31 Days to Scare – The Initiation (1984)


The Facts:

Synopsis: Tormented by recurring nightmares, a sorority pledge finds an already scary initiation turning hellish when a psychopathic killer targets the pledges.

Stars: Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, Daphne Zuniga, Hunter Tylo, James Read, Marilyn Kagan

Director: Larry Stewart

Rated: R

Running Length: 96 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review:  Released in 1984 at the peak of the teen slasher film craze, The Initiation is one of the better entries in the genre.  Though it could easily be lumped into the same trash heap that so many of these early 80’s college-set slice and dicers fell into, this turned out to be a pleasing and non-fussy diamond in the rough.

Even though you may roll your eyes at the set-up (co-eds stalked by a crazed killer) don’t judge this film by its description alone.  If you do, you’d be passing up a flick less concerned with gawking and hacking at the nubile bodies on display and more interested in crafting a thoughtful framework in which to off its young stars.

Daphne Zuniga (Spaceballs) is Kelly, an average teen starting college that winds up pledging a sorority on campus.  Before the crackdown of hazing on college campuses, pledges were required to do all sorts of crazy things and one wonders if all the pain that the pledges are put through in this particular sorority are ultimately worth it because the girls are all so dreadful.  Still, that makes it all the better when they get picked off one by one by an unseen killer.

The film takes its time to set up the characters and a dark family secret being kept from Kelly by her parents played by above the title stars Vera Miles and Clu Gulager.  Though fairly recognizable names at the time, their presence here smacks of easy money but at least they invest their short time in the film with some convition.

The final task that Kelly has to perform to get into the sorority involves her breaking into the shopping mall her father owns.  With the remaining pledges and a couple of expendable frat dudes along for the ride, the last act of the film is set in the mall (with some amazingly nostalgic store titles on display) as the identity and true motives of the killer are revealed.  Though it winds up not making the most logical sense, there was a certain cleverness to it that I had some respect for.

At 96 minutes, the film is probably about 10 minutes longer than it needed to be but, as it is, this is a better than average nearly forgotten entry in the landscape of 80’s teen horror films.  While it may not provide the kind of scares or T&A than other films of that era, it’s no less gruesome in its kills or creativity.  Worth a watch if you’re a fan of these kinds of films.

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