The Initiation – USA, 1984 – reviews

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‘They pledge themselves to be young, stay young… and die young’

The Initiation is a 1984 American slasher horror feature film directed by Larry Stewart from a screenplay by Charles Pratt Jr.

The movie stars Vera Miles (Psycho; Psycho II), Clu Gulager (From a Whisper to a Scream; Feast), Daphne Zuniga (The Dorm That Dripped Blood; The Fly II), James Read, Marilyn Kagan and Hunter Tylo.

On 7 November 2016 Arrow Video released the film on Blu-ray in the UK.

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Buy: Amazon.co.uk

  • Brand new restoration from original film elements
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original Uncompressed Mono PCM audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new audio commentary by The Hysteria Continues
  • Brand new interview with actor Christopher Bradley
  • Brand new interview with actress Joy Jones
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic James Oliver

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Reviews:

By the time The Initiation appeared in 1984, the slasher boom was over, at least as far as mainstream audiences were concerned. A few years on from the box office success of films like He Knows You’re AloneProm Night and Friday the 13th, the genre had been reduced to second division efforts that could nevertheless make a decent profit through video sales – certainly, I seem to remember seeing this film clogging up the shelves of video rentals stores, never quite looking interesting enough to actually rent.

This second wave of Eighties slashers effectively followed the template laid down by those earlier films, cheerfully trotting out what were already clichéd ideas with their fairly formulaic storylines, and The Initiation is no different.

For much of this film, it feels like watching a slasher film constructed by numbers, from the opening synth drone on the soundtrack onwards. A childhood trauma leading to later retribution? Check. Horny teens you look about thirty? Check. An unseen killer? Check. Gratuitous shower scenes? Check.

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Yet the film does try to offer a little more – not much, but there’s an attempt to add some genuine mystery to the story (though the experienced horror viewer will quickly spot the heavy-handed pop psychology clues) and it at least has a few decent performances, some impressively gory deaths and the odd witty line of dialogue – which is more than we can say for the likes of Girls Nite Out.

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Kelly Fairchild (Daphne Zuniga) is one a four sorority pledges undergoing initiation to join Delta Ro Kai house (and please, let sororities and frat houses remain a strictly American phenomenon, it’s bad enough we now have prom nights in the UK), involving the girls breaking into what is referred to as her father’s department store – though in fact it’s that popular Eighties horror location the shopping mall. Kelly is plagued with nightmares involving her stabbing her father and a man on fire – and it soon turns out, thanks to hypnotherapy from boyfriend and psychologist Peter (James Read), that these are in fact repressed memory.

Soon, the past starts to catch up with Kelly as her friends fall victim to a mysterious killer in the empty mall. But who might it be? The escaped looney with unconvincing burn make-up on his face? Or perhaps the schizophrenic Kelly? As I said, anyone who has seen more than a handful of horror movies will probably see the final revelation a mile away.

Of course, for many viewers, much of the fun in a film like this is its immediate familiarity. Characters shouting out for friends to ‘stop fooling around’, false jump scares and a selection of grisly murders are grist to the mill for genre enthusiasts, and I’ll admit that under the right circumstances, The Initiation is probably something of a guilty pleasure.

It has spectacularly gratuitous nudity, a couple of unexpectedly graphic killings, a terrible band performing at an unconvincing teen party and a couple of old hands – Vera Miles and Clu Gulager – slumming it… and for many people that’s probably more than enough.

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Yet it also has characters who are a little more rounded than you’d expect from such basic fare and keeps its ‘teens’ just on the right side of annoying.

Not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but above average for what it is and certainly a welcome, and unexpected Blu-ray release.

David Flint, MOVIES & MANIA

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Other reviews:

“As the last slasher movie released theatrically during the Golden Age, it provides a nice symmetry. The debt to Halloween is obvious, but The Initiation also stars Vera Miles, who played Marion Crane’s sister in Psycho. However, Hitchcock’s film didn’t feature a scene with someone dressed as a giant penis attending a fraternity party.” J. A. Kerswell, Teenage Wasteland: The Slasher Movie Uncut

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Buy: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

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Buy DVD: Amazon.co.uk

“While it was unable to bring anything new to the now established slasher format, its murder scenes were applauded and Stewart revealed his expertise as he heightened the suspense for the film’s closing half hour in the point of view cat and mouse chase amidst the isolated corridors of the shopping mall.” Peter Normanton, The Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies

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Buy: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

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