The Chattanooga Film Festival Presents a meta Double Bill from a Fictional Slasher Franchise
Browsing through the Chattanooga Film Festival first wave announcement two particular films caught my eye thanks to its impressive poster art, a double bill of The Third Saturday In October Part 5, followed by The Third Saturday In October.
The concept here is these were two entries from a fictional slasher franchise, the fifth film from 1994 and the first film which was released in 1980 and lost until this release. Both were actually shot during COVID, written and directed by Jay Burleson after another project failed to materialize. While this retro throwback idea isn’t anything new, it’s the pairing of two completed films that sealed the deal for me, that not only showed a pure commitment to this concept, but given the space between films here there’s something that happens the further you get away from that first film. There’s an absurdity that begins to set in, which is fascinating when you run through an entire horror franchise like a Friday the 13th or a Halloween and you get past that third film. This is something a fan would pick up on, and probably want to explore as opposed to a nostalgic cash in.
The story brings collegiate sports into the slasher fold with the film’s namesake, the third Saturday in October, marking a game between bitter rivals – the Alabama-Mobile Seahawks and the Tennessee A&M Commonwealth. After killing five people that day in 1968, Jakkariah Harding is sentenced to death and electrocuted 11 years to the day of the original murders, which is when the first film takes place. After he’s presumed dead and taken to the cemetery in a hearse, Jakk wakes up as he’s being buried and begins his murder spree, driving off in the hearse; which along with the suit he was executed in becomes a character trademark. He then spends that day driving up to houses randomly and infiltrating football parties, hiding in the shadows and killing off party goers one by one. It’s an interesting formula that gives Jakk access to pockets of victims and adds a somewhat fresh take on the holiday slasher trope.
The films were screened at the fest with Part Five first, and then the original. This was no doubt Jay Burleson attempting to curate a similar experience to one you would have in the video store back in the day, if let’s say you happened upon the sequel on the new release wall and dug it enough to watch the original. For folks like myself who grew up in the mom and pop VHS days, this was completely normal for the older franchises like a Friday the 13th or Texas Chainsaw Massacre; you might typically watch whatever current film just happened to be on the new release wall first. I still personally remember watching Friday the 13th for the first time after catching Part 4 and being shocked there was no hockey mask and no Jason. Its this aspect of these films Jay Burleson also toys with as the first film fills in some of the back story and genesis of trademarks and tropes to this particular franchise.
The first film of the double feature The Third Saturday in October Part V, “released” in 1994 perfectly captures that extremely awkward decade of most horror franchises that everyone likes to ignore, which to me is almost as fascinating as their inceptions. It’s the 90s aesthetic coupled with how do you keep the franchise moving forward, while still hitting those hallmarks fans expect. Not only is this film imbued with the stagnant nature of 90s franchise horror, doing so in the most charming way possible with all the tropes you’d expect, but it also adds the whammy cliffhanger at the end. This was something most franchises tried, but never could stick that landing or live up to fan speculation on the next film. This film gives us dual finals girls, in the goth with a heart babysitter Maggie (Kansas Bowling) and her charge the plucky PJ (Poppy Cunningham). The pair happen to attend the party Jakk has chosen for his rampage that night and will have you pulling for both to clear the night’s havok.
Next up was “recently discovered”, first film from “1980” The Third Saturday In October, which claims it was in the works long before Halloween in the title card. This is an origin story that feels authentic in its take as we witness the failed execution of Jakkariah Harding through the eyes of two grieving parents Ricky Dean Logan (Darius Willis) and Vicki Newton (Vicki Newton), who then pair up after he escapes in the hopes of hunting him down in a film that gave me distinct Phantasm energy. You have this well armed pair of folks in a badass car, hunting a boogeyman that everyone else thinks is dead. That paired with the fact that Ricky is a black man and Vicki is a white woman driving through Alabama in the late 70s, and given Jakkariah’s is also a black man, my theory is this could have possibly been a blaxploitation film, before being later retooled by the fictional filmmakers as a slasher.
But maybe I am digging too deep into this concept.
Jakk finds a football party in a commune and sets up shop in a film that is definitely grittier than Five and leans more into Carpenter, complete with a fantastic synth score. We also get to see the origin of the mask and some of the other tropes we caught in Five. Jay Burleson even went as far as to change up the aspect ratios with five being that scope we associate with Dimension Films sequels in the 90s and the the first film being in the traditional flat. Its those kind of choices that really elevated this project compared to the fake sequels and nostalgic throwbacks we’ve already gotten. There’s a dedication there that Jay wanted to take us to the franchises’ peak, and to its fifth film in the series that probably went direct to video after the interest just wasn’t there for a theatrical release.
While I’ve seen this done more than once, given the lure of nostalgia and the renewed popularity in the slasher genre, The Third Saturday feels sincere in its intentions. I mean the fact that not only two films were made, but that he fully embraced the gritty exploitative roots of the series and the absurdity of the later entries; all while abiding by period and franchise norms is downright impressive. This double bill nothing short of a nostaligic labor of love to the slasher genre. Burleson gets everything right, and by doing that introduces his own slasher franchise into the world. That being said, I just want Part Six to be made, and the one in the series where they attempt to explain and infuse the series with a mythology that nearly destroys the franchise.