Amusingly enough, The Initiation is okay enough to not need the old eyebrow-raising poster and new Blu-Ray art along with its initial promise of nubile college-age gals doing the schoolgirl witches coven experimentation thing. That’s a plot element teased more than an 80’s hairdo and tossed aside fast in favor of simpler sorority pledge antics. Boo.
Still, the film works fine as intended if you love your slasher flicks with twist reveals near the end (this one might remind you of Blood Rage), some nicely done gore FX and a solid performance by Daphne Zuniga (her first major film role after 1982’s The Dorm That Dripped Blood).
The film was shot by two different directors (Peter Crane, Larry Stewart) and is a case where the initial one did some incredible and atmospheric work but wasn’t fast enough to meet deadlines. He was replaced by a faster director who shot the bulk of the film in a TV-style format and some of the original footage was incorporated into the new stuff to give certain scenes that extra visual oomph. Hey, it all worked out in the end, so it’s all good.
Of course, the initial promise of sexy schoolgirl witchery is probably going to be a *lot* more entertaining than the dopier plot where Zuniga’s Kelly Fairchild is tasked along with a few other pledges with stealing the uniform from the security guard who works the night shift at her dad’s mall. Kelly’s been having a recurring nightmare of a man burning in her childhood home and yep, that all comes to play as the film spools out. Kelly manages to meet up with Peter (James Read) and his assistant Heidi (Joy Jones) to have her dreams analyzed and the results seem to show something’s off with her memories. There’s a romantic angle that rolls in and flattens part of the plot while adding complications to Kelly’s relationship with her parents. But hey, that’s what you do when you need to distract the viewer before you commence with the killing.
Actually, there’s an earlier murder that has something to do with a mental asylum breakout, but you’ll have to see how that fits in yourselves. Clu Galager and Vera Miles show up as Kelly’s well-off parents and it’s kind of clear both actors were around for the fast few days of work and a paycheck more than making something they’d be happy to have their fans see. Then again, they hit their marks and deliver lines better than some of the younger cast, so there’s that. Of course, if you thought Psycho II was too much for your tastes (spoiler: Miles goes out with a knife to the mouth in a funny/scary scene), you’ll be pleased to know she doesn’t die here. But Galager does in a great and icky manner that should have left quite a lot of blood on the scene, but doesn’t (a slasher flick tradition in a way).
As the bodies stack up and it’s clear the pledges and the small team sent out to foil them aren’t alone, the film plops a few draggy moments around to keep you entertained. Some work better than others and one character’s reveal sucks of past abuse the air out of the film for a bit until a few more killings take place. The twist finale is a corker if you weren’t expecting it, but I’d gather paying attention to certain scenes will kelp out significantly. Heidi figures it out, but not everything. Girl shoulda got her own movie, I say.
Arrow’s pressing has some nice extras with the highlights being a look at the making of the film where you see the two directors’ styles and how they were merged. While the film works well as a typical 80’s horror flick, you kind of have to wonder how it would have turned out with the more unique and atmospheric shooting Crane was doing over the journeyman work done by Stewart. Eh, as noted, what’s here is fine enough for what it ended up being.
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
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic James Oliver
In a way, I’m surprised a load of these old slasher flicks aren’t being remade, but then again… I’m happier to see them popping out of the ground like zombies thanks to folks like Arrow Video keeping a good eye on restoring both classics and non-classics alike.
Score: B (80%)
Review copy provided by the publisher