Know what I miss about the heyday of the '80s slasher movie? There were so many of them that eventually filmmakers had to start finding ways to shake up the formula and continually introduce weirder and weirder shit. That's not to say that all of these movies were "good," necessarily, but that they managed to be distinctive within a subgenre known for its sameness. For as good as horror is today -- and we are in a really good place for horror -- there is no one corner of the genre that is so prevalent as the slasher once was that it inspires various permutations. We don't get a Sleepaway Camp or a Blood Rage much anymore. The reasons for this are ultimately positive and encouraging -- the current crop of horror films are so vastly different from one another that we avoid this phenomenon -- but it still makes me miss that Golden Age of Crazy we got in the '80s.
To get into all the ways that The Initiation ends up being crazy would require spoilers, which I won't provide here. Like the similarly nutty Blood Rage (ok, Blood Rage is nuttier...way nuttier), the movie has to reinvent certain slasher tropes to stand out. It is more successful in some ways than others. The whole "teens locked in a mall overnight" is reminiscent of movies like Night of the Comet and Chopping Mall (even though one of those came after) and the kills themselves aren't necessarily more inventive or interesting than your everyday slash-and-stab, but the weird psychological detours the screenplay takes (by Charles Pratt Jr., who has spent most of his career writing and producing both daytime and primetime soap operas) are what give the movie color. The presence of both Vera Miles and Clu Gulager help give the project an air of authenticity -- they are genre royalty, after all -- but both actors contribute what are essentially extended cameos. The movie belongs to the young cast. They, too, are mostly generic, save maybe for future soap star Hunter Tylo, who...makes an impression...and, of course, my girl D. Zunigs, who doesn't quite pop off the screen the way she would a year later in The Sure Thing but who still manages to stand apart from the rest of the actors by projecting a kind of quiet intelligence. She feels like some sort of "other" compared to the horny co-eds surrounding her, which works out perfectly for the story being told.
Arrow's Blu-ray is another in their growing line of first-rate editions for movies of which I can't believe we're getting first-rate editions; it's been given a new 2K scan and a 1080 HD makeover so that it looks, while not brand new, better than it has ever appeared to be sure. There's a commentary track included from the members of The Hysteria Continues podcast (the second I've heard from them, as they're also on the Night Train to Terror commentary; if these home video companies are going to be tapping podcasts to do commentaries, can someone get them in touch with us?) that was recorded over Skype and is somewhat spotty as a result. Also included is the original trailer, a single deleted scene and some brand new interviews with actors Charles Pratt Jr., Christopher Bradley and Joy Jones. Sadly, there is no Zuniga to be found.
Blu-ray release date: November 8, 2016
DTS HD 1.0 Master Audio (English)
Subtitles: English (SDH)
Blu-ray bonus features:
"Sorority Saga" - Interview with writer Charles Pratt, Jr.
"Pledge Night" - Interview with actor Christopher Bradley
"Dream Job" - Interview with actress Joy Jones
Original Theatrical Trailer
Screenplay and production schedule (BD-ROM)