Netflix Adventures 01: “The Initiation”


In an effort to empty my burgeoning Netflix queue, I’m embarking on a new writing project with the aid of a random number generator and a list of bizarre and terrifying films culled from the bottom of the streaming video barrel. And so without further ado, I present the first entry in my Netflix Adventures:


Title: The Initiation

Genre:  Horror

Subgenre: Slasher

Vintage: 1984

Director: Larry Stewart

Netflix’s Lying Description: “Tormented by recurring nightmares, sorority pledge Kelly must come to terms with her visions to get through an initiation that requires her to spend the night in an empty department store. But an escaped psychopathic killer is targeting the pledges.”

What I expected: From the title and the poster, I anticipated that this would be a “killer frat” movie. A hazing ritual would turn deadly. Or a random psychopath would stalk the sorority house, picking off co-eds one by one, with the unsuspecting victims thinking that the disappearance of their friends was simply fun and games.

What I got: Something significantly weirder. As the movie progressed, my mental roulette wheel for “what’s really going on” expanded to include entries for: split personality, psychic phenomena, red herring, and evil twin. To the movie’s credit (or perhaps to its detriment) I wasn’t certain which of these possibilities would end up being the true explanation until the big reveal at the end. The Initiation kept me guessing, but mostly because I couldn’t fathom what constituted the killer’s murderous motivations. Daphne Zuniga (Princess Vespa from Spaceballs) plays the resident “final girl”, who also happens to be a traumatic amnesiac suffering from recurring nightmares with some particularly obvious Freudian overtones. She’s a rich, white girl surrounded by other rich, white people with rich, white people problems. They all get murdered with gardening tools.

What’s the best part: The cinematography. The Initiation features some solid point-of-view camerawork and some well-framed sequences where the characters (and the audience) only catch a glimpse of the marauding maniac. Thus, the movie manages to maintain a decent amount of  suspense, even if the victims are sometimes unsympathetic (or undefined) and the killer’s motivations are just a wee bit inscrutable. I also enjoyed the imagery involving mirrors and other reflective surfaces, but I wish the filmmakers hadn’t foregrounded it so bluntly. There’s even a line of dialog where resident “handsome doctoral candidate” James Read overtly references the symbolism, as if the audience needed it explained to them at that point.

What I learned:

  • Mental asylums in movies are invariably filled with stereotypically crazy, nursery-rhyme-chanting lunatics.
  • Sorority house pledgees spend an inordinate amount of time showering and / or prancing in their lingerie in front of picture glass windows.
  • Murdering people with garden implements DOES NOT leave conspicuous pools of blood / piles of corpses for other people to discover later. (NOTE: They explain this plot hole away with a single line of dialog in the final act.)
  • The preferred reading material of any night watchman is out-of-focus pornography.

What’s coming next: The gods of the random number generator decree that the next Netflix Adventure shall be…


Tales from the Hood.

One Response to “Netflix Adventures 01: “The Initiation””

  1. I think Tammy and I saw this Once Upon a Time, Paul – I don’t remember hating it, but I don’t remember much of it either.

    I LOVE this idea – mini-reviews of old movies you haven’t seen in ages but still own!

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