Is Initiation going to change horror as we know it?
College thriller-horrors are always a favorite. Viewers will undoubtedly see late-twenty-to-thirty-somethings on the screen, attempting to pass as teenagers. Throw in a homicidal maniac, and you’ve got the makings of a future cult classic. Initiation looks to bring the trope-filled college slasher back into the forefront of our minds, but does it succeed? Or, should it have been killed during pre-production?
Let me preface this by saying Initiation is making it into “full” territory by a hair. Director John Berardo creates a colorful world of parties, fun, and murder that the viewer is sucked into almost right away; however, he also utilizes the currently popular “50% opacity text message screen pop-up” that I find grating rather than imaginative. Show me the hurried texting and hiding-spot-outing texts and notifications on a darn phone screen! Little “trendy” things like this ensure the film will look dated in five years, and it feels more fitting for television shows like Black Mirror versus the big screen. Hair-splitting aside, the film’s over-saturated cinematography actually works, and the less than normal use of gore is a welcome relief to the normal blood-and-guts extravaganza one normally sees with films in this genre.
Dealing with sexual assault and a mass murderer, the film offers a few twists and turns that the viewer may not see coming—a stark contrast from usual entries in the genre that let viewers figure out the killer(s) within a few minutes. However, because it’s dealing with two massive storylines, certain plot points are left stranded. It’s not uncommon for side characters to just kind of go missing and noticeable plot holes detract from the surprise ending. None of this makes the movie unwatchable, but the film would have benefitted from trying to provide more equal footing to its storylines.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
One thing I personally love is the lack of cheesy dialogue that tends to infect horror films. Initiation creates a more realistic scenario that doesn’t allow for anything that will make someone roll their eyes. Casting is spot on for the most part (although I have to admit I am a sucker for Lochlyn Munro and will gladly watch him in anything), with the cameo from Slumber Party Massacre’s Debra De Liso being a nice and welcome surprise. Leading lady Lindsay LaVancy is an admirable scream queen, while (arguably) second lead Isabella Gomez feels underutilized.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
As I said earlier, this isn’t really a gore fest (or maybe I’m desensitized), although the scenes we do see are more than bloody enough for horror aficionados. Practical effects are well utilized throughout the film, which is a welcome relief from the common insistence on CGI or buckets of blood that viewers may be used to. The sets, ranging from office buildings to dorms, are fitting and believably designed.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
One thing I have to give my hat off to the film on is how it doesn’t rely on cheap tricks like ear-piercing screams and jump scares to unnerve the audience. Sure, it’s loud, but it’s not enough to blow out anyone’s ear drums. The music propels the storyline more than the average film in the genre, setting the mood for whatever one is seeing on screen.
Is Initiation going to change horror as we know it? No, but it’s a solid, fun addition to the thriller/horror genre. The storyline may be lacking in parts, but it more than makes up for it by its colorful cinematography and unique(ish) plotline. Definitely a must watch for people who want something that makes their skin crawl but doesn’t keep them up at night.
In Theaters and on VOD and Digital - May 7, 2021