Monday, June 24, 2013

All Ya Need Is the '80s

Ah, the 1980s era slasher. A time when going to college meant surrendering yourself to the queen bee sorority head, being pretty came with your very own stalker, and amnesia was as ubiquitous as the iPhone.

Quick Plot: Kelly Fairchild (Princess Vespa herself, Daphne Zuniga) is a wealthy freshman tormented by a recurring nightmare and the process of pledging the typical rich bitch sorority inherent in any college-set slasher of the 1980s. A few extra credit sessions with a handsome psychology professor and his awesomely nerdy assistant help to establish that Kelly’s ‘dreams’ are most likely buried memories long covered by amnesia. 

Did I mention the awesomely nerdy assistant?

A quickie side note gives us a wacky insane asylum (as opposed to the un-wacky ones generally found in this genre) where a rachet-y nurse is brutally murdered by a batch of escaped inmates welding a small garden hoe to far better effect than anything done in Santa Claws. More garden hoe homicides lead back into Kelly’s town just in time for the grand climax that conveniently involves freshmen pledges and their beaus spending the night inside a shopping mall.

Let’s make a checklist:
-foggy dream sequence

-lots of cuts to creepy dolls
-mental institution

-shopping mall
-Clu Gulager

-more cuts to creepy dolls
-sorority hazing

Yes folks, this is an ‘80s slasher complete with a gloriously nonsensical twist ending that succeeds at shocking then can’t be bothered to explain itself. Along the way, there’s a strategically placed Tom Selleck Tiger Beat poster, a frat boy bravely sporting shorts far shorter than any of coed's, and a heartfelt confession from the token 'virgin' about how she was sexually abused by her music teacher when she was 12. Naturally, said moment of drama is followed by our plucky supporting character sleeping with the movie's token joke guy, thus surrendering her chances of surviving to the final reel.

In other words, we've got everything we need right here.

High Points
While none of the characters are breaking any new ground, Zuniga and pals are genuinely likable, making us care a little more than we typically would for such a fluffy slasher

Low Points
An ending as wacky as The Initiation’s deserves a proper denouement, sadly lacking here

Lessons Learned
If a woman is turned on in bed, she's insincere

The suppressed desires of your average college student circa 1984 include ballerinas, cowboys, showgirls, construction workers, surgeons, penises, KISS, and mimes

Like beheadings, scenes involving hypnosis are always funny

Look! It’s...
Soap opera queen Hunter Tylo sporting a different screen name (Deborah Morehart) and blond bob as a nymphomaniac pledge who hates bras and loves roller skates

As a breezy Netflix Instant Watch, The Initiation is a goofy good time. The cast is attractive and sometimes naked, the kills are rote but done with some care, and the story packs enough moments of silliness that you can't help but smile. This isn't a classic of its time or even a piece of cheese with, say, Chopping Mall qualities, but when you're looking for a fun scoop of fluff, it works.


  1. This was an "it's a snow day" movie for me.

    Yeah, I think I liked the characters more than trying to play along with the plot.

    And I love that you know who Hunter Tylo is...

  2. How can I forget the woman who successfully sued Aaron Spelling?!

  3. This is definitely the kind of dumb-fun slasher film I can get behind. It doesn't take itself too seriously, it feels very 80's and Clu Gulager's in it. Win.

  4. In a lot of ways, the perfect '80s horror.

  5. I really enjoy this movie, for all of the reasons you mentioned--and yes, Heidi the nerdy assistant is awesome. Which makes me think of Final Girl's review of the movie in which Stacie sings the praises of Heidi, calling her "oddly fascinating" :)

  6. Great blog! I just found it and have been spending a lot of time reading it! I was wondering if you could help me with finding an old horror movie that I saw when I was a kid. I was spending the night at my friends house and we went to the video store to rent some movies. We rented Night of the Creeps and this other movie in question. I have never seen it since that night. So I hope maybe you could help me if I describe it to you. It was from the late 70's early '80s. It was about a group of people who go to this old mansion or house or something and each one has to do a dare or complete some challenge. The only thing I remember from then on is one of the people was strapped to a chair that electrocuted him is he was lying or something. I remember smoke coming off of him ( he was a black guy ) and him saying "I'm getting a little hot under the collar!" or something cheesy. And the only other thing I remember is another person was outside in the garden and a gigantic mosquito attacked them and was sucking their blood. I hope in your infinite wisdom of horror movies you can help me find what this movie was called!

  7. Dorian: I have to go read Stacie's review! Seriously, Heidi is just so aggressive in her nerdiness that I kind of wish the movie was all about her. While I love this one's ridiculous twist, how much better would it have been if it turned out it was HER THE WHOLE TIME?!

    Hi Nathan! I'm thinking about your movie. Offhand, nothing rings a bell, but I think I might be able to do some fancy googling/asking around based on the mosquito and electrocution. I'll keep you posted!

  8. Nathan, I'm pretty sure the movie you are looking for is "Popcorn." Most of the movie takes place in a theater, but there are movies shown within the movie that cover some of the things you are mentioning. And there is a death by a prop bug that I believe was a Mosquito (I think there was a movie within the movie called "Mansquito,").

    Great review as usual, Emily.

  9. I thought about Popcorn from the giant mosquito, but I don't remember any electric chair in thre. But I'm also getting old and killing brain cells with beer, so I might just have forgotten about that...

  10. Yeah i was a wimp as a kid so i was too traumatized to watch the whole thing. Ill have to watch Popcorn and see if I have any ptsd

  11. AND to confirm that it's the movie you're thinking of!