Over the last year Arrow Video has become a home for the more unsung slasher films of the genre, with region wide releases of The Mutilator and the gloriously goofy Blood Rage, plus Satans Blade in the UK. Continuing that course Arrow Video has recently brought us, The Initiation, a sorority slasher featuring a young Daphne Zuniga in the leading “final girl” role.
The Initiation starts like many slasher flicks, an opening sequence set in the past that will likely set the events of the future in motion. The opening here is somewhat more ambiguous than most as we aren’t really sure who is who as what seems like a jealous lover is accidentally violently burned alive. This sequence is also the recurring dream of Daphne Zuniga’s, Kelly Fairchild. Setting The Initiation’s mystery in motion is that Kelly is present as a child in the dream and witness’s the strange mans fiery demise. Kelly is also in the process of being initiated into her sorority, a process that involves breaking into a giant department store owned by her father, turning The Initiation into somewhat of a “mall slasher” as well.
Unfortunately after The Initiation sets up its mystery, it quickly begins to flounder and feels more like a plodding Lifetime Movie Network feature than a fun 80’s slasher. That’s not to say that The Initiation isn’t worth your time, it’s actually a competently made film. The Initiation wants to make more of its 97 minutes running time than just body count which is admirable. Its packs in a dream studying plot to forward the mystery of the killer, spends plenty of time building up to the “initiation” promised in the title, and even makes attempts to flesh out characters and give a little depth to an always shallow genre.
The issue is The Initiation’s payoffs don’t really payoff to the viewer. After extensive dream studying and trying to have a mystery of the killer the finale reveal is the most obvious and tame choice. The titular initiation is a disappointment as well, it’s a small scale massacre with some bloody but overall disappointing death scenes. There’s also a scene plucked ripped so blatantly from John Carpenter’s Halloween it’s insulting. Lacking many of the genre’s pinnacles such as sleaze, violence & gore, nudity, The Initiation is a milquetoast slasher film. A final surprise during the climax plays out nicely but it’s not enough to save The Initiation from being an overall vanilla and tame experience.
Continuing the trend of acceptableness that The Initiation carries throughout, the picture quality is a mixed bag of totally average, completely wonderful, and downright ugly. Arrow Video has treated The Initiation to a brand new 2K transfer and keeps the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. While I certainly can’t fault Arrow too much for the transfer as certain parts looks great, the source material itself may be more to blame for the films underwhelming and sub par look. The film utilizes many optical effects in certain sequences that cast a general haziness over much of the movie, especially during dream sequences and flashbacks. When we are presented with a normal setting in present day picture quality looks solid with a nice looking grain. Unfortunately, boring cinematography and a distracting use of soft focus throughout the movie lend to an overall bland movie to look at.
Presented with its original mono audio The Initiation is an unimpressive but very serviceable sounding release. Dialogue sounds crisp and audio levels did not need adjustment throughout. Most underwhelming is the score of the film, which can really carry low budget horror especially slashers. For the most part The Initiation just sounds generic and never really has a score the culminates into anything substantial. There’s definitely nothing wrong with the audio presented here on The Initiation, the film itself just isn’t very noteworthy audio wise.
If you’ve read my Arrow Video reviews for their releases in the past you know I’m all about gushing over their packaging, presentation, and special features. The Initiation is no different with the standard packaging and presentation of the hefty case, reversible artwork, and 18 page booklet for the first pressing in full force here.
The disc itself includes a brand new commentary with The Hysteria Continues podcast, which is sure to delight fans of the show. 3 brand new interviews were also filmed for this release featuring writer Charles Pratt Jr, actor Christopher Bradley, and actress Joy Jones flesh out the bulk of the content on the disc. These provided mildly interesting anecdotes about the production and will hopefully please fans of the film. Sadly Daphne Zuniga isn’t present for any of the special features, how could she be bothered with all the quality work she’s putting out lately. Also included is an extended scene which is totally skippable, the original theatrical trailer, and on BD-ROM the original screenplay and production schedule.
Brand new 2K restoration of the original camera negative presented in 1.85:1 1080p high definition
English language presented in Mono 1.0
Sadly for me The Initiation was a disappointing first watch, though I personally I enjoyed it enough to give it another go down the line. The Initiation is a well made film but just too tame to stand out in a genre where all the films already feel very similar. A bit more blood & gore, nudity, sleaze, or just overall more silliness would of worked in favor of The Initiation. While The Initiation is much harder to flat out recommend than releases like Blood Rage and The Mutilator, there’s still a lot here for genre fans and slasher completionists to chew on and as a fan of the slasher genre I’m happy whenever Arrow Video gives these films the high quality treatment.
You can pick it up here.