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Review: Initiation, The (1984)

Writer: Thomas Ellison


Kelly Fairchild (Daphne Zuniga) has nightmares involving a man attacking her parents (Vera Miles and Clu Gulager). The dream always ends with the mystery man getting torched after falling into a fireplace. As a pledge for Delta Rho Chi, Kelly is forced to break into her father's mall and steal the night watchman's clothes. Someone else is lurking in the mall and they're only interested in taking lives.

The Initiation follows the traditional slasher formula: faded stars (Miles and Gulager), young, talented unknowns (Zuniga, Hunter Tylo, James Read), new wave band (Refugee) performing at a party, shower scenes, bloody deaths, etc. Following the formula so closely is a good thing. The film makers set out to create an entertaining slasher for slasher fans and they succeeded. What makes The Initiation a stand out slasher is the strong performances, Larry Stewart's direction, and Charles Pratt's script.

Pratt does a nice job of establishing characters before they get slaughtered by the killer. We care about the virgin nerd (Marilyn Kagan), the blonde slut (Tylo hiding behind a stage name), and the comic relief jokester (Trey Stroud). The death scenes have so much more impact because of this connection with the characters. Sure, the first half is top heavy with psycho babble, but the pay off is worth the build up.

The Initiation almost jumps the tracks into gothic romance territory with its dark family secrets and budding romance between Zuniga and Read. Fortunately, scenes of garden tools sinking into tender flesh remind the viewer why we signed on for this trip. Stewart's direction really hits its stride during the mall scenes. Something so ordinary becomes a cavernous spook show with sinister shadows, gleaming murder weapons, and a half glimpsed killer.

Repression is the central theme of The Initiation. Every character suffers from either repressed memories or desires. Moral of the story: keep something locked away long enough and it will come back to haunt you. The Initiation is a must see for all slasher fans. Just don't reveal the twist ending to your friends.



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