The Initiation

Time for another installment of Final Girl Film Club. This time, Stacie Ponder chose the 1984 slasher-flick The Initiation. I was pretty excited when she chose it because it has Daphne Zuniga, Clu Gulager, and Vera Miles. It’s like some kind of glorious tv movie! Aside from the cast, it’s a sorority-slasher movie that seemed to have hints of Satanism mixed in. I love that mix! Sadly, the Satanism was just a red-herring, kind of. The movie itself was funny and fun to watch–although not necessarily for the reasons the filmmakers would have wanted–but it just wasn’t that scary.
Daphne Zuniga stars as Kelly Fairchild, a college student pledging with the Delta Ro Kai sorority.

Her parents are played by Vera Miles and Clu Gulager. They’re moderately suspicious and slightly evil. Dad is keeping track of the breakout at a mental institution.

Kelly is doing her psychology thesis on dreams and dream analysis. At first her T.A., Peter (James Read), is suspicious of her because he’s doing his doctoral thesis on dreams, but then he realizes that cute people don’t cheat. He also realizes that Kelly might be an intriguing case study, since she’s had a recurring nightmare from the time she was nine. In fact, the movie opens with Kelly’s nightmare. She’s in bed, in the nightmare, and she wakes up and catches her mom having sex. She tries to stab the guy and then a guy in a suit is attacking the sex guy. Nude guy pours something on Suit guy’s head and Suit guy catches on fire from the fireplace. This is when we meet my favorite character in the movie, Heidi (Joy Jones), who’s Peter’s assistant.

She’s sassy and awkward so you know I love her. It’s like watching me in a movie!

People start being picked off the night of the sorority dance. Kelly’s dad is killed by someone in a blue shirt with an eensie gardening pitchfork thingie.

There are lots of P.O.V. shots, so we know whenever the killer is around.
Is the killer this guy?

Who knows? I can tell you that this part is half-an-hour into the movie and they have yet to be locked in the mall for the sorority initiation. Instead, we get about fifteen minutes of wacky eighties party antics. I am in no way complaining, I love eighties party montages. We also get treated to this face.

That’s Meg (Frances Peterson) and she hates Kelly because the annoying guy that Meg likes has been hitting on Kelly.

I don’t get what Meg is upset about, he doesn’t seem like a catch. His shorts are shorter than Kelly’s shorts.

Has it been slow reading this summary? I can tell you that the movie feels very slow until the sorority girls are locked into the mall that Kelly’s father owns. That doesn’t happen until an hour in. I’d consider this movie a slow-burner, but it doesn’t really spend the time it has establishing tension. It also feels like the mall isn’t used to its full potential. I worked in retail through college and I can tell you, that malls after dark are creepy. The only thing really creepy about the mall are these teddy-bears riding a see-saw.

The movie does pick up, once the sorority girls split up, the frat boys who are supposed to scare them arrive, and they all start getting picked off. Meanwhile, Peter and Heidi realize that Kelly’s nightmare is real. Kelly’s mom was having an affair, she caught her mom having sex with her boyfriend, her father walked in and boyfriend burnt dad. But dad’s still alive! He’s the crispy guy from the mental institution. So has he been the one picking off Kelly’s friends?

NO! Here be spoilers but it’s so out of left-field that I have to share. The killer is…Kelly’s twin sister! Who we’ve never heard of before! Seriously, where the hell did she come from? I guess she was in the mental institution too and Kelly’s dad was hunting her down…? I feel like I was supposed to do some reading before I watched this movie.
I’m especially sad that there was no Satanic aspect. I thought they’d be a killer sorority because they woke Kelly up chanting “Be young, stay young,” and because Meg was so mean. Mean people are Satanic. Duh.
My main complaint is that this movie has pacing problems galore. It’s half-an-hour before anyone is killed and an hour before they’re even in the mall.
The effects were ok but the killings weren’t really scary. Plus, the characters were so unlikable that I didn’t really mind seeing them die. Still, the movie was…charming. I think charming is the right word. It made me laugh and didn’t seem to take itself to seriously. Except for once, in this really inappropriate and weird part, when Marcia (Marilyn Kagan), a pledge that everyone rags on for being a virgin, admits that she was molested. That felt so out-of-place. I was watching this with my roommate and both of our jaws dropped because, up til then, this had been a fairly standard, light-hearted eighties slasher.
This movie is not Black Christmas. It isn’t even Hell Night. It’s more like popcorn. Something light and yummy but not really fulfilling.
Past Film Club Offerings
Cold Prey
Hell Night


About scarina

I like scary movies a little too much. I thought I'd share my obsession with you.
This entry was posted in 1980's, film club, slasher and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to The Initiation

  1. Thomas D. says:

    Marilyn Kagan is my fave. She was also in Foxes, with Jodie Foster. Her death scene is pretty creepy yet very simple.

    I think the preppie douches dropped the tied sweater over the polo look because you could just pull the sleeves and choke the guy. I’m sure it was much too tempting to do that to “Chet” and “Brad”.

    • scarina says:

      Her death scene was definitely one of the creepier ones and not like the usual slasher fare. I think that’s why I like this movie.
      If I could have reached into the movie and strangled them via sweater, I would have. It was deeply tempting. I just need a way to deal with the guys I see who *still* pop their collars.

  2. Crypticpsych says:

    I keep wanting to pick this up on DVD because I’ve heard good things (not great things, as you’ve pointed out, just good, decent things) and I like Daphne Zuniga in things. I have heard of the ending before (I listen to the Hysteria Lives podcast about Slashers, but I haven’t in a while because I realized that I was gonna start spoiling some movies I really wanted to see. This was one of the first they covered, so, while I still want to see it, I vaguely recall the ending. I’ll probably forget it again, though, by the time I actually pick it up and sit down to watch it.) I kinda want Anchor Bay’s out-of-print release though…it couples it with an awesomely titled movie I’ve also never seen called Mountaintop Motel Massacre.

    • scarina says:

      I heard about the Anchor Bay release after I bought this for $8. It’s a bare-bones version, although it does have some awesome trailers for “House” & “The Stuff.” So it’s pretty much the most 80’s dvd in existence.

      • Crypticpsych says:

        The entire series is full of 80s fun and cheese (I have that version of Slugs, myself). I just kinda wish they’d carried over some of the old features. But what can you do, legal rights and stuff. Incidentally, Mountaintop Motel Massacre got a rerelease the same way. I think Anchor Bay sold the rights to a bunch of their things basically, lol.

      • scarina says:

        Yeah, this is one of the bare-bonesiest (That’s a word) DVD’s that I own. I’m kind of surprised it had a menu and didn’t just jump right into the movie, I own a DVD like that but I can’t remember which one. And Mountantop Motel Massacre is going to be by hipster-folk-bluegrass band name.

  3. jdcburnhil says:

    It’s true that we never hear of Kelly’s twin sister Terry before she shows up, but if you re-watch the movie knowing that plot twist, you see that the clues were there.

    It starts with Kelly’s dream: One little girl wanders down the hall and into the bedroom, then suddenly an identical-appearing little girl is next to the bed stabbing a man, then a whimpering little girl who’s still standing by the door is picked up and carried through it. We just assumed they were the same girl.

    We actually see Terry, from the back, in the sanatorium: when the nurse sees an inmate with flowers in her hand, she shoves her out of the way to yell out the window at the inmate/landscaper who presumably gave the female inmate the flowers. The inmate she’s shoving out of the way, who’s holding the flowers, is Terry.

    And we get another clue when Peter asks Kelly why she broke her dolls and she insists that she didn’t. Well, then, who destroyed her dolls? In retrospect, the answer is obviously: Terry, who was a destructive little girl even before she tried to stab her mother’s lover.

    Terry actually explains why her father has been following after her: he’s been hiding the bodies she leaves in her wake, to protect his crazy daughter. When you think about it, the poor guy really got the shaft: his wife cheats on him, her lover sets him on fire and drives him to insanity, and then his only non-insane daughter whacks him with a lead pipe and knocks him over a several-story wall to his death. As far as we know, the guy has never done anything worse in his life than try to keep a daughter he loves from being caught for murder; maybe that’s not the best thing he could have done, but still, look at all the crap he’s been put through!

    • scarina says:

      Wow, you have really watched this movie. I’m definitely glad that I bought it and can watch it again.
      The only clue that I really noticed was the broken toys. I noticed them in the beginning and remembered them when Kelly insisted that she didn’t break them.
      I really agree about Kelly’s dad. I wonder if he was actually crazy or if he was railroaded into a conviction for assaulting the mom’s boyfriend and then locked in the institution. I feel bad for Kelly’s friends but it really sucks for him! I left the movie hoping that her mom gwould get into some kind of trouble. Geez, I hate her mom!
      Thanks for the thoughtful comment. :]

      • jdcburnhil says:

        I actually watched it three times in a week, because I kept trying to write my own review for the Film Club, and I’d scratch my head and say, “Now, wait, how did that part go again??” So I’d cue it up on Netflix streaming and, like as not, go through another full viewing while writing. The first time I watched, I didn’t even see that the toys were broken!

        REALLY good point about whether Kelly’s dad was actually ever insane. Considering all the clout Mom and her lover must have wielded to have Kelly convinced all her life that they had always been her parents (didn’t she ever wonder why there were *no photos* of her family dating back before her amnesia??) they probably *could* have had the poor guy railroaded!

      • scarina says:

        Oooh, that explains it. Sometimes, I’d like to watch a movie without taking notes. I definitley want to see the dream sequence again because I just assumed it was non-linear because it was a dream. Now I want to catch the clues about Terry.
        Thanks! Kelly is a nice character but she doesn’t seem to smart. If I woke up one day with amnesia, I’d have way more questions than she seemed to have. The Simpsons kids worked harder to figure out why there were no pictures of Maggie. And I just hate Kelly’s mom and “dad” so much.

  4. Fear Street says:

    Stray observations… I want to share a BEST FRIENDS bracelet set with Heidi. Meg appears to be at least 40 years old. 80s shorts were hideous. I love your doctoring of the Backstreet Boys CD up there.

    • scarina says:

      I love Heidi. I’m saying this earnestly, I think she was the sanest person in the whole movie. Hee, I bet Meg keeps falling 3 credits short of graduating, she’s a super-super-super senior. Why were men’s shorts so short? WHY?!?!?! And thanks! I spent, literally, minutes making it.

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  11. Mary Watson says:

    Does anyone know how or where you can buy this movie?

    • scarina says:

      You can rent it on Amazon or get the Blu-Ray from them. I happen to have the DVD version & it looks like that’s available on eBay.
      Thanks for the comment.

    • scarina says:

      You can rent it on Amazon or get the Blu-Ray from them. I happen to have the DVD version & it looks like that’s available on eBay.
      Thanks for the comment.

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