The Initiation Blu-ray Review

A suspenseful mall slasher from the 80s with Daphne Zuniga

Melrose Place star Daphne Zuniga’s first major role was this enjoyable sorority slasher from 1984. The Initiation combines a twisted family hiding dark secrets, nubile sorority sisters and a climactic mall setting for a surprisingly fun b-movie. Firmly built off prior horror films like Black Christmas, the slasher turns out better than the sum of its parts.

Kelly Fairchild (Daphne Zuniga) is a college freshman pledging an exclusive sorority. Suffering from a recurring nightmare involving her mother which has haunted Kelly since childhood, she has grown up to be a relatively normal girl. However, she does suffer from a case of complete amnesia from before the age of nine. What exactly are Kelly’s wealthy parents hiding from her? These problems push Kelly to share her nightmare with Peter Adams (James Read), a handsome graduate assistant that researches paranormal dream phenomena. Vera Miles and Clu Gulager play Kelly’s parents.

This is a perfectly cheesy Eighties’ horror plot, including an unforeseen final twist

The Initiation relies on its classic b-movie atmosphere and a final act that culminates in the killer roaming a giant department store owned by Kelly’s father. The slasher starts off somewhat slowly as it begins with Kelly’s banal sorority life, though that does give the film the opportunity to show off Kelly’s sorority sisters in various states of undress. This is a perfectly cheesy Eighties’ horror plot, including an unforeseen final twist. The cast is solid, especially for a low-budget horror film. Daphne Zuniga displays an innocent charm perfect for Kelly.

Made before the revisionist slashers of the 90s, The Initiation offers old-school horror fans everything they want from the slasher genre. An appealing cast, plenty of uniquely bloody murders, and the usual tropes make it a fun time.

The Initiation Blu-ray screen shot 10

Video

Arrow Video gives The Initiation a new 2K transfer from the original elements. This is an unprocessed image harvest of restored elements in decent condition. Some manual clean-up has been done with care. Its 1080P video is on the soft side, faithful to the movie’s cinematography. While a marked improvement over prior home video releases, The Initiation lacks eye candy appeal with its fairly gritty cinematography. Flat depth and average definition reveal its grainy video, occasionally turning diffuse with softer lighting.

The 97-minute main feature is encoded in a perfect AVC video encode. It is shown at its intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Technically Arrow Video has done everything possible in bringing out The Initiation’s original elements in their best video quality. Unfiltered grain is nicely reproduced in proper form. Primary colors tilt toward dull and flat tones. Black levels are adequate, choking on a couple of poorly lit scenes in near darkness. Flesh-tones are lively and warm.

This is a faithful film transfer done with fine restoration work. The Initiation wasn’t shot with an eye towards pure picture quality and that is reflected on this BD.

Audio

The original mono soundtrack has been restored as well in a fine-sounding 1.0 PCM audio option. A synth-driven score and intelligible dialogue mark this adequate mix. The dynamic range is fairly impressive for this kind of low-budget film, including substantial bass and clean extension. The Initiation doesn’t offer an expansive soundstage but delivers nice enough fidelity.

Optional English SDH subtitles display in a white font.

Extras

Arrow Video finds a couple of people associated with the film, though Daphne Zuniga’s missing presence in these special features can be felt. The featurettes are enthusiastic, including a group commentary from slasher fans. A reversible sleeve features original and newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn.

First pressings only will include a collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic James Oliver.

Audio commentary by The Hysteria Continues – Several different men contribute to this group commentary. Their background comes from doing a popular slasher Podcast. All fans of the genre and also this movie, it’s like hearing a conversation between super-fans. It’s more about their reactions to plot developments than intricate background information.

Sorority Saga (21:17 in HD) – Screenwriter Charles Pratt, Jr. goes into background on his own career and what led to writing this script. He brings up anecdotes from the film’s production.

Pledge Night (18:36 in HD) – Actor Christopher Bradley discusses his career and memories of working on the film.

Dream Job (13:34 in HD) – Actress Joy Jones recalls her character and working with Daphne Zuniga among others.

Extended Scene (01:07 in HD) – A lost scene with no audio. It is an extension of footage from the party scene.

The Initiation Trailer (01:11 in SD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not influenced DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Click on the images below for full-resolution 1080P screenshots taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered during the process. Patreon supporters are able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to 3 Initiation exclusives.