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Larry Stewart
Daphne Zuniga, Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, James Read
Writing Credits:
Charles Pratt Jr.

While trying to understand a frightening reoccurring nightmare, a pledge is coaxed into breaking into her father's department store by her sorority sisters, where a deranged killer targets the girls and their boyfriends.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $34.95
Release Date: 11/8/2016

• Audio Commentary with “The Hysteria Continues”
• “Sorority Saga” Featurette
• “Pledge Night” Featurette
• “Dream Job” Featurette
• Extended Scene
• Trailer
• Booklet


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Initiation [Blu-Ray] (1984)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 9, 2016)

Prime sign a movie may not be good: when its advertising tries to sell it to us because it boasts Daphne Zuniga’s cinematic debut. No offense to Ms. Zuniga, but she doesn’t exactly qualify as a household name/”A”-list star, so the fact she becomes a focal point of promotion for 1984’s The Initiation makes me leery.

On the other hand, a 1980s horror film about college girls sounds like it could come with lots of skin, so how can I resist?

College student Kelly Fairchild (Zuniga) pledges Delta Rho Chi sorority. As part of the group’s initiation, Kelly and her peers must break into a department store – a business owned by Kelly’s father Dwight (Clu Gulager). Though harmless on the surface, this prank becomes deadly when the girls find themselves trapped without the ability to leave the store – and stuck there with a homicidal maniac.

That’s not the worst premise I’ve heard for a slasher flick –but it’s not especially good, either. Actually, it reminds me of the plot behind 1986’s Chopping Mall, though the latter film came up with a better explanation for the reason the characters get imprisoned in the retail environment.

It also branched away from the slasher conventions in a more convincing manner, as Chopping Mall used a high-tech element for its terror. Initiation goes with factors “borrowed” from Halloween and other flicks as it sticks with the standard horror MO.

Initiation takes a long, slow path to get the pledges to the store, as they don’t embark on their prank until about halfway into the film. The first half builds elements related to Kelly’s past, with an emphasis on a recurring dream that involves a burning man.

Because A Nightmare On Elm Street came out only about a month before Initiation, I know I can’t call the latter a ripoff of the former. However, it sure does feel like one, as it attempts themes related to memories/nightmares that echo those from the Wes Craven classic.

All of this feels like pointless windowdressing. Initiation tries hard to offer something “deep” and more meaningful than the average horror romp, but none of those elements succeed.

Really, Initiation should’ve probably just stayed with the standard issue slasher film template. It fails to integrate its psychological components in a successful manner, as it tosses whatever it can find at the screen and hopes something sticks.

The borderline random nature of the storytelling turns into another factor. The movie leaps from one domain to another without clarity, so the tale progresses in a jerky, uncompelling way.

Even with veteran actors like Vera Miles and Clu Gulager in tow, the film’s acting stinks. The performers go for high camp, so their work tends to be over the top and silly.

At least we do get some of the nudity I hoped to find, as the film boasts some appealing female visuals. Otherwise, The Initiation comes with no positives, as it creates an amateurish, unconvincing stab at horror.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C/ Audio C/ Bonus B-

The Initiation appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This wasn’t a bad image given its age, but it never became especially appealing.

Sharpness was probably the weakest link. Parts of the film showed reasonable delineation, but a lot of it came across as soft and bland. No issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws were essentially absent as well.

Colors were adequate. Though the hues lacked great vivacity, they showed passable clarity. Blacks were reasonably dark, and shadows presented acceptable smoothness. Nothing here seemed better than average.

When we moved to the film’s LPCM monaural soundtrack, it showed its age but usually sounded decent. Dialogue was adequate as only occasional edginess affected the lines. Speech could’ve been more natural, but the lines seemed okay.

Music wasn’t particularly bold, but the score and songs showed reasonable clarity and vivacity. Effects seemed clean and without substantial distortion; though they didn’t have much kick, they reproduced the material well. While nothing here dazzled, the mix held up fine for a 32-year-old mono track.

As we shift to extras, we get an audio commentary from members of “The Hysteria Continues”, a podcast group. We hear from Justin Kurswell, Erik Threllfall, Joseph Henson and Nathan Johnson. All four chat together for this running, screen-specific look at cast/crew, other horror flicks/influences, sets and locations, and related subjects.

Don’t expect a lot of substance from this largely forgettable chat. The participants offer a smattering of useful thoughts about the film and its genre, but mostly they just seem to shoot the breeze. Maybe that works for some, but I think it fails to produce an informative piece.

Three featurettes follow. Sorority Saga goes for 21 minutes, 17 seconds and provides an interview with writer Charles Pratt Jr. He discusses his interest in filmmaking, his work on Initiation, some production details and the flick’s legacy. Pratt presents a fun personality who makes this an involving little chat.

During the 18-minute, 36-second Pledge Night, we hear from actor Christopher Bradley. He lets us know how he got his part as well as working on the film, cast/crew, aspects of the shoot, and his reaction to the end product. Like Pratt, Bradley seems happy to discuss the movie, and his energy helps carry this enjoyable collection of memories.

Finally, Dream Job lasts 13 minutes, 34 seconds and involves actor Joy Jones. She covers her interest in acting, experiences during the shoot, thoughts about the film and her life after movies. Jones presents another informative and likable conversation.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find an Extended Scene. It lasts one minute, seven seconds and shows a smidgen more from the fraternity party. The few extra seconds of dialogue add nothing of value.

A booklet concludes the package. It offers credits, photos and an essay from historian James Oliver. It ends matters in a pleasing manner.

Maybe I should admire the fact The Initiation attempts greater thematic depth than the average slasher film, but the end result sputters so badly that I can’t give it credit. The movie moves slowly and offers no excitement, terror or drama. The Blu-ray brings us mediocre picture and audio along with a decent array of supplements. The Initiation delivers a forgettable, amateurish horror flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.6666 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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