Forgotten Slasher Origin Stories Are on Full Display in The Third Saturday in October Part I (CFF)
Title: The Third Saturday in October Part I
First Non-Festival Release: TBD
Director: Jay Burleson
Writer: Jay Burleson
Runtime: 102 Minutes
Starring: Darius Willis, K.J. Baker, Allison Shrum, Antonio Woodruff
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Chattanooga Film Festival in 2022.
Years after the brutal slayings that claimed the lives of several locals, drifter and serial killer Harding (Antonio Woodruff) is set to die by electric chair. Survivors of the previous massacre Ricky Dean Logan (Darius Willis) and Vicki Newton (K.J. Baker) attend, hoping to get some closure for the night that took away those close to them. Suspicious that the execution didn’t go as planned, the duo drives out to the cemetery so they can watch Harding get buried. Instead of finding the workers setting his coffin in the ground, they find several mangled bodies. They make a b-line for the small town where the slayings took place where they will eventually cross paths with Heather Hill (Allison Shrum) who’s night of revelry and celebration of another Alabama Mobile University football victory is about to sour.
Indie gem The Third Saturday in October Part I is a little slice of 70s throwback with plenty of tension and low-budget charm.
Director Jay Burelson nails the tone and feel of a late 70s Halloween knock off film, which is a compliment! His vision is cohesive, and it shows throughout the production. From the cooky side characters to the awkward filler scenes, The Third Saturday in October Part I feels like a lived-in slasher film that could have been found in a time capsule from 1979. The gore is plenty, and the practical effects are as realistic as most films from the period would allow. Pretty much, there is something here for everyone.
Like many slashers, the core cast is stronger than some of the bit parts when it comes to portraying their characters. Darius Willis, K.J. Baker, and Allison Shrum serve as strong and compelling lead characters, the older two as anchors to the trauma that bore Harding and Shrum nailing the naivety of Heather’s ignorance of Harding’s capabilities. Speaking of which, Antonio Woodruff kills it with Harding. Quite literally. Without ever uttering a single word, he projects raw power and fear with a single cold leer or a bellied laugh. Sure, the cast doesn’t have to do much to make their characters work, as they don’t have much going for them beyond their archetypes. Willis’ Ricky Dean is likely the closest to having more complexity than the others, even final girl Heather.
While The Third Saturday in October Part I is meant to mimic the tropes and conventions of a specific era in film it doesn’t lessen the blow of some irritating dialogue choices. One bit in particular stands out as especially annoying, one where Ricky Dean says Vicki Newton’s full name whenever he is speaking directly with or about her. Sure, it is indicative of the era, but it does wear its welcome quickly, even if there is a self-aware insert halfway through the film.
One of the most impressive parts of The Third Saturday in October Part I is its delightful score. Like a soundtrack ripped from the mind of John Carpenter, the score is both subdued and bright. Low hums help the audience hone in on the danger without ever truly revealing how close death may or may not be. One sequence with the inebriated Denver dancing around the house best illustrates the expert use of music to enhance the tension. It also leads to the best kill and scare of the film.
An endearing slasher mixed with some light comedy and late 70s aesthetics, The Third Saturday in October Part I is plenty of fun for anyone looking for something light to watch late on an autumnal night. Its commitment to era does drag the film’s quality down in some respects. Some stiff acting, awkward pacing, and rough dialogue impedes The Third Saturday in October Part I from truly reaching the greatness possible out of a 70s imitator. Regardless, this film is an easy watch with memorable characters worthy of your attention. I can see myself celebrating every October with a double feature with this fun little film and its sequel (which I learned after watching this one is meant to be watched first!)
Overall Score? 6/10