Popcorn Frights: The Third Saturday In October Part I and V Are Bloody Fun Parodies

Parody and satire are nothing new to the horror genre, though it is typically done wrong, or at least terribly. Films like Scary Movie, Tucker and Dale vs Evil, and Cabin in the Woods are some really great examples of how different types of satire can succeed in different ways. Scary Movie takes it in an overtly referential and comedic route; Tucker and Dale uses referential clichés in such a brilliant way; and Cabin in the Woods uses the tropes and clichés to build the story around their characters, while also being heavily referential. There’s no right way to make a parody film of a genre, but there is definitely a wrong way. Jay Burleson knows how to make it the right way.

There has been quite a bit of buzz in the Twitterverse about Jay Burleson’s The Third Saturday in October Part I and V. Tons of my critic friends on Letterboxd have added this to their watchlist (and since Letterboxd notifies you every time a friend adds something, I’ve been seeing it a lot). Now it should be stated I accidentally watched these films out of order, starting with Part I and ending with Part V, though I think it personally added to the experience for me. Jay Burleson is known fairly well in the community for his Troma film The Nobodies, while I have not seen that I’ve heard from quite a few people that it is one of the best Troma films out there. The Nobodies even got looks from Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All At Once) where he said, “Despite all of its standard def trashiness, it really fascinated and moved me.” That sounds like quite the honor to me.

The retro poster for The Third Saturday In October

Burleson’s latest work is two films set about 20 years apart. The Third Saturday in October Part V follows Maggie (Kansas Bowling) who is babysitting the incredibly self-aware PJ (Poppy Cunningham), and her group of friends who are having a Third Saturday In October party. Quick reference, and yes this is a real thing: the Third Saturday in October is a football rivalry between the University of Alabama and the University of Tennessee, a game that took place on the third Saturday in October. The group of football-loving friends gather to watch the game and have some sex. Once they have all arrived at Peter’s (Taylor Smith) house, things start going awry. After trying, and failing, to get into the pants of two of the female partygoers, Peter gets tied down to his bed and left to fend for himself.

Okay, wait, let’s go even further back. Part V feels very Troma, though I don’t think they have any involvement with it, but it’s not a bad thing. Troma isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, but I do hold them in high regard for what they have done for filmmakers, and I respect the hell out of them. Part V really goes hard on the campy Troma style of weird acting, strange dialogue, and situations that no one would ever find themselves in…but it works. This film will not be for everyone, and someone expecting a regular fast-paced slasher probably not enjoy this, there’s just something about it that really stuck for me. The idiosyncrasy of these characters, and the world they live in, just really work so well with Burleson’s directing style and it feels authentic. It takes a lot to try and make a movie that toes the line of cheese and camp, while still being able to make a genuinely great movie.

There is quite a tonal shift between Part V and Part I, though the movies still feel quite similar. Part I has a bit more of a grounded feel to it, and still manages to be funny and weird. In Part I, we get the backstory of the masked killer, and it’s ridiculous, in the best way possible. The execution of Jakkariah Harding (Antonio Woodruff) seemingly goes off without a hitch, but onlookers Ricky Dean Logan (Darius Willis) and Vicki Newton (K.J. Baker) have doubts that the Yellow Mama (the electric chair) was able to get the job done. The two attempt to follow the hearse but the hoard of protestors, who are for the killing of Harding, block their path and set them a few minutes behind the hearse. When they finally arrive at the gravesite, their worst fears come to fruition.

Part I is a cat and mouse slasher, kind of in line with Dr. Loomis hunting Michael Myers in Halloween, that thrusts Harding directly towards a group of friends gathering for the Third Saturday in October game. The group of college friends has such an interesting dynamic. There are allusions to swinging, copious drug use, and conversations that, literally, devolve into meowing. It’s so unbelievably strange and amusing. Add on top of that a grandpa that loves drugs and skinny dipping, with his much younger partner, and you have a cast for the ages.

The retro poster for The Third Saturday In October

Both films take the slasher element very seriously, and the majority of the kills have some amazing practical effects. At the end of the day, a slasher film can only be carried by the characters so much. What really matters is the, well, slash-spect of it. I will in no way spoil any of the kills because this film needs to be viewed, but there is a bit of a oner with Denver (Kate Edmonds) that is so beautifully shot and directed; I was surprisingly caught off guard.

Again, without trying to spoil anything, the films have a Town That Dreaded Sundown opening, and it really works. These films really have an overall Town feeling to them, which is just added to by the Texarkana-style rivalry with the football game. Part I acts as a more grounded and straightforward slasher while Part V kind of mirrors the franchise effects that happen in a lot of slasher franchises. If you look at A Nightmare on Elm Street the first film is a straight-up slasher, and by the fourth film, it feels like a parody of itself. Part V feels like a parody of a parody and does not take itself seriously, rather it has fun with the story and characters and provides an overall exciting and entertaining comedy horror. These films will stand along films like Scary Movie in the history of horror.

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Written by Brendan Jesus

I am an award-winning horror screenwriter, rotting away in New Jersey.

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