Poster for Larry Stewart's The Initiation.
Poster for The Initiation.

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A bit of a forgotten slasher effort of the ‘80s, The Initiation follows the exploits of sorority hopeful Kelly Fairchild (Daphne Zuniga) as she pledges a sorority during her freshman year of college. Kelly and her fellow pledges are tasked with sneaking into her father’s shopping center and stealing the night guard’s uniform. Naturally, there is an escaped psychopath on the loose that makes their task anything but easy.

The Initiation is a sufficiently cheesy ‘80s sorority slasher with all of the typical stereotypes present. Charles Pratt Jr. who later went on to cast Zuniga in Melrose Place wrote the screenplay. Larry Stewart, who died in 1997, directed the film and it remains his only feature. The script is average slasher fare and the direction is anything but keen. However, there is a certain nostalgia-invoking familiarity that makes The Initiation seem better than it is.  And it is better than some of the other low-budget slashers to come out of the same era but fails to live up to the standard set by sorority slashers like The House on Sorority Row. It does manage to surpass the quality of Zuniga’s other ‘80s campus horror flick P.R.A.N.K.S. aka The Dorm that Dripped Blood, though.  

The performances in The Initiation are mostly below average: it’s obvious that this was an early acting role for Daphne Zuniga and that she was still learning some of the finer points of her craft. The film’s other leads turn in equally unconvincing performances but none of them is so poor as to render the film unwatchable. And after all, it is a 1980s horror picture, so one should not be too critical. Working in the film’s favor is a supporting performance by horror icon Clu Gulager as Kelly’s father.

The gore effects, though simplistic and a bit tame, aren’t all bad. There are a couple of noteworthy death scenes. The film earns some bonus creativity points for using a trowel as one of the primary murder weapons.

The kills are fairly well placed. There are two within the first half of the picture and the killer picks up steam in the back half by going on a spree once the pledges arrive at the shopping center. In spite of its inadequacies, The Initiation is still mostly entertaining. It never really drags or makes the viewer wait around for something to happen.

Many of the flaws found within The Initiation can be attributed to budgetary constraints. In fact, a shot from one of the kill scenes was used multiple times because the shooting schedule was so tight that it didn’t allow for the crew to go back and reshoot the same scene. However, if you can overlook some of the film’s shortcomings and just enjoy it for pure entertainment value, it isn’t half bad.

As of this posting, The Initiation is available to stream on Netflix. So, if you’re a fan of ‘80s slashers and you haven’t seen the film, it’s probably worth checking out. Don’t expect perfection or anything more than mediocrity and you may be pleasantly surprised.

WICKED RATING: 3.5/10  [usr 3.5]

Director(s): Larry Stewart
Writer(s): Charles Pratt Jr.
Stars: Daphne Zuniga, Clu Gulager, Vera Miles
Year: 1984
Studio/ Production Co: New World Pictures
Budget: Unknown
Language: English
Length: 97 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Slasher