Jed Wagman watches slick 90s throwback slasher Initiation
Initiation is a slick, tense slasher that is a throwback to the 90s and, in particular, to Scream. Everything about Initiation makes it feel like Scream for the social media generation. The film sees a masked killer targeting students across the Whiton University campus. As more students start dying, everything starts to unravel as buried sexual assault allegations and social media posts all start to get uncovered.
John Berardo’s feature deubt
Initiation is the feature debut from writer/director John Berardo. He’s done an excellent job making a modern slasher flick that actually has something to say and is beyond 90 minutes of murder. The film opens at a frat party at Whiton University; the guys are all talking about how they’ll comment on girls’ photos and “tag the hoes to protect the bros”. There are some good kills and deaths throughout the movie, but it also tackles the subject of sexual assault and it does so in a very nuanced way.
The story follows Lindsay LaVanchy’s character, Ellery, after one of her friends confides in her that she thinks she was assaulted at the frat party that took place at the beginning of the movie. But then Ellery’s brother gets killed and some allegations against him from a year ago pop up and Ellery must put an end to the murders before it’s too late.
“Scream” for the Social Media Generation
Social media and text messages have a very strong presence in the film. Messages popping up and this whole effect of technology give it a really nice visual appearance. One slightly disappointing thing about Initiation’s over-reliance on phones and technology is that in the final act, they do unfortunately resort to that generic horror movie trope of having no signal. This felt a bit cheap and predictable for a film that uses social media and phones so well up until this point.
Despite that generic trope, the final act is full of suspense as the masked murderer starts killing more students. There are some good kills in here as the killer opts for a drill rather than a big sharp knife. It keeps you guessing throughout as to who it is hiding behind that mask, causing chaos across the university campus. But when the reveal finally does come, it feels very anti-climactic and disappointing which is a real shame. Up until the final reveal, the story is really engaging and exciting but the fact that the ending doesn’t bring the blow that the writers would have hoped is slightly frustrating and dampens the experience.
As well as the reveal, the killer’s mask itself feels unimpressive. They’ve gone for simplicity here. In a similar vein to Michael Myers from Halloween or Ghostface from Scream in the form of a shiny reflective silver mask. But ultimately the mask just appears flat, forgettable, and not especially menacing.
Overall, Initiation is a really entertaining and subversive modern slasher flick that channels films like Scream, but it is slightly let down by a few flaws and an unsuccessful and anti-climactic ending.
Signature Entertainment presents Initiation on Digital Platforms & DVD 24th May.