The Third Saturday In October Part V (and Part 1) (2022)

MAY 4, 2023


One of my favorite spoof films is They Came Together, which came from some of The State/Wet Home American Summer guys and tackled romantic comedies. The thing that made it work so well was that it wasn't doing the Scary Movie kind of spoofing, where it took specific scenes from iconic entries in the genre and added fart jokes or whatever, but just parodied the specific tone of such films, so that everything felt kind of familiar but not directly taken from a movie you might not have seen (and miss the joke) or one you might love and perhaps even find funnier (romcoms are, you know, comedies). A similar approach was taken for The Third Saturday in October and its sequel, though it's not so much of a spoof as a winking homage to such things, and thus some humor is unavoidable since, let's face it, these movies are kind of silly.

In fact the title alone may be the best gag; people repeat it throughout both movies with a straight face, even though it's technically as meaningless as "Friday the 13th" or "Prom Night". And yes, both movies; while I'm not sure how they can convey this information every time, the idea is to watch Part V first and then watch the original, in homage to how many of us growing up watched the big franchises out of order (I myself started with part 4s for both Halloween and Friday the 13th). But honestly, while I did that as requested, I can't think of any instance where it paid off within the films themselves. The casts are entirely different, with the killer the only returning character of note, leaving us to wonder when/where the survivors of part 1 made their exit. The backstory is that both films are part of a low budget Halloween knockoff franchise that has been lost to time, which is a fun enough idea, but since I found the first movie to be slightly better, I wish I had just watched them in numerical order, since I'd have the novelty that was lost by starting with Part V, which - true to tradition - was by design a lesser "for fans only" kind of affair.

Plus, both films are basically the same with regards to their plot: the villain (a serial killer who survived the electric chair and continued his rampage in the first scene of the original; so even part 1 has story before it) makes his way across town, killing a few people at random, before focusing on a single house where a group of characters has gathered to watch a football game. The title refers to how the in-movie characters describe the annual meetup between two rival college football teams (which is a real thing!), and it's a perfect setting for this sort of thing: you get some autumnal/Halloween atmosphere but it's not ON Halloween, a date that's owned by another guy and is often silly to try to use for your own slasher film (I couldn't help but notice how little Scream VI bothered to capitalize on the setting outside of its subway scene). I'm not sure it's necessary for the sequel to tie itself into the date again; few of the Friday the 13ths actually took place on one (let's not forget that parts 2-4 all take place across the same week, so whatever one actually landed on the 13th, the other two did not), but they DEFINITELY didn't need to make the groups of characters so similar: both have an obvious nice guy character trying to spark a relationship with the Final Girl and a random old dude with them (I guess this would be a nod to Chuck and Chili from F13 3D), so when watching back to back as instructed, it can get hard to remember which is which. One can only assume that parts 2-4 mixed it up a bit and Part V was intended to bring things back to its roots, like Scream 5 was.

But all that matters is the slasher carnage, I suppose, and in that department it's pretty good. There's a lot of great practical FX to enjoy, and as one might expect the kills in the "later" Part V are ridiculous, just as Jason's got as the series went along. In fact I'd even say the first film was closer to Halloween, not just in visual references (they do the crane shot, they do the low angle suburban street with the date/location posted on screen, they even match the end credit font) but in tone. There are fewer kills in the original, with slightly more emphasis on suspense, and spend just as much time with an obsessed older guy tracking the killer (he even has a Marion Chambers-like partner) as we do with the young folks the killer is after. The kills we do get are far bloodier than they ever got in Carpenter's original, so that throws off the whole "this movie is really from the 1970's" vibe, but otherwise it's very clearly aping the less violent, more atmospheric early days of the slasher.

Part V, on the other hand (supposedly released in 1994) has several kills out of nowhere and often with silly implements - one girl is murdered with a boiling hot slice of pizza, for example. Curiously, Part V is in scope widescreen whereas the original is 1.85ish, which goes against the Halloween vibe but also only highlights one of the main issues with the films, which is that there isn't much proper stalking. There are scenes of the killer driving around or something (he also occasionally stops to watch the game himself after a kill), but when it comes to the kill scenes, he always just pops out and does it without much buildup or fanfare. The climax for part 1 goes on forever, and it's not because he's giving chase - they just drag it out with other stuff like the Loomis-y guy trying to figure out where the killer is headed after they let him get away again. I would have happily traded any of this stuff for a solid five minute stalk n' chase scene, something even the lesser F13s and Halloween always included.

So the scope image just has more dead air, in a "franchise" that already has too much. Both films spend far too much time on aimless chatter and weird moments (the "meowing" stuff in part 1 is borderline Lynchian with its bizarreness), a complaint one could levy at any number of old slashers (Final Exam comes to mind, and the vibe of both films is very much in line with Slumber Party Massacre and its sequels), but when they're going so far out of their way to remind us of Halloween and F13, these diversions seem misguided. And not for nothing, but some of the touches just betray the whole "these are actually old movies" concept; the title sequence in Part V is far too choreographed and "modern" to buy as anything we would have seen in the last millenium. They were going for Halloween (1978) but actually ended up closer to Halloween (2018) territory, with a lot of the weird indie energy David Gordon Green injected in that film (like the Bánh mì sandwiches discussion and things like that). Part V even has what amounts to a torture scene, for some reason? Jason would never!

They certainly nail the LOOK, however - it's one of the best approximations of such things I've seen, in both the sets and production design (never once did I see anything that really threw it off, and "chef's kiss* to whoever put up the shelf full of Disney VHS clamshells in Part V) and the film-looking image itself, with just the right amount of film damage (not overdone like all those bad Grindhouse wannabes) to really sell it. The synth music is also spot on, though such things are overused now in the Stranger Things era, so while it's technically on point it also, you know, sounds like half of the stuff out there now (not their fault, of course - just an observation of how widespread the whole "let's pretend it's old" concept is nowadays). The performances are spotty, which is also correct for the thing they're going for; either they're actually not the best actors or they're really good at acting bad on purpose. No one is going too over the top, which is the important thing - even the Franklin Hardesty-esque guy in Part V refrains from dialing it up to 11 (something Paul Partain himself didn't manage).

Basically, it's aimed at a very specific audience who will love it, and everyone else will either be bored or simply wish they were watching one of the genuine slashers from the era, some of which may be crude but had the innocence of the whole thing on their side. They can get the camera shots right and lay in the Carpenter font/music and all that, but the soul of these throwback productions will always have that unmistakable lack of naturalness to it, which will always keep them apart from the genuine junk from that era. Maybe you can fool someone with a brief scene or two (though the cheesy mask, which he acquires late in the first film and sports throughout the fifth, never would have flown), but when you watch a whole movie - let alone two of them - you'll catch the slight whiff of condescension before long. I don't doubt that the filmmakers have an affinity for these movies, but what makes those old ones continue to work is that they weren't aware of their shortcomings. Making a crack at them - even a subtle one, as is often the case here - just kills the vibe for me. I'd probably love a fake trailer (probably easier to fool someone with that approach too), but watching three hours of this sort of thing was a bit too much for what amounts to an experimental joke - it felt like watching an entire Stab movie or something (plus Stab 5). And if you took them straight, there's better options even for 1994 (Pumpkinhead II is a bad Pumpkinhead sequel, but it's a decent revenge slasher on its own, with some energy that is often lacking here), let alone all of slasherdom.

TLDR: niche, but the commitment to the bit is admirable, and for that I give them both a passing grade.

What say you?


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