Combine the carnage of slasher films and socially relevant commentary, and you’ve got the recipe for a horror film that cuts deep, literally and figuratively. For this writer, Initiation does just that.
WHAT IS IT?
Directed by John Berardo, Initiation is a slasher flick first released within the festival circuit in 2020, then released for a wider audience in 2021. It is based on a 2013 short film titled Dembanger, which was originally going to be the title of the film as well. In it, members fraternity and a sorority become the targets of a mysterious killer after an incident at a party leaves someone traumatized.
WHAT DID I LIKE ABOUT THE FILM?
First of all, just having a new slasher film in this day and age is a blessing enough for me but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Initiation exceeded my expectations. It delivers on its promise of bloody kills while having a say on certain toxic campus cultures.
I liked that those complicit get called in an unbiased way, letting the camera play like a fly in the wall. Initiation does a great job at giving the audience pieces of the puzzle without a heavy hand. This allows viewers to ponder upon themselves and their companions about the pieces at play that keep such cultures prevalent. I know I’m being vague but I’d like to keep it that way to preserve certain reveals if you do decide to watch the film. The filmmakers time to set up the central conflict and its development, allowing this viewer to see the characters realistically as people before they’re taken down by our killer.
They also do well in subverting expectations when it comes to slasher films. Refreshingly, the production places its male characters in compromising and vulnerable situations that are usually reserved for female characters in slasher movies.
Finally, I want to talk about the gore and the kills. While there wasn’t a lot of variety in the murder methods featured, there’s a sufficient amount of bloodshed done with a vicious and grounded attitude that delivers the desired impact. It’s not excessively gory but it did enough to satiate the blood fiend in me.
WHAT DIDN’T I LIKE ABOUT THE FILM?
I was pretty much satisfied overall but I do want to point out some aspects that some viewers need to know. The film takes its time to set up the plot before the slashing takes place and it may turn off certain viewers hoping for bodies to drop from the get-go.
WHERE CAN I FIND IT?
Initiation is currently out in limited theaters and digital platforms. More info can be found on the official website here.
To me, Initiation is a worthy slasher that seamlessly injects social commentary within a slasher film plot without resorting to lecturing viewers. It instead opts to serve up bloody violence as expected in slasher films while also twisting audience expectation.
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Dustin is a horror fan and sometimes short story writer who hails from the Philippines. He likes a lot of the horror genre but usually goes for slashers and arthouse/slowburn stuff. Currently, he’s trying to make up for lost time in the horror literature world by digesting as many horror books as he can.