It’s hard to believe in today’s slasher starved Horror world (at least in the mainstream sense) but back in the 80’s there seemed to be at least 20 Slasher movies hitting the big screens every year. Most were forgettable derivative nonsense, some went on to spawn franchises but quite a few sadly slipped through the cracks for most people not due to a lack of quality or fun but because of the simple matter of overpopulation. Alot of this took place from ’84 to ’88 when Nightmare On Elm Street was catching everyone by suprise, Friday the 13th was on their fourth installment and Michael myers was about to make a much anticipated (although uneeded in my opinion) return to The Halloween series. Sadly the newer slashers who didn’t already have a billion kills under their belt or a eye catching killer to grab the audience’s imagination just couldn’t compete. One of the films that fell to this sad fate was Larry Stewart’s 1984 film The Initiation. I’ll be honest I passed by this film countless times at the video store as a kid and never even came close to picking it up off the shelf let alone renting it..Why do you ask? Very simple. The title and cover art led me to believe it was a fuckin supernatural movie,
something along the lines of The Reincarnation Of Isabel or Witchboard. I never would have thought this one was a slasher..and while I do enjoy supernatural Horror it’s far from my favorite genre..perhaps that’s why this thing doesn’t have more of a following then it does..Anyhow, My good friends at MVD shot over a copy of recently released Arrow Video special edition Blu Ray release of the film and I finally got a chance to take a look.
THE INITIATION follows Kelly Fairchild, a young woman in college who is plagued by a disturbing dream in which she sees herself as two separate people, one of whom discovers her mother with another man and another whom stabs said man before her father catches her mother and the other man is burned. Kelly begins seeing a professor who uses experimental equipment to try to discover the route of the nightmares. Meanwhile Hell week is approaching and Kelly’s house mother convinces her to steal the keys to the mall her wealthy father owns so they can have a party there with some boys..too bad the uninvited guest who shows up also happens to be a homicidal maniac.
This was one of those films that I was very unsure about when I began watching it..but i quickly forgot all doubts as I became quickly engrossed in the refreshingly complex, twist filled plot. This film is alot more like the classic Italian Gialo films or the first Friday The 13th then the run of the mill stalk and slash. and WTF ending is a great reminder of what exactly made 80’s slashers so fuckin epic.
The cinematography here was pretty basic, although it did have some pretty great smash cuts during the kill scenes. The night scenes were very gritty and I have to admit I was a tad bit disappointed that there wasn’t more work done with the remastering to correct this. I love VHS but when I’m watching a remastered film on Blu Ray and some scenes look like an over used rental..that’s less nostalgic and more irritating. This was only in a few things and I’m sure I’ll sound like a dick for pointing it out..but This IS a review site at the end of the day and i’d be remiss not to.
The kills here were pretty fun, mostly stabbings but effective and unlike alot of the slashers of the era it doesn’t shy away from throwing around a good ammount of the red stuff us slasher nuts love so much. The gore was believable enough and the special effects artist worked very well with the cinematographer to preserve the effects with creative use of the zoom lens. This might not sound like a big thing but trust me it can be the difference of a half of a centimeter of space that can make or break an effect.
The acting here was what makes this film really work. Literally every actor on the screen shined. In particular the young lady who played Kelly did a wonderful job of portraying a young woman who is simultaneously the average 80’s teen with her slightly sassy yet peppy attitude and also a very troubled person with her habit of apprehensively peering around her when she feels her peers aren’t looking. Such a portrayal of duality is a rare thing in cinema and always has been and it added a nice touch of reality to a story that could easily have been completely ludicrous if handled by a less talented cast and crew.
The special features on this disc included:
- Brand new audio commentary by The Hysteria Continues
- Brand new interview with actor Christopher Bradley
- a brand new interview with writer Charles Pratt, Jr.
- Brand new interview with actress Joy Jones
- Original Theatrical Trailer
In my opinion the interviews were the coolest part. Seeing that the people involved with the film were such down to earth humble people made me enjoy the experience all the more, and for those who’ve seen previous Arrow releases you’ll know that They’ve always got amazing interviews.
I’d like to comment on the packaging as Arrow also always does an excellent job with that but sadly due to production costs Arrow is unable to send offical release copies of their films to reviewers and have to send check discs in plain slimline cases instead.
Overall I give this film and this release no middle fingers up. It’s engaging, unique and criminally underrated. If you don’t already have this film in your collection then this new release is worth the price tag