The Initiation (Blu-ray) (1984)
R Dir: Larry Stewart | Arrow Video | 1h 37min

Review By: Jake Keet | December 12th, 2016

Plot: What’s it about?

Arrow Video recently sent me a copy of the cult film The Initiation. The most recent Arrow release that I had reviewed was C.H.U.D. Basically, any time I receive a film from Arrow Video to review, it feels like Christmas. I never have any idea what to expect with each film – whether it is watching Italian Giallo films or Australian post-apocalyptic films, Arrow manages to deliver interesting films consistently. The Initiation is a horror/slasher film from the Eighties, so it is essentially in my wheelhouse.

Kelly (Daphne Zuniga- best known for Melrose Place and Spaceballs), a sorority pledge, suffers from a terrible nightmare. In the nightmare she, as a young girl, sees her mother sleeping with a man. She stabs the man and her father arrives. In a fight with the man, her father is lit on fire, while her mother escorts her out of the room. Not understanding why she has this dream, she reaches out to a teaching assistant named Peter. Peter begins to run sleep tests on her to try to find the root cause of the dreams. They also begin a relationship while Kelly’s overprotective mother tries to stop the therapy. Meanwhile, at a nearby asylum a nurse is murdered and some prisoners escape from their cells. Murders begin to take place as the sorority Initiation draws nearer.

One of the things I like about the film is how it seems to mark off almost every Eighties cliche. Gratuitous shower scene. Shopping mall murders. Sorority girls in danger. Escaped lunatics. Amnesia. For me, this is a good thing. For some, this might be an issue. In order to enjoy a movie like this, you just need to go ahead and turn your brain off and let the good times roll. I can’t think that anybody would find the movie scary or suspenseful, but I did find myself wondering how the characters would meet their fates. Also, the ending to the film has a pretty unique twist that raised the film’s stature in my opinion dramatically.

Like most Arrow releases, this film is either idiotic or brilliant depending on how you perceive it. I found the story entertaining and couldn’t help but enjoy it warts and all. It is also worth mentioning that the acting for the most part is not bad at all given what they had to work with. In the scheme of things, it can not stack up to some of the better Arrow releases like C.H.U.D, but it is not on the lower spectrum either. It is somewhere in the higher middle. While not necessarily essential, it is definitely fun.

Video: How’s it look?

Arrow Video did an excellent job on the transfer of the film using an MPEG 4 AVC codec of a new 2K restoration. I was immediately struck by the amount of detail present in the transfer. Clarity for the most part is excellent with only a couple scenes suffering from lack of focus. I can’t think of any way they could have improved the image much more aside from performing a 4K scan. This is easily one of the better transfers that I have seen in their catalog, on par with Dead-End Drive-In and similar to Criterion’s treatment of The Brood. Fans should be very pleased.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The audio treatment of The Initiation was very good for what it is. Since it is an LPCM Mono track, dynamic range is pretty limited. This film’s score by Gabriel Black and Lance Ong is pretty enjoyable and at times reminded me of the awesome soundtrack to Stranger Things. I didn’t notice any pops or hisses and dialogue is clear throughout the entire film. I felt pleased overall with the treatment that was given to the track, even though it is nothing earth-shattering.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Sorority Saga – an informative and interesting interview with Charles Pratt, Jr., the writer of the film. Like most interviews with screenwriters, Charles tells his own story well. Enjoyable.
  • Pledge Night – an interview with actor Christopher Bradley, who played a minor role in the film. I had just seen this guy in Waxwork, so it was nice to see what his experience was like coming up from the Dallas movie-making scene.
  • Dream Job – an interview with Joy Jones who played the bookish assistant to Peter in the movie. This was her only movie role.
  • Extended Scene – a few seconds of additional footage (without sound) to the party scene.
  • Trailer
  • Audio Commentary – The Hysteria Continues -this is a somewhat informative track, but I would probably skip it to be honest. It is just a bit too geeky.

The Bottom Line

The Initiation is an enjoyable little slasher flick from the Eighties. It is not averse to cliches, but I still enjoyed it. In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that the writer of the film went on to write mainly soap operas. Arrow Video have provided a really great treatment for the video and audio, and the supplements are enjoyable. Any fan of the film can buy it with no worries. Like other Arrow releases, it is recommended that you rent prior to purchase if you are not sold by my review. I will say that the final scene of the film is solid and made a fan out of me. Recommended.

Disc Features
  • (1.85:1) Aspect Ratio
  • Video Codec: AVC
  • Audio: Mono
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Audio Commentary
  • Deleted Scene(s)
  • Featurette
  • Documentary
  • Digital Copy
  • 1 Disc Set
  • IMDb Information Rotten 30%
The Initiation (Blu-ray)