Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
While there were many 1980's slasher flicks that were set in campgrounds (Friday the 13th and the unforgettable Sleepaway Camp to name but a few), there were an equal number that took place in or around college campuses. Of these, 1984's The Initiation has to be one of the more forgettable. Not really making up its mind as to whether it wants to be a college comedy flick or a slasher flick for much of its run time, Larry Stewart's film is pretty lousy, with minimal tension developed and much of the horror material only thrown in at the last minute. As such, it's a very run-of-the-mill (and not incredibly fun) '80s genre picture.
The story concerns a young woman who's in the process of being initiated into a campus sorority. As part of her initiation, she must complete the requisite "hell week," which culminates in a big prank. Since the young woman's father owns a local department store, the senior sorority members insist that she, along with two other initiates, must get into the store and steal the security guard's uniform. Problem is that the young woman, Kelly, has a bit of a shady past, and has been plagued by recurring nightmares. When it becomes evident that these nightmares are not imagined, but actually a repressed memory, and that her jilted father has escaped from a mental hospital, the stage is set for another formulaic slasher effort.
Stewart's film has several moments in which it just seems to lose its focus. The early part of the film alternates between scenes of Kelly and her fellow sorority members partying it up on campus and Kelly being investigated by one of the teaching staff who has an interest in psychology and dreams. The occasional kill scene seems mainly thrown in to make sure the viewer doesn't forget that this is, purportedly, a horror movie, but the slasher elements of the film are few and far between for the most part, and by the time the supposedly suspenseful scenes start to happen, it's too little too late.
Generally speaking, the cast here is likable and embodies the standard college stereotypes; the men, for instance, mostly seem to be concerned with sex (at a "suppressed desires" themed party, one comes dressed as the male genitalia) and partying. The film's electronic soundtrack cues by Gabriel Black and Lance Ong are pretty decent, and creates nice eerie mood. It's really as a horror film that this one falls flat.
Director Stewart does a pretty lousy job of building and maintaining suspense. Even in the final sequence, which finds a group of kids locked inside the department store with the killer on the loose, any tension is absent mainly due to obvious set-ups. While most slasher films would at least try to throw in a couple nifty kill scenes, Stewart's best effort is a scene leading up to a beheading that's projected in silhouette onto a garage. It would have been quite easy to maintain the effect in the scene, but the camera cuts away before the payoff. The majority of the rest of the murder scenes are standard stuff, and certainly don't really resonate with the viewer.
In the end, The Initiation is a forgettable affair that takes too long to get going and even then doesn't really have many worthwhile elements. The film doesn't really play as a comedy due to quite a few serious moments, and doesn't work as a horror movie due to a lack of genuine suspense and thrills. The scripting by Charles Pratt, Jr. develops some nice characters, and throws in a surprisingly good climactic twist (and some gratuitous nudity), but cops out on the scares. I'd recommend this film, released on a barebones DVD by Anchor Bay, only to slasher film completists.
**Author's Notes: As this film was filmed in and around the Dallas/ Ft. Worth area in Texas, I'm adding it as an entry in the Texas + Sweden Write-off as hosted by texas-swede. You can learn more about the write-off here.
I'm also using this review as an official entry in the Lean-n-Mean Write-off, which is this year being hosted by Jenniferkateab and jurgrace. Details about this write-off can be found here.
And while I'm at it, I'll TRIPLE-DIP and announce this as an official entry in the Wicked Hallows Write-off as hosted by msbunnylicious. Details here.
Thanks to the hosts and partipants of all of these fun write-off's. I'd urge any interested parties to check out the description pages and join in if you can.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age