‘The Third Saturday in October’ Films Review: A Failed Experiment In Nostalgia
The Third Saturday in October parts I and V are presented as relics lost to time that have only just been unearthed and released. Part V is meant to be watched first and Part I is meant to be watched second. With that in mind, I watched (and critiqued) the films in that order. I’ll break the reviews down by film in a bit but I’ll begin with some commentary on the franchise as a whole.
Both of The Third Saturday in October films are rather generic. Nothing about either installment sets them apart from the glut of throwback efforts that have similarly attempted to recreate a bygone era. For every successful throwback effort like Dude Bro Party Massacre III or Turbo Kid, there are several less successful offerings. And The Third Saturday in October films sadly fall squarely into the latter end of the spectrum.
The acting in both features is intentionally over-the-top. And while that can be effective under the right circumstances, this is not one of those cases. It’s clear that the ridiculous performances are deliberately hammed up. But that conceit adds nothing to the proceedings. The actors aren’t able to manufacture camp and sell the characters they are playing as having any redeeming qualities. So, the cheesy performances quickly become painful to watch. With each line of dialogue, they serve to remind the audience we are watching a really bad movie. And that repeatedly took me right out of the experience and made the films tedious to sit through.
I think the writer/director Jay Burleson may not have completely understood that even deliberately bad films should be good on some level. You can make your movie intentionally campy. But that works best when you do something well. You need a script with an interesting premise and characters that give us a reason to invest. If those prerequisites are present, there’s plenty of room to get silly. But if you deliberately write a derivative script that apes Halloween and The Town that Dreaded Sundown and then tell your actors to do their worst, there isn’t a lot left to keep the viewer engaged. At that point, you run the risk of losing your audience. And that is precisely where I found myself when watching both of these films.
Also irritating is the haphazard manner in which certain characters have no accent, in spite of the majority of the cast members speaking in a deep drawl. If that tendency were organic to the characters in question and was explained accordingly, that would be fine. But it isn’t. I realize this was likely a deliberate move to add to the film’s cheap look and feel. But it doesn’t add much. It reads as one of several components that don’t add anything to the collective whole.
The films inexplicably make use of terrible voiceover narration that does nothing to advance the narrative or even deliver much exposition. Voiceover can be an effective technique to get inside a character’s experience. But it’s used needlessly in these films and again only serves to remind us what clunkers both installments are.
The Third Saturday in October Part V is set in the ‘90s and sees a group of stupid teenagers gathering to watch a football game where notorious rival teams are pitted against one another. On the menu for the big event are drinking, premarital sex, and various other forms of debauchery. But the adolescent pals’ plans are eventually interrupted by the presence of a masked killer with murder on his mind.
The vast majority of the characters in The Third Saturday in October Part V aren’t much more than cardboard cutouts of country bumpkins. They have no depth and they aren’t funny or engaging. The one character that seems to strike the proper balance between camp and relatability in Part V is Kansas Bowling’s Maggie. She’s the only one that isn’t chewing scenery. But she can’t carry the film entirely on her shoulders.
Adding a certain amount of insult to injury, this chapter is also really slow. There are long periods of time when absolutely nothing of any real interest happens. The action is confined to the very beginning and very end of the film. Not much transpires in the time between and the characters aren’t charismatic enough to carry the viewer through the dry spells.
The first film is an origin story (of sorts) that is set in the late ‘70s and introduces the series’ central antagonist, Jack Harding. In this installment, we see Harding slated for execution by electric chair. But his particular brand of evil cannot be killed. Accordingly, he survives the ill-fated attempt and sets out to continue the killing spree that got him sent to the electric chair in the first place.
The Third Saturday in October Part I suffers from too many narratives. Instead of following a core group of characters, the film chronicles several. That makes the picture even more difficult to sit through because we’re shuffling around between different storylines, none of which are particularly gripping.
I will say that the performances in The Third Saturday in October Part I are an improvement over the sequel. But the characters are still underdeveloped and the performances are still far from convincing, let alone engaging. One character exclusively calls another by her first and last name. And I guess that’s supposed to give him a certain likability or make him stand out as a quirky character. But that’s about the most dynamic distinction of any character in the series’ inaugural installment. As I mentioned before, even intentionally bad films need to have a character (or characters) the audience can relate to. But that’s not the case here. Everyone exists as a hollow caricature and the audience is left without a standout player to get behind.
Both films do a sufficient job of recreating the eras in which they unfold. But Part I does a particularly effective job of reimagining the late ‘70s. The color grading and wardrobe and hairstyles look very much like a product of that time period.
If you’re interested to check the films out for yourself, both are available now on Digital and VOD.
The Third Saturday in October films succeed in recreating a bygone era but fail to be engaging or even watchable.