Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Initiation (1984)

It’s time once again to cast off the constricting garments of taste, style and quality and go skinny-dipping in the pool of guilty pleasure that is the 1980s slasher movie. As someone who grew up during that decade I’d never heard of THE INITIATION (always a worrying sign) but that didn’t stop me from diving with reckless abandon into this ultra-obscure US horror picture that’s about to get released on DVD on the Arrowdrome label.
The low monotonous buzzing of an analogue synthesiser with little talent behind it heralds the beginning of this low rent but never less than entertaining picture. Before you can say ‘childhood flashback’ we’re in a room full of headless dolls and a little girl is waking from her slumber to find her mother (Vera Miles) in bed with another man (Clu Gulager). In walks Dad who promptly gets set on fire...and we’re awake. Or rather Kelly (Daphne Zuniga) is, awoken by her rather creepy sorority room-mates preparing her for some sort of college initiation ritual. The phenomenon of US college fraternity and sorority houses is something of a mystery to those of us who went to university in the UK, but if movies about such institutions are to be believed, it’s where you spend most of your time drunk, shouting, running away naked from angry people, and doing awful pranks to others before getting murdered yourself. Quite why anyone would want to go through initiation ceremonies to do this is beyond me but there we go.
While Daphne’s being primed to break into her Dad’s shopping mall and steal the security guard’s uniform, all is not well at the unfortunately named Fireside Mental Hospital. The inmates are unhappy and the head nurse isn’t doing too much to keep them calm. Before you can say ‘those are very long and well-manicured fingernails for a psychiatric nurse’ she’s been stabbed and is busy spreading raspberry jam on the passenger window of her car. Six of the inmates escape (we are told later) and the murders begin.
Meanwhile Daphne is cultivating a relationship with one of the lecturers (James Read from lots and lots and lots of US TV, BEACHES, and the LEGALLY BLONDE movies, all of which will never be mentioned on here again). Like any lecturer on the make he straps her up to his EEG machine and pretty soon she’s suffering from Opening Slasher Movie Murder Sequence Revisitation Syndrome. Mum Vera Miles isn’t happy and goes back to her worrying habit of licking large brandy glasses while Dad Clu Gulager (aha!) amuses himself with an array of interesting neckwear and a bit on the side. But not for long - scarcely has he managed to leave the house on some paltry excuse to go and indulge in a bit of the old extra-marital than he’s having a fork stuck in his chest. The same fork we saw a burn-scarred patient-cum-gardener plunge repeatedly into the ground in the way red herrings tend to before the breakout at the institution (aha again!).
There’s a party. An 80s party. A come dressed as your repressed desires party. One boy comes dressed as a giant penis. I don’t know why either. Moving swiftly on (something this film doesn’t do), once the motley assortment of pranksters are finally inside the department store where the action is supposed to take place, and after various bits of fun with a speargun, a bow and arrow, and of course knives, Daphne’s the only one left. It’s then time for a twist of quite colossally ridiculous proportions that almost (but only almost) makes it worth recommending this film. That and the anal blackboard gag. And a gratuitous Tom Selleck moment. And the stilted dialogue and acting that makes you think this might be a Zucker Brothers-style comedy before you realise it’s all being done straight. And some fairly decent makeup effects. And the moment when someone might (but only might) be drinking J&B.
There, now I don’t have to recommend it at all. You know if you want to see THE INITIATION or not. And if you do I promise you’ll chuckle at least as much as  I did.

Arrow will release THE INITIATION on the Arrowdrome DVD label on 5th August 2013

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