The Initiation is one of those movies that I always want to recommend to people, yet I never seem to recommend it to people. That might be because it's really just OK as a whole film, but it also ignores the fact that The Initiation has pretty much everything I love about a slasher film that's just OK as a whole film. And when the indomitable Stacie Ponder of Final Girl offered up a Film Club Second Chance opportunity to talk about The Initiation...well, I didn't have any excuse left. Here's all the pretty things about The Initiation that make me smiley.
Daphne Zuniga - she of Spaceballs and Melrose Place and The Dorm That Dripped Blood - stars as a wonderfully simple survivor girl. By simple, I of course mean she has that perfect combination of the elements a survivor girl needs. First of all, most guys on her campus would date her if they had a chance. Secondly, she seems to be aware of her surroundings and only partially superficial. And thirdly - and most importantly -she has weird dreams and a traumatic past. Put that stuff together, shake it, add a pinch of thyme and spread it over a cracker and you've got a tasty survivor girl treat.
Around your survivor girl, there are a few things you need for the slasher recipe, and The Initiation has them. Established mature folks who can show up and effect the plot? Yup, it's got Clu Gulager and Vera Miles as Zuniga's rich and secret-keeping parents. A bunch of fodder for a knifey killer? We are, in fact, talking about a film with a bunch of sorority pledges and their doofus boyfriends. A setting to kill for? Just wait till you see this weird supermall/tower thing that shows up in the final reel.
(Oh, and The Initiation also has that weird guy who wasn't Pierce Brosnan on Remington Steele, complete with crazy hair and awful tie/blue jeans combo. I know the guy - James Read - has a name, but he will forever be the doofus from Remington Steele to me. Which is awesome. His role as potential savior via science is just one more of the film's random charms.)
Rest assured, dear reader, that The Initiation isn't just about the parts. Believe me, this film is put together in ways you wouldn't believe. The past trauma aspect of most slasher films is present, as much of the film's mystery comes when the viewer is trying to figure out what the flashbacks and visions we see really mean. Our leads parents, played with grand ol' intensity by Miles and Gulager, add a lot to the film with their over-the-top reaction to their daughters trauma, which provides plenty of cheesy slasher drama.
And while that's all going on - and while we all KNOW that something's wrong because we're watching a movie where people die in bad ways - the bubbly and bumbling supporting characters make all the wrong decisions that keep our movie going. Heck, one character gives this incredibly sad talk about sexual abuse that feels very much like that Phoebe Cates "Why I Don't Like Christmas" speech from Gremlins - and then decides it's time to have casual sex in a mall for fun now that she's shared. You can not force this kind of ridiculousness. But sometimes, it just happens.
Lastly, just when you think the film couldn't be more perfectly ridiculous, you get the final plot twist. And it is a treat. I can't even go into it here (it is, after all, a final plot twist), but you just need to know it's there and it's waiting for you. And you need to go see it. So head over to Instant Watch or a video store or my Lair - I got the DVD right here, let's party! - and check out The Initiation. You'll thank me later.
Oh and - as always with the '80s - there's the fashion. The glorious, glorious fashion. Gotta love it.