Sunday, May 28, 2023

Fool's Ball: The Third Saturday of October Parts I and V Review

The Third Saturday of October is the name given to an annual college football rivalry between University of Alabama's Crimson Tide and University of Tennessee's Volunteers, based on the fact that the games are traditionally played at such date mostly throughout the years. And now, thanks to writer, editor and director Jay Burleson, we can also associate this with 2022 indie slashers The Third Saturday of October and its sequel The Third Saturday of October V, which can be best described as a pair of callbacks to the horror subgenre's tropes and franchising, done away with varying degrees of "fun" where one is slightly better than the other. 

But are they fun enough to reach the same cheesy hilarity yet horrific gruesomeness of other throwback slashers such as, let's say, Dude Bro Party Massacre III (2015)? Well, let's find out and start this mess with...
The Third Saturday of October (2022)
Rating: ***
Starring: Darius Willis, K.J. Baker and Allison Shrum

Arguably the better of the pair, The Third Saturday of October (2022) sets itself in the late 70s and begins with the execution of a serial killer known as Jack Harding (Antonio Woodruff), whose death by electric chair is attended by the parents of some of the victims he claimed, Ricky Dean Logan (Darius Willis) and Vicki Newton (K.J. Baker), as well as an overly enthusiastic crowd gathered outside, eagerly waiting to see the maniac get fried and be driven out in a hearse. Shockingly (pun intended), Jack survives this attempt to end him and promptly revives in a graveyard where he slaughters those burying him. Ricky and Vicki, driving to the burial suspecting that Harding's brand of evil isn't gonna go down that easy, discovers the fresh massacre and makes the decision to go after Harding when the prison that done the execution refused to help.

Now returning to his old stomping ground town of Hackleburg, Alabama in a stolen hearse, Jack sets his murderous impulses on a group of out-of-towners visiting a friend's geriatric uncle to watch the annual college football game between Alabama and Tennessee. To be tied in this supposed fun night of football tradition is local waitress Heather Hill (Allison Shrum), who accepted the group's invitation to the watch party and more or less be the virtuous Final Girl in this horror show as she mostly keeps herself sane and level headed while everybody else around her get drunk, high and/or horny. As Ricky and Vicki eventually arrives in town and do their darnest to warn the town sheriff of a returning evil, it may be too late as Jack slays and mutilates one victim at a time this one third Saturday night in October and Heather may have no choice but to fend for herself against an unstoppable monster.

Taking cues from Halloween (1978), The Third Saturday of October (2022) slow burns its way to its massacre as about a half of the movie's runtime focused more on building its narratives, mainly Ricky Dean and Vicki's pursuit over Jack Harding, the out-of-towners' misadventures before the watch party, and Heather Hill's little Saturday night with a possible new group of friends, all the while our star slasher fills up the kill count with offscreen slayings and tame kills, harm random people by ripping parts of their scalps off or cutting them with a razor while they sleep, as well as boop a kitten's nose because, hey, sometimes a serial slayer just need a break from all the blood and guts and get in touch with their softer side, I guess. The direction lacks a consistent tone due to this multiple plot lines, leaving us with moments where we'll be watching a rather engaging duo of grieving parents share and bond over their histories of past traumas and hopes of moving on once all of this is over, only to be distracted next by the obnoxious ramblings of dope-smoking morons whose characters can be easily simplified as walking meat for the kills. That said, I do have to give credit to Darius Willis' and K.J. Baker's performances as Ricky Dean and Vicki respectively for being the most engaging players in the story and probably the film's strongest highlights, even more so with Willis' character for the little quirk of him exclusively calling Vicki in her full name throughout the movie, an oddity that help make Ricky Dean stand out a bit among the bland run of disposable meatbags here.

Still, the fact that majority of the casts fail to do more than be hollow caricatures also meant that you can feel the steady pacing more than it needed to be in some scenes, especially when it's just these people bumming out and doing various nonsense. These often draw out too much and end with minimal impact, as in we either seen the resulting shtick before or the scenes overburn themselves after overstaying their welcome. Thankfully, the ball got rolling nicely once the watch party starts and we see The Third Saturday of October (2022) flex their bloody streak on the kill effects despite the restrictions of a minimal budget, though I do wish for a more creative set of kills to make up for the wait. The last act stumbles on a clunky take, too, as it's simply an overplay of the killer's apparent invincibility, having him survive gunshots repeatedly and going after the Final Girl twice. It's mostly harmless fun, nothing too wild that we hadn't seen before from your typical cat-and-mouse between a killer and a survivor, but it does lose some points for how it just forced itself to end, lacking any real fanfare or even a proper conclusion to the whole gig.

Visually, The Third Saturday of October (2022) do look great with its color grading and wardrobe department, looking very much like the product of the time period it takes place at. In fact, I genuinely enjoyed this movie as a small and simple guilty pleasure of a throwback to 70s slasher, trailed along with enough ham, weirdness and violence to keep it engaging despite the missteps it made with its plot direction, pacing and fodder characters. It's nothing grand, but it's far from being completely bad either. It's solely an indie horror film that doesn't aim to be anything else than to be fun bodycounter and I can frankly value that.

1 male found murdered
1 male found murdered with a shovel
1 male found murdered
1 male seen killed, method unknown
1 girl seen killed, method unknown
1 female seen dead from a throat cut
1 female had her neck broken, face flayed
1 male had his throat cut with a garden shear
1 male garroted with a belt
1 female slashed across the neck with a knife
1 female beaten to death with a hammer
1 male gets a chainsaw to the head
1 elderly female seen slaughtered
Total: 13
The Third Saturday of October Part V (2022)
Rating: *1/2
Starring: Kansas Bowling, Poppy Cunningham and Taylor Smith

First of, no, there are no Part II to IV. The gimmick here is that the two movies are supposed to recreate the times one could go out and rent videos, only for the video rental to be missing copies of certain entries in a franchise you wanted to watch. Most of us have been there: somebody else rented all but one or two movie from a film series, worse even if the movies doesn't even follow one another back-to-back, but our young, enthusiastic inner-horror fan really wanted to see Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger cut up some teens that one Friday or weekend night, so we rent them anyway and we just have a blast watching the horror shows. Much to some slight confusion.

The Third Saturday of October Part V (2022), in all fairness and honesty, does succeed with what it's attempting to recapture, but as a slasher film on its own, I couldn't find much else to go with here.

Set in the 90s, Part V has the most standard plotting I've seen in a bodycounter as it's literally just teens watching a football game match between rival colleges, interjected with the usual slasher exploits of drinking, sex and burnt pizza, only for it all to be interrupted by the arrival of the franchise's star villain, the now-masked Jack Harding, who proceeds to chop, tear and stab down anybody he comes across.

While the original movie took cues from Halloween (1978) by building its time to the slaughterfest and focusing a good chunk of the act within a variety of characters to establish some people to root for, The Third Saturday of October Part V chose to dish out bloodier and gorier kills on a more generous pacing, as well as taking a big knife swing lampooning at the tendencies for horror franchises to get sillier the further it goes down via showcasing a few outrageous slayings and cook up the plot with more ham and cheese. The drawback, however, is that the casts are cheapened into these boring, obnoxious and hollow bunch of walking victims-to-be that often chews the scenery a tad too much and too long, clearly an aim to let loose and be as outrageous as the slasher franchises it's poking fun at. But with a lot of the jokes and campiness missing than hitting, this unsurprisingly makes the whole movie feel shallow and empty with its forced nostalgia through intentional bad acting, diminished writing quality and lazy direction, resigning us to a whole lot of nothing to move the plot forward or deem it more interesting than what it's letting it out to be, something that its collection of gory kills and bloody torture couldn't polish over.

Unless, that is, you are looking for nothing else but gory kills and bloody torture. That said, The Third Saturday of October Part V (2022) would work if you're not asking for a lot. Like, a whole lot. If you're simply hounding to see a silly slasher with just good gore and an attempt to be campy, regardless of how obvious the low budget seems are or how bland the story is, then this movie is a fair candidate for a watch. Aside from that, it hardly amounted to anything but a nostalgia-inducing gimmick and, sometimes, that's barely enough to make a film good.

1 male got his throat slashed with a knife (stock footage)
1 female killed with garden shears (stock footage)
1 male gets brained with a tire iron (stock footage)
1 female attacked, presumably killed (stock footage)
1 female knifed in the head
1 male gutted with a knife, bled to death
1 male had his head ripped off
1 female bludgeoned with a decapitated head
1 male killed offscreen, later seen stabbed in the gut with a dagger 
1 male had his throat cut with a garden shear
1 female killed offscreen with a garden shear
1 female shoved inside an oven, burned to death
1 male gets a whistle shoved into his throat
1 female repeatedly knifed in the head
1 male repeatedly knifed in the groin
Total: 15

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Secrets, Secrets, Who's got The Secrets?: Severed Lives (2006)

Severed Lives (2006)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Mary Alice Watkins, Alexis Celeste Elliott, Cathy Baron

For their senior thesis project, a small group of film students decided to shoot a horror documentary on their campus' twenty year-old urban legend in which it's said that a killer once went on a co-ed killing spree back in the day. As these girls gather around one night to think of a script that isn't going to devolve into cheesy horror territories, they would soon find out that they're in a real life slasher flick as a masked maniac starts stalking and picking them off dead one by one, seemingly in order to keep this film from ever being made.

As far as slasher cheapies go, Severed Lives (2006) suffers from expected pitfalls commonly found in a do-it-yourself production, mainly an awful sound design, dipping picture quality and price tag-constrained special effects. But in its defense, there is a little more heart put into this film as writer, director and producer Jake Helgren (who would later work on tons of Lifetime Channel and Hallmark movies) fully understands the core enjoyment of a simple slasher flick and done their best to implement it while tightening the purse strings. 

Clocking just less than fifty minutes, the direction is fluidly paced and focused, there's a couple of inspired camera work and editing, as well as a workable script done away with possibly some of the more agreeable acting done in a micro budget slasher film. The bodycounter elements are also a decent bunch once you get past the budgetary restraints; most of the onscreen murders are coupled with fair cat-and-mouse sequences and punctuated with a good helping of blood and chunks. The killer's guise is striking with their red faced mask and long black stringy hair creeping up on their victims like ghoulish hag. Their motive for the killings to teeter between maniacally clever and cheesy dramatic, but it does work with the twist reveal Severed lives (2006) went with, tying up everything that's been set into motion quite nicely in the end.

A fun enough slasher hokum if you're not asking for much, Severed Lives (2006) delivers all the manic massacre goods on a very tightened belt and I find that admirable enough to at least earn a watch.

1 female attacked inside a car, killed offscreen
1 female garroted with a belt
1 male attacked, later found stabbed to death
1 female knifed in the neck
1 female impaled with a javelin
1 female shot on the head
1 female knifed in the gut
Total: 7

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

One Bloody Pub Crawl: Slaughtered (2010)

Slaughtered (Australia, 2010) (AKA "Schooner of Blood")
Rating: *1/2
Starring: ChloƩ Boreham, Christopher Tomkinson, Steven O'Donnell

So, a dead body is found in a pub during a busy evening. The smartest thing you could probably do in this situation, apart from not go near the body, is call the cops and call it a night, right? Well, screw that sensible logic! Slaughtered (2010) says we should keep the bar open, have all the staff continue working and not talk about the dead bodies piling up all over the place! 

Yep, it's one of those movies.

Plot is arguably nonexistent in this shlock; we simply follow the staff of a local pub going about their night dealing with hapless drunks, new hires and potential red herrings who may or may not be responsible for a murder that happened five minutes into the film. Beers are served, pervy flirts make out in the backrooms, all the while a dark cloaked someone donning a mask full of glass shards do their fair share of onscreen and offscreen slayings until it's eventually obvious to the staff (but not most of the bar patrons, somehow!) that a killer is on the loose. Cops were called but only one showed by the end of the film and the killer basically got away with it all then, leaving us with a half-assed reveal that is virtually pointless as no motives were given and everything just stopped there! 

With acting chops as amateur as they can get and shitty audio mixing grinding up our precious ear drums, the only good thing I can point out in Slaughtered (2010) is that the gore effects and make-up are passable for a low budget indie and the killer's disguise is pretty badass in its near-simplicity. Other than that, this braindead slasher story is the very definition of forgettable despite the odd choices in its direction, like a staggering sad drunk who lost a bet. There's really nothing else to this film so feel free to bother yourself with this one if you absolutely have nothing else better to do.

1 male had his throat cut with a wood saw
1 male found stabbed in the chest with a keg coupler
1 male hacked on the face with a spade
1 female stabbed in the chest with a wood saw, force fed a glass shard and had her neck broken
1 female stabbed in the gut with a wood saw
1 male found with his throat cut and eyes missing
1 male found slaughtered
1 male stabbed in the chest with a wood saw
1 male found slaughtered
1 male hacked to death with a bill
Total: 10