The Initiation (1984)

the initiation poster 1984 movie
5.5 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 5/10
Visuals: 6/10

Decent moments

Story meanders, cast is so-so, goofy ending

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Initiation

Studio:  Georgian Bay Productions

Genre(s): Horror

Release Date(s):  April 28, 1984 (Premiere)/December 7, 1984 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

the initiation college prank

Sure…you’re laughing now until the killer makes your face look like that for real

For years, Kelly Fairchild (Daphne Zuniga) has been plagued of a recurring nightmare of a fire and has suffered from amnesia brought upon by a childhood accident.  Now in college, Kelly is on the verge of getting in her sorority Delta Rho Xi, but she and her fellow pledges must still pass their initiation.  Kelly’s got to steal her father’s keys to his apartment store and the students intend to pull a prank on the security guard.  Unfortunately, someone’s planning a deadly “prank” for Kelly and her friends…and getting out of the mall could be harder than breaking in.

Directed by Larry Stewart (and an uncredited Peter Crane who was fired during production), The Initiation is a horror-slasher thriller.  The film was released to negative reviews but has gained a cult following.

I saw a lot of slasher films from the 1980s but I never watched The Initiation.  I remember the movie poster and VHS case, but it never resulted in renting.  While The Initiation is a fun throwback to ’80s slasher, it remains a rather generic horror film.

the initiation slashed throat

It’s just a flesh wound

The movie takes too long to set-up the core aspect of the plot (aka kids who are stuck in a mall with a killer).  It feels like the movie should have dropped most of the beginning of the film and focused on the killer in the mall.  The movie then doesn’t seem to know what to do about the kids in the mall.  The mall has so many options for horror, but the film doesn’t really seem to utilize them…and then it goes for a completely convoluted backstory and boosts the part Kelly’s fellow fraternity friend Marcia (Marilyn Kagan) with a horrible rape story as a twelve year old that doesn’t seem to tie into the movie at all.

The movie can’t decide if it wants to be directly about Kelly or an ensemble piece.  Other horror films like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street take similar approaches but don’t feel as fractured.  Daphne Zuniga isn’t bad as Kelly, but the story is weak.  She is joined by fan favorite Clu Gulager as her father and Vera Miles as her mother.

the initiation penis costume

Still one of the best movie costumes ever

The movie does have the nostalgia aspect going for it.  Set in a mall, it would have been nice to get a better feel for the look and styles of 1984 (there are a few clothing scenes), but it is underused because it wasn’t shot as a nostalgia piece…it simply is fun to watch now.  With a killer who isn’t very interesting when compared to other slashers and deaths that are rather blasé, the fun of an ’80s slasher is minimized in this entry.  On the plus side, you do have one of the best costume party costumes in the guise of a giant penis.

The Initiation is good for fans of horror who have worn out their copies of Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and even The Burning or Sleepaway Camp.  It isn’t groundbreaking, all that fun, or even that good, but it is a good representation of 1980s horror which has a feel in itself.  The clever self-aware horror movies serve their purpose, but The Initiation is a nice throwback to simple “I’m going to kill them all” type horror movies where the killer has a maniac motive and the teens behave in counterintuitive behavior when faced with slaughter.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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