Sorority pledges, including an amnesiac who has been plagued by a horrifying dream her entire life, are stalked by a mysterious murderer in a deserted department store where they are completing a hazing ritual.
”They pledge themselves to be young, stay young… and die young.”
It’s no secret that I love slasher films. I saw films like Halloween (1978) and Terror Train (1980) when I was fairly young and I was hooked. I watched every made for TV movie that was remotely slasher like (and there seemed to be a bunch back then that were trying to appeal to slasher fans – like Hotline (1982), which I wrote about in passing a while back). And, of course, I rented every slasher film that was available at my local video store.
The Initiation (1984) is one that I remember hearing about – and maybe seeing the ad for in the newspaper – but I didn’t get a chance to watch it back in the 1980s. I’m not sure if my local store didn’t have it – or maybe only had it on VHS (I had a Betamax back in those early days) – but for some reason it eluded me.
Then when I was 18 or so, I worked in a restaurant. And one night there was a shift supervisor in charge whom I had never met. She was filling in for my regular boss. I can’t remember her name, but she was a few years older than me. We wound up taking our break at the same time, and sitting together at a table in the back room. Somehow we started talking about slasher films.
She wasn’t a big fan of slasher films – or horror films in general – but she told me she had seen The Initiation (1984). That’s always a bit embarrassing, when a non-horror fan has seen a horror film that I haven’t.
“How was it?” I asked.
I don’t recall precisely how she summed it up. I think she said it was scary. But what really sticks out in my mind is that she started describing one the murder scenes to me. It was a scene that clearly disturbed her, and she was having trouble getting the description out (almost like she was reliving the trauma of it). I must have been smiling as I listened to her.
“Maybe you get off on this,” she said to me.
“What?” I said, taken aback. “No, I, uh…”
She continued with the description. I tried to look more serious and sympathetic.
I don’t remember what else was said after that point. And I don’t think I ever worked with that supervisor again. But that moment really stuck with me.
“Maybe you get off on this…”
I enjoy slasher films, but I don’t think I “get off” of them – whatever that means. Some people like watching romantic comedies – which have a very rigid formula and tend to be very predictable. I like the comfort of a golden age slasher film which is just as formulaic and predictable as a romantic comedy, but somehow speaks to me more. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because they take me back to my childhood.
I finally saw The Initiation (1984) in the early 1990s – and I enjoyed it very much. The funny thing is, I can’t remember which scene that supervisor had described to me all those years ago. Or maybe I should say that I don’t recognize it. I’ve watched the film several times over the years and I keep expecting that scene to jump out at me – but it never does. It’s gotten to the point that I’m starting to wonder if she was describing a scene in a different slasher movie. I don’t think I will ever know.
Having written a loving satire of slasher films called Sorority Girls Slumber Party Massacre: The Musical, I think there is little doubt that The Initiation (1984) had some influence on me. It’s one of many slasher films that I’d watch whenever I needed inspiration during the process (like when I was directing the first production, or writing a screenplay adaptation a few years later). It may not be one of the first slasher films I ever saw, but I keep coming back to this movie, and it never lets me down.
The Initiation (1984) is not one of the most famous or revered of the golden age slasher films. It did not spawn a franchise, or even one sequel. Maybe that’s one reason I like it so much. It stands alone, like some of my very favourite slasher films (The Prowler (1981), The Burning (1981), Happy Birthday to Me (1981) – 1981 was a very good year…). It’s probably not quite as good as the very best of them, but it’s still got a special place in my heart. It’s a #NotQuiteClassicCinema favourite that will always be a welcome sight for me on any #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.
The Initiation (1984) by #LarryStewart
— Angus Kohm (@AngusKohm) August 6, 2022