Friday, March 2, 2012

The Initiation (1984)

For me, one of the most intriguing aspects of a slasher is it’s setting. Where the murders take place is a key element in grabbing my attention. This may be why I was always a fan of sequels that went to exotic locations. Changing up the scenery added new flavor to the genre.

One of my favorite locations for a slasher would be a department store/grocery store. This is why the 1989 film, “Intruder”, is such a favorite of mine. I’m a sucker for the grocery store setting. That’s why this film jumped out at me. Being set in a department store after hours while a killer is on the loose was tantalizing.

Larry Stewart does take his sweet time getting there, though. The first half of the film is a slow build to the megaplex. We’re introduced to a group of sorority pledges who are enduring Hell Week. Our main female is Kelly Fairchild (Daphne Zuniga), whose father owns the department store. It’s her responsibility to get the gals into the building after hours for a mini party.

In the midst of Hell Week, she strikes about a working relationship with Peter (James Read). He’s a psychology TA specializing in dreams. She’s been having the same reoccurring nightmare since she was a child. In it, she catches her parents having sex. She grabs a knife and stabs her father in the leg. Immediately after that, another man enters the room and engages in a fight with her father. After a short scuffle, the intruder is set ablaze.

This loosely ties in with Jason Randall (Robert Dowdell), an escaped mental patient who has been horribly burned. Half of his face is scarred, heavily resembling the man in Kelly’s nightmares. As you could guess, he begins picking off the pledges one by one, as well as leaving a blood trail around them. In true slasher fashion, he has a signature weapon. His being a gardening tool that is used to dig up weeds.

“The Initiation” follows the slasher’s guide to filmmaking to a tee. It has naked women, a good body count, disfigured killer, signature weapon, exotic location and even a twist. It’s twist definitely sours the ending, as opposed to enhancing it. I won’t spoil it, but will state it does more harm than good. It feels tacked on and forced.

The subplot on nightmares is a bit of a bore, to be honest. As captivating as the subject matter is, Stewart handles it in a way that would cause sleep to occur. Peter spouts out the usual mumbo jumbo while Kelly frantically tosses and turns into her sleep. It’s fitting that this was released the same year as “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. Wes Craven came to the rescue and salvaged the damaged goods of this project.

Wade through this and the slow build (which produces some decent tension) and you’re treated to a satisfying back half set in the department store. Stewart uses the huge surrounding effectively. One nifty sequence has the lamps in an appliance store turning on and off as Kelly runs by them. Randall also swaps out his gardening tool with whatever he can get his hands on. This includes a spear gun!

If you’ve watched all the big guns of the slasher genre and are salivating for more, “The Initiation” is a good little treat. You may have to sift through some garbage, but the good stuff at the bottom is worth it. It may not be anywhere near the levels of “Friday the 13th” or “My Bloody Valentine”, for example, but it gets the job done.

MVT: Easily the department store setting. It’s what jumped out at me and grabbed my attention. It’s utilized so well and plays as a nice host for the murders.

Make or Break: I’d go with when Randall brandishes the spear gun. That was a sign of things to come and that I had a lot to look forward to.

Final Score: 6/10

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