somehow energized and ready to K-I-L-L. Harding is brutal, relentless, and speechless as he menaces the football fixated community. 

Fangoria! Woo!
Jakkariah is ready to play ball!

The later portion of the film fills out as a fair homage to Halloween with Ricky Dean Logan and Vicki Newton effectively serving as Dr. Loomis and Laurie Strode. There’s even a wonderful, if not a little weird collection of rambunctious teens who lure in a pure and wholesome final girl (Allison Shrum as Heather Hill)— and well all know what happens to promiscuous teens and perfectly pure final girls, right? While there’s many more influences that could be implicated in the film it’s clear that there’s a true blue love affair with Halloween and the Third Saturday in October. 

What ultimately makes the Third Saturday in October so rewarding is the weird TV soap opera-like pacing and film work. The scenes unfold like a herky-jerky episode of Dark Shadows operating inside of a late 1970s episode of All My Children. It’d be easy to dismiss this as amateur film making, but the care and thought that goes in to this particular film work is not easily replicated. Using modern technology to throw a grainy filter on the film is not terribly difficult, but the camera movement, deliberate issues with focus, and the off-putting angles is pretty darn brilliant. If you want to know what 1970s TV looks like, well this is it.

Aside from the studied camera movements is the costuming, musical score, sets, and vehicles. None of these are easy to come by on any budget, but for a small budget film to pull off all these items harmoniously is really impressive. The Third Saturday in October is also packed with faux vintage news clips, interviews with football coaches, and advertisements. Pulling these items together in the context of a b-grade slasher shows incredible care and thought for the genre and the period that it is representing. 

The Third Saturday in October is however a LOW budget film that punches way beyond its weight class — read: WAY beyond. At first glance the film will potentially turn off many causal horror fans, but those who know and appreciate its aged aesthetic and coy camera moves will go run to their basement to dust off their moldy VHS collection. 

Third Saturday in October is definitely Rated R and currently playing at horror festivals everywhere.

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