Panic Fest: The Third Saturday in October is a worthy addition to the horror calendar
This story is part of our coverage of Panic Fest 2023. Read more from our film team here.
Name a holiday, and you’re almost guaranteed to find an on-brand horror film. We already have Friday the 13th, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas covered. Now, The Third Saturday in October franchise is here to commemorate what is, in some minds, the most important holiday of all: the annual rivalry showdown between football teams at the University of Alabama and the University of Tennessee.
Both of the installments of the series heavily feature the football game. However, in this universe, the rivalry is between the Alabama-Mobile Seahawks and the Tennessee A&M Commonwealth. Both films center on a group of teens gathering to watch the game, fool around, and engage in stereotypical “teens in a slasher movie” hijinks.
These are contemporary films by writer-director Jay Burleson, but they’re cleverly presented as a long-lost 70s slasher and its less-beloved fourth sequel from the 90s. The Third Saturday in October franchise introduces us to the people of Hacklesburg, Alabama, as they prepare to execute one of their town’s most notorious serial killers: Jakkariah Harding (Antonio Woodruff), finally facing justice for a 1968 murder spree.
Even after three rounds in the electric chair, Jakkariah will not die. It’s up to intrepid citizens Ricky Dean Logan (Darius Willis) and Vicki Newton (K.J. Baker) to stop him. In The Third Saturday in October Part V (released in 1994, according to the film’s lore), Harding has once again risen to brutalize anyone unlucky enough to cross his path, this time including teen babysitter Maggie (genre icon Kansas Bowling) and her young ward PJ (Poppy Cunningham).
These slasher-comedy homages to the beloved genre classics of the 70s and 90s are successful largely due to the faux-franchise’s confidence in its own mythology: restaurants like Bronco Burger and Catfish Cabin that seem to only exist in small-town America and the central football rivalry, all presented as of the utmost importance to our protagonists.
Period-appropriate set dressing and costume design, as well as lines like, “Um, we’re out of pepperoni due to the statewide pepperoni shortage,” reinforce the world built by Burleson. As I was watching them this week, I couldn’t help noticing that The Third Saturday in October films capture the pervasive “I hate these teens” vibe of classic slashers like Friday the 13th and Prom Night.
If you missed The Third Saturday in October franchise at Panic Fest, you won’t have to wait much longer for your next chance to experience the delightful duology. Dark Sky Pictures has announced the films will be available digitally on May 5th, with a physical release coming as well.