Years ago, a Saturday night sleepover would likely begin with a trip to the local video store with friends to pick the perfect scary movies to watch. Two local filmmakers set out to recreate the nostalgia of the classic slasher movies with “The Third Sunday in October: Part V” and “The Third Sunday in October: Part I.”
The titles could be confusing to some, but Athens filmmaker Jay Burleson and producer Frank Crafts, also from Athens, intentionally created the films in an order many ’80s and ’90s video store patrons are sure to understand.
Burleson wrote, directed and produced the films.
“I have always wanted to make slasher movies since I was a kid,” Burleson said. “The concept was that we could create this kind of retro-slasher series that would pay tribute to the movies I loved as a kid. The video store era really plays into what we were trying to capture here with both the movies starting with Part V. When I was a kid, you could go to the video store and they would have all the Halloween movies but they weren’t necessarily going to be there that day so you might end up renting them out of order.”
Crafts co-produced the film. He was introduced to Burleson six years ago and after making many short films, Crafts knew that he was ready to make a feature.
“Jay had made features, but both of us where looking for a more ambitious project. We were both raising money for a cool arthouse thriller, but we just couldn’t get it off the ground,” Crafts said. “We had assembled a team and we started working together seriously on this project about four years ago.”
Funding for the film was a challenge but thanks to great networking skills, they found the money they needed to create the films.
“We raised money from local investors, but I also reached out to people from my past, dear friends, business acquaintances– anybody I thought would be interested in helping us get this off the ground,” Crafts said.
Filming began in 2019, and as finishing touches were being made on Part V, the COVID shutdown began. Part I was shot in the fall of 2020 into the winter of 2021.
“It was definitely a new experience because COVID was everywhere at that point and we had to work with that looming over our shoulders every day,” Burleson said.
An outbreak on the set, despite following strict protocols on social distancing and masking, almost put the making of the second film in jeopardy and delayed its completion.
“We were able to stomach through it. We had a COVID person on set that was just involved with testing and temperature taking and us following the protocols. If not for that, I don’t think we would have gotten through it,” Crafts said.
Filming took place in many familiar locations in Athens, Limestone County and other North Alabama locations, including Burleson’s hometown of Hartselle. The cotton warehouse in Belle Mina served as the films’ “execution site” and other scenes were shot in Elkmont, the Square and the Elk River.
“We actually shot on the Square one day, too,” Crafts said. “We had to shut the streets down because we had extras, animals and everything else we were working with that day. We were able to execute it, and folks will definitely recognize a lot of landmarks not only in the city but in the county as well.”
The double feature follows the classic formula of epic slasher/horror movies, including the essential slasher villain.
“We set the films around the third Saturday in October. We created our own football teams and universities to represent a huge football rivalry. It’s very akin to Friday the 13th where you have a group of characters getting together in an isolated area. It just happens to be set in rural Alabama where people are getting ready to watch the big game. It follows that formula and take some comedic liberty along the way,” Burleson said.
The casting for the film was done by Ayoka Billions of Huntsville. The actors in the film came from Los Angeles, Atlanta Nashville and other area,s but many of actors from the Athens and Hartselle area were also cast in the film.
Cast members in Part V include Kansas Bowling (Manson girl in “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood”), Poppy Cunningham (A24’s “The Death of Dick Long”), and Parker Love Bowling (also a Manson girl in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”). Parker and Kansas are both filmmakers and actresses with a large following.
North Alabama actors include Bart Hyatt, Tom Hagale, Antonio Woodruff, Joy Whitt, Eric Gray Andrew Wasserburger.
Notable cast members in Part I include Lew Temple who is well known for “The Walking Dead” and “Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects.” Also appearing are local actor Danny Vinson, Alabama-based actor Kate Edmonds and Tennessee-based actress Allison Shrum.
Those attending this locally written, directed and produced double-feature are encouraged to embrace their retro-side by wearing comfy pajamas or rocking your greatest retro look. The films do contain imagery and language that are not suitable for younger viewers.
Both films will make their North Alabama debut this Sunday, May 21, and the historical Princess Theatre in Decatur.
Tickets for the feature are $12 and can be purchased through the Princess Theatre website or at https://ci.ovationtix.com/36147/production/1161014?performanceId=11287724.
The show begins at 4 p.m. and there will be a 15-minute intermission between the two films. A Q & A session will take place after with write and director Burleson, producers Crafts and Ian Cunningham, Grammy Awaard-winning composer Kelvin Wooten, and actors Kelvin Woodruff and Kate Edmonds.