Skip to content

John’s Old School Horror Corner: The Initiation (1984), an under-rated classic slasher that is under-watched for a good reason

August 7, 2013
NSFW WARNING: There is a single NSFW image at the end of this article.

MY CALL:  This movie has all of the hallmarks of a classic 80s slasher flick hybridized with a plotty story arc from General Hospital.  A lot of reviewers consider this movie to be underrated.  Sure, I guess so.  But that doesn’t make it worth your time.  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH:  If it’s dead college kids you want, then you could almost pick randomly from the history of slasher movies.  I’d direct you to I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) or Scream (1996) if you want to see attractive stars killed by a mystery murderer under much better plotty circumstances.

Like so many other 80s slasher movies, The Initiation feels a bit on the haphazardly random side, writing-wise.  It isn’t exactly like those WTF crazy acid-trippy movies (e.g., Deadly Blessing, Xtro), but I get the feeling that someone sat down one day, started writing this while drunk, then continued to write more and more sanely while sobering up towards the end.
Daphne Zuniga (before she was famous) as Kelly

Kelly (Daphne Zuniga; Spaceballs, The Fly II, Melrose Place) is a new sorority pledge who’s just trying to get through her initiation and prank night.  While prank night turns out to be the main focus of this movie, it takes the writer about an hour to get us there…so just bear with me as we review a bunch of details that allegedly make sense of this story.  So….bear with me here…

Kelly has a recurring nightmare in which she is a little girl witnessing her mother engaging in some infidelity and a fight breaks out between two guys–presumably the husband and the co-cheater, one of them lights the other on fire.  Whoa!  She even has a few visions from the dream while she’s awake.  Perhaps linked to the nightmare Kelly as also amnesia, remembering nothing before age 9 (about the age she appears to be in her dream).  This nightmare preoccupies her to the point that she is writing a paper on dream analysis for one of her classes.  I guess she thinks that she, a college freshman living in a catty sorority, can master the field psychology while writing a single paper and solve all of her problems.

Perhaps realizing that this is a bit beyond the research capabilities of a teenager, she enlists the help of a some doctoral student who evidently specializes in everything pertinent to her problem: parapsychology, dreams analysis, hypnotherapy and sleep pattern analysis.  Sounds to me like this guy is working on four concurrent PhDs.  But that’s okay since the writer of this movie balances things out with his complete apparent lack of education.  Or so, I’m guessing based on the writing quality.  As it turns out the writer (Charles Pratt, Jr.; All My Children, General Hospital, Melrose Place) moved on to a 30 year career in soap opera writing immediately after this movie.  So he clearly learned how to capitalize on his flair for melodrama and found his niche.  I mean…amnesia, infidelity, traumatic childhoods, privileged families, visions and the gross over-glorification of doctorates?  Yeah, he started writing a soap and then turned it into a slasher movie.
It’s always the guy with the scar.

As if the nonsense wasn’t piled high enough yet, Kelly’s parents are talking about things suspiciously vaguely, her mother (Vera Miles; Psycho) is always mettling and controlling, and her father (Clu Gulager; The Return of the Living Dead) is making weird phone calls; there are a lot of red herrings to grab at in this soapy slasher story.  All this plotty background is delivered at a slow soapy pace and with little sense of urgency.  It’s a bit boring really.

All of the sudden (about an hour into the movie) our attention shifts back to prank day, Kelly steals the keys to a shopping mall from her father (who owns the mall) so that they can sneak in overnight for prank night, and all of this soap opera nonsense is left behind.  The tempo really shifts gears when they arrive at the shopping mall.  These college kids start wandering around, the killer is there skulking around and picking them off one by one with various sharp implements, and it takes forever for the kids to realize what’s happening.  FYI, the kills are all BORING!

The acting isn’t nearly as bad as most 80s horror fare.  But, despite some of these actors’ ability to carry a few lines, this movie has all of the hallmarks of a classic 80s slasher flick hybridized with a plotty story arc from General Hospital.  There is an obligate shower scene (Hunter Tylo, future star of The Bold and the Beautiful) accompanied by girls in their underwear.  Kids split up and are picked off by the killer.  There’s even a guy in a great penis costume–not that this has anything to do with 80s horror.  I just think it’s awesome–easily my favorite part of the movie.

A lot of reviewers consider this movie to be underrated.  Sure, I guess so.  But that doesn’t make it worth your time.  I didn’t feel it was worth my time and, if you read my reviews regularly, you know I can make the best of some really lousy S#!T.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: