Slasher Hunt 2016: The Initiation (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review + Screenshots

Arrow brings us another forgotten slasher and, while the blu-ray and features are fine, the film is pretty bad.

Blu-ray + DVD

Released by: Arrow Films

Release Date: December 7th, 1984 (Theatrical)
                        November 8th, 2016 (Blu-ray)

Region Code: REGION FREE

Run Time: 1h 37m

Audio: English: LPCM Mono

Video: 1080p (1.85:1 Aspect Ratio)

THE FEATURES  [3 out of 4]

Sorority Saga (21m 7s, HD)

This is an interview with writer Charles Pratt Jr. He talks about his background. His father was a producer who is famous for the film Willard. He attended film school with the intention of being a director, but when he found out that everyone else wanted a director too, he decided to change his direction and become a writer. He would be the go to guy when it came to students having a hard time writing their scripts. He also speaks very highly about the cast, even bringing up that he was afraid that he was going to lose Vera Miles because she was doing the film because she wanted to work with the director and he had to tell her that they had fired the director. She, of course, stayed on. He also thinks that the twist ending works and praises very highly.

Pledge Night (18m 36s, HD)

This is an interview with actor Christopher Bradley, who plays Chad in the film. Here he talks about how he got the role, he was up against another actor who Bradley describes as a “surfer hunk”. When Bradley went to the final callback he found out that he got the part because the other guy “went to a Rolling Stones concert in Hawaii instead”. He also talks about how the director, Larry B. Stewart didn’t really like him. He never met Vera Miles. He now teaches screenwriting.

Dream Job (13m 34s, HD)

This is an interview with actress Joy Jones, who played Heidi in the film. She got the acting bug while in High School , but never acted there. Instead she acted in projects at the local community college. She studied under Ron Schuck, who had three of his students, including Jones, land roles in The Initiation. She liked working with Larry B. Stewart and found the entire experience to be a lot of fun.

Extended Scene (1m 7s, HD, 1.33:1 AR)

This extended scene was found during the film’s restoration process. The scene is presented mute with subtitles because the audio could not be found. This “extended scene” is part of the party scene and consists of two or three shots of people talking. That’s it.

Trailer (1m 11s, SD)

Does a good job at selling what the film isn’t. I might have gone to see the film based on this trailer, but I also think that I would have been mad because the trailer is selling me something else.

Commentary with The Hysteria Continues

This is a fantastic commentary track, full to the brim with information about the film. The Hysteria Continues is a podcast where four guys from the U.S. and the U.K. talk about slasher films, so they are right at home with this track. I did see people talking about how they had trouble hearing the guys because the track was recorded through Skype. I want to inform everyone that I had no problems with this track at all. Everyone is clear and sharp and there was no distortion or drop outs.


Like with The Driller Killer, I can not talk about the packaging because the copy I received for review was a check disc. Everything that is on the retail disc is here just no packaging.

I can tell you that the case is the normal 14mm case that Arrow uses for most of their releases. There is new artwork on the front of the case, and the original poster art on the reverse side. There is also a booklet with essays about the film and the transfer.

THE PICTURE [3.5 out of 4]

The Initiation was remastered in 2K and the results are pretty good. The film starts out with a dream sequence and there is a filter put on the scene to give it that hazy quality we associate with dreams. I was a little scared when I saw this because I feared that the whole film would be like this. Thankfully it is not and the rest of the film looks a lot better. There is still a softness to the picture, but that is how a lot of 80s horror films looked. The level of sharpness is high and the detail and clarity are nice as well. There were some shots throughout the film that looked out of focus and I can not tell if that is how the film is or if there was a goof up at the lab. It doesn’t hurt the film in anyway, though.

This is a pretty strong transfer from Arrow that fans will really like.

THE SOUND [3 out of 4]

The audio here, LPCM Mono, is good, but could have been a lot better. A horror film should have great sound to encase the audience is the terror that is happening on screen. While the audio does do that, it could have been a lot stronger. I do applaud Arrow for sticking with the mono track instead of trying to make a 5.1 mix.

THE FILM [2 out of 4]

Ever since I started this site I have been on the lookout for films that I have never seen before. I have been discovering films everyday as a result of this. Blood Rage, The Mutilator, 42nd Street Memories,  Scalps, and many others might have missed my radar if not for my wanting to talk about film.

I am especially looking for slasher films that I have never seen and when The Initiation landed on my doorstep I was excited. This was a film that I had heard about and it seemed like it had a nice cult following.

I can tell you this: I did not like this film. I really wanted to, but the film has too much on the table and can’t figure out what to do with it.

The film is about a girl who has pledged a sorority. Her initiation (of the title) is to break into her father’s building (they are rich) and steal the night guard’s uniform. So far so good. All they need to do is introduce a killer and the rest of the film will have written itself.

That is what I thought was going to happen and wished that was what was going to happen. They do introduce the killer and there are a few good kills in the film, but the film also introduces a dream theme as well. The main character, Kelly, has been having an awful nightmare about a man trying to kill her parents. The dream always ends with the killer catching fire and dying. The local grad student believes that this dream is actually a memory. You see, Kelly has no memory of her life before “she fell out of a treehouse.” when she was young.

This whole “is it a dream or isn’t” thing adds a very soap opera feel to the film. It should come as no surprise that the writer, Charles Pratt Jr, has gone on to become a producer and writer on some of the biggest soap operas of all time. This soap opera feel hurts the film because this is a slasher film, not a soap opera. I know that slasher filmmakers had to come up with some weird stuff to add to slasher films to get them recognized, but this is taking it too far. We want characters that are fun to be around (there are a few here) and we also want the film to be fun, but by adding all of this stuff to it, the film becomes too congested and the fun stops.

There is a twist at the end of the film that I will be talking about now. [SPOILER BEGIN] Throughout the entire film we think that the killer is the groundkeeper who works at a mental institution we see twice and hear about once in the course of the film. We see his garden rake being used by him at the institution and later as the murder weapon. If they had left it as this, the film would have been a bit better. Not a whole lot better, but just a bit better. Instead of this, we find out that Kelly’s twin has been doing the killing this entire time and that the groundskeeper was the girls’ father. The man that Kelly thinks is her father is actually the man that her mother was cheating on her father with. The man who catches on fire is her real father. During her dreams, Kelly would see herself attacking her “father” with a pair of scissors in the mirrored doors in the bedroom. It turns out that this was her twin attacking the cheater. [END OF SPOILER]

You see how all of that soap opera stuff ruins the film? There is really no need for all that in a slasher film. All they had to do was come up with a different premise for the film. Instead, they add a lot of stuff that could have been used on an actual soap opera. This cheapens the film for me. If they had just given the killer one secret then I would have been fine, but slasher films are not the type of films that need to be discussed at the watercooler the next day and if they are the deaths are talked about, not the story.

The film doesn’t even have any real characters either. During the 70’s and 80’s, horror films would have real characters doing real things. Black Christmas’ lead character is pregnant and this is dealt with in a mature fashion. The Initiation has characters that are thinly drawn and instantly forgettable.

The lack of gore doesn’t help the film either. There is some gore in the film, but it is like the characters: forgettable. I was hoping to find a film that at least offered that, but I guess that I am going to have to keep on hoping.

The Initiation is not a bad film, just a poorly written one. The film is average at best and that is the worst thing that you want in any film. Everyone will remember the great films and the worst films because they made themselves memorable. The Initiation does nothing to be memorable. It just is.

OVERALL [3 out of 4]

Arrow has given us a nice package for an otherwise forgettable film. The picture is really good and the sound isn’t bad. The special features are a mixed bag. The interviews are ok, but it is the commentary with The Hysteria Continues that makes this blu-ray worth the price of admission. They have more chemistry than anyone in the film has. I would recommend this to those who want to have a complete slasher collection and fans of The Hysteria Continues.

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