Blu Reviewed: Arrow Video's The Initiation (1984)

Through all of Kelly Fairchild's life, she has suffered from a nightmare where a man is burning, until one day she meets an assistant professor who can help interpret the dream. Kelly is a college student and a new member of the Delta Ro Kai sorority, and she is about to undertake their final initiation test: a breaking-and-entering at a department store, which happens to belong to her dad. But the prank turns dangerous when the girls, who are locked in the empty mall overnight, realize they are not alone... there is a killer in there with them. Is her recurring nightmare coming back to haunt her? A straight-to-the-point 97-minute slasher, The Initiation introduces actress Daphne Zuniga, who is known for her later roles in Spaceballs and The Fly 2. She plays the leading role of Kelly, alongside supporting actors James Read, Vera Miles, and Clu Gulager. The Initiation was directed by Larry Stewart and written by Charles Pratt Jr.

Arriving a little late to the game, The Initiation tagged alongside other 80s slasher films that were participating in the horror revival at the time, especially ones involving sororities, which brought in more male audience. It is a very well paced movie, never dragging on when it does not need to, or jumping all over the place too much. Though a bit predictable, and having some plot holes to see through (plus more than a couple random day/night light change shifts), The Initiation is a fun and nostalgic to experience. Its style even nods towards the atmospheric vibes of Hellraiser and A Nightmare on Elm Street. If it hadn’t actually been released immediately after A Nightmare On Elm Street, it would have had a bigger shot at a larger slice of the horror box office, but Wes Craven’s hit outshone it and everything else around it.

"We pledge to study the ways of The Schwartz."

The relationships and personalities of the characters, despite being written 30 years ago, may still remind us too much of people we know in real life: from the perverted guy friend who means well but just can't stop being a tool, to the overbearing mother, to the endless amounts of hazing, manipulation, and pressure that girls put each other through, for all the stupidest reasons. Somewhere in all the diversity of personalities, viewers will be able to find someone or something to be able to identify with. 

Something else to like about The Initiation is that the killer uses not just one, but many kinds of weapons not typically used in a horror film. It keeps you on your toes, and may make you look at a couple items differently next time you see them. Also featuring a great music score and a killer (get it?) freeze frame ending, The Initiation wraps up all the cheesy, awesome things about '80s slasher films that the world loves, and it even comes through with a twist that not many will see coming. Yes, even you, avid movie predictors.

"Yeah, he's a total dickhead...
but at least he's got a nice body."

Arrow Video is the reigning champion of turning cult horror films into exceptional blu-ray releases. The Initiation has never looked as good as this, and fans will surely be impressed by the care that has gone into its transfer. Included on the blu-ray are three interviews, with actress Joy Jones, actor Christopher Bradley, and writer Charles Pratt Jr. Although the real bonus is the audio commentary track by the group of podcasters known as The Hysteria Continues, because it is all fellow horror nerds discussing movies, and who doesn't love listening to that? 

Speaking of which, for more eavesdropping on juicy, nerdy, horror talk, check out more from The Spoiler-Free Movie Sleuth, and download the Reel Crime Podcast. That's YOUR initiation.

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- Kirsten Anderson