Larry Stewart’s 1984 slasher movie, The Initiation, stars Daphne Zuniga (Princess Vespa from Spaceballs) as a sorority sister suffering from a reoccurring nightmare. The frightening nocturnal episodes are so classic and textbook that it couldn’t get any more Freudian if it tried. Seriously, Kelly’s dream-time scenario could be ripped straight out of the great psychoanalyst’s Dora, Fragments of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (1905). It probably was…
The Initiation is a pick ‘n’ mix horror work that shamelessly purloins from other – more superior – titles. The opener is cribbed straight from Halloween (1978). The sorority house setting was used way back in Bob Clark’s proto-slasher Black Christmas (1974) and then in such films as The House on Sorority Row (1983). The telepathy angle could have been influenced by either Brian De Palma’s or David Cronenberg’s work.
Kelly Fairchild (Zuniga) is haunted by a dream/nightmare, in which she wakes up during a thunderstorm, walks into her mother’s bedroom and finds said parent inflagrante delicto with a dude that ain’t her Pop. She attempts to kill him and the dude is accidentally set on fire. Is it really a dream … or a repressed memory?
The murder sequences are rather tame, by today’s torture porn standards. In a couple of scenes, the killer uses a trowel. Yes, a gardening tool used to soften soil. In the arena of awesome movie weapons, a trowel scores very low marks. Mind you, The Burning used gardening shears, so the slasher subgenre has often found use for common (or indeed, garden) objects.
The Initiation is not without a sense of charm or fun. Cult movie fans will enjoy Clu Galager’s performance as Kelly’s father and Vera Miles, who starred in Psycho (possibly the biggest single influence on the slasher movie), turns up as Kelly’s sneaky mother, a lady for whom keeping up appearances is vital so that skeletons do not fall out of the family closet.
Coming at the very tail end of the golden era of slasher flicks (this really is a very late, maybe even the last, entry), The Initiation is for die-hard enthusiasts only.