The Initiation Review

The Film

Modern cinema has a lot to answer for with respect to popular knowledge of psycho-analysis and mental health. Audiences are encouraged to equate conditions like schizophrenia with having multiple personalities, or at the other extreme to approach the world of dreams as if it is an exact predictive science. I suppose that it is a basic human need to seek out certainty of things we don't understand, and the twin roads of unproven science and downright ignorance can prove mighty attractive to a scared and wary traveller.

Horror films and psychological thrillers are probably the worst culprits. If you don't want to slow up the action and want to have shorthand of exposition, then madness, eye popping psychosis of the kind that very few of us ever see, is a rather handy explanation for your killer or villain. More enlightened film-makers sometimes embrace the option of having a kindly authority figure explain to us the "science" and to make a case for the humanity of their "mad" people via approximations of reason. The Initiation is such a film, a slasher film that explores some pseudo science.
A real melting pot of a plot deals with mental institutions, initiation rites at a sorority and deep repressed secrets of a seemingly respectable family. There is a healthy cynicism about the authority of elders with evil nurses, jealous sorority leaders and duplicitous parents, and a similarly pleasing rejection of the archetypes of new authority that the plot sets up - here the hip young know it all teacher who romances a student is not eventually the hero.

Basically, we have young Kelly(Daphne Zuniga) who is plagued by dreams that intrigue handsome teacher James Read who is soon channeling Freud and Jung and upsetting Kelly's mum who, herself, hides a messy past. A breakout at a local asylum leads dark secrets back into Kelly's life as she is undergoing an initiation at her sorority (being locked into Daddy's shopping mall with a silly task to complete). Soon Kelly and friends find they are not alone amongst the sporting goods and bridal shop.
Now, this is a slasher film and a relatively hip and knowing one. It borrows a few kill sequences but is novel enough to differentiate itself from the slew of movies in the eighties that dealt with student life, mayhem and avengers from the past. Pleasingly it also knows the difference between split personality and schizophrenia and is wise enough to debunk the science and not set it up as saviour, a fact that makes the ending unexpected (if predictable for fans of De Palma).

So enjoy it as a facile slasher dispensing teens in bloody ways or as a pleasing cynical spin on the conservatism of such a film, yet do enjoy The Initiation or you're missing out.

The Disc

This is another release like The Vineyard from Arrow with barebones treatment and a concentrating on good minimal packaging and a decent treatment of the movie itself. Released on a region 2 coded dual layer disc, the sole special feature is a short trailer mastered in the same quality as the film. The main feature is presented windowboxed by an overscan box that seems a tad too generous to me, you can decide yourself from the screenshots offered here. Visually, the film is vividly coloured with monstrous brash eighties fashion colours evident, yet black levels are well graded, the image is not over sharp and there's a nice touch of grain throughout. It's not as standout as recent treatments of, say, the original My Bloody Valentine but this is a very nice transfer.
A decent bit-rate for the mono soundtrack yields good results as well and passed through a receiver with surround capabilities the effect is quite good in terms of coverage if obviously not directionality.


A nice intelligent mash-up of slasher film sub-sub-genres with a winning attitude. Arrow have done the film well, bar the overscan box, in this barebones release.

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