Thanks to the success of Halloween at the end of the ’70s, the genre exploded. Every weekend in the early ’80s, a fresh flick would open up in the multiplex with an unknown killer terrorizing a group of kids. Many future Hollywood superstars would get slaughtered with chainsaws, machetes, whisks and other rusty object hanging up in dad’s tool shed. The Initiation came towards the end of the trend in 1984. The film took the crazed killer concept onto the college campus and the shopping mall. While the film wasn’t a massive theatrical hit, the timing was right since it was able to gain a cult following on home video and cable TV. Now The Initiation receives a Blu-ray upgrade so you can countdown the remaining members of the sisterhood.
Kelly Fairchild (The Sure Thing‘s Daphne Zuniga) has one big dream. She wants to pledge to the Delta Rho Chi sorority at her college in Texas. She’s survived most of the pledge time, but hell week approaches. Will her bed in the sorority house attic space be empty like the other girls that were cut? What is keeping her from focusing on earning her sisterhood is a recurring nightmare she’s had for years. She’s a little girl who discovers her mother in bed with a man and another man arrives. There’s a stabbing and fire before older Kelly wakes up screaming. What can it be about? Luckily she can tie her nightmare into her class project. Turns out her hunky TA Peter Adams (Legally Blonde‘s James Read) is doing research on dreams. He offers to strap her up to his monitoring device. She can’t be much help interpreting this vision that might be from her childhood since she fell out of tree house when she was 9 and spent a month in a coma. Her mom (Psycho‘s Vera Miles) and dad (Return of the Living Dead‘s Clu Galager) don’t want to talk too much of the past. Kelly is equally shocked when she gets her Hell Week assignment. She must get the night guard at her father’s shopping mall stripped out of his uniform. She’s up for the challenge even though it annoys her to have to deal with the family business. What she doesn’t realize is that at a distant insane asylum there’s been a break out and one of the inmates has a connection to her family. The mystery killer claims their first victim using a three pronged gardening cultivator. When they arrive at Kelly’s home, they’re ready to upgrade their weapon. Will there be enough girls alive at the end for Kelly to join a sisterhood?
The Initiation has a lot going for it in a genre filled with forgettable kill fests. The mysterious killer element gets played as an obvious character. But the ending reveal of the killer’s identity allows for a moment greater than just the usual “who survived” the carnage head count. There’s also plenty of hilarious budget saving moves. The family’s shopping mall is a rather large office building with a huge atrium in the middle. The production designer does their best to make us believe that these spaces could be retail shopping spaces. While the big frat party with a band comes off as underwhelming, it does accurately depict a frat party in 1984. The cast is great with Zuniga about to hit the big times with The Sure Thing, Mel Brooks’ Space Balls and Melrose Place. This movie was her first major role. Hunter Tylo (Bold and the Beautiful) and Marilyn Kagan (Foxes) are more than promising as the other pledges. None of them don’t realize the chant of “Delta Rho Chi never will die” is a lie.
The videos is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the joy of ’80s hair. Daphne’s hair is quite timeless. The resolution allows you to realize how horrifying a cultivator can become. The audio is Original Uncompressed Mono PCM audio. The sound levels are fine. The sorority sisters chanting is the scariest thing you’ll hear all film. The film is subtitled.
DVD has all features of the Blu-ray.
Audio Commentary by The Hysteria Continues has a group of fans from USA and UK give facts about the film although the UK fans learn a bit about American sororities. They point out how director Peter Crane was sacked and replaced with Larry Stewart. Peter took too much time to get his shots.
Sorority Saga (21:17) allows writer Charles Pratt Jr. to explain how screenwriting is the part of the business that requires less cash outlay. He gives plenty of stories about the low budget shoots. Vera Miles was on the shoot for two days.
Pledge Night (18:36) lets actor Christopher Bradley admit he secured the role because the original actor went to Hawaii. He talks about the “shopping mall” location.
Dream Job (13:35) features actress Joy Jones explaining her career including ending up a journalist. She feels its cool that the film has maintained a cult following.
Extended Scene (1:07) is a few more clips from the frat party.
Theatrical Trailer (1:11) sets up the sorority scares.
Arrow Video presents The Initiation. Directed by: Larry Stewart. Screenplay by: Charles Pratt Jr. Starring: Daphne Zuniga, Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, Hunter Tylo, James Read. Running Time: 97 minutes. Rated: R. Released: November 8, 2016.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.