Kelly Fairchild (Daphne Zuniga) has nightmares (I could easily fit a “Melrose Place” joke in here, but I’ll pass). In them, young Kelly walks in on her parents having sex. If that wasn’t traumatic enough, she stabs Dad (Clu Gulager) in the leg right as another man walks in. The two men scuffle, Dad pours a bottle of something highly flammable on the intruder who, thanks to a fall near the fireplace, goes up in flames. Right about then, Kelly wakes up.
“The Initiation” is the latest forgotten horror film to receive the Anchor Bay DVD treatment, and I’d be at a loss to tell you why. It’s a passable 80’s slasher flick, but unremarkable other than that whole “Introducing Daphne Zuniga” thing in the opening credits, which is pretty nifty.
Now in college, Kelly is pledging Delta Rho Chi sorority, which in addition to helping provide a rudimentary plot framework, introduces the scantily clad coed angle we so desperately need. When she’s not prancing about with her fellow lingerie-clad sisters, she’s making moon eyes at her psychology TA, Peter Adams (James Read).
Meanwhile, in stately Fireside Sanitarium (home of the FDR chats, perhaps), a strangely familiar man with burn scars lurks about as the inmates reenact the final number from “Stomp” and someone stabs the head nurse to death. Shortly thereafter, we learn several inmates have escaped and the mysterious burned man is nowhere to be found.
But who cares? Hell Week is upon the young ladies, and for the final prank Kelly and her fellow pledges are tasked with breaking in to Mr. Fairchild’s department store and stealing something. What they don’t know is that the head of the sorority (Frances Peterson, who has some of the worst orthodontia of any sorority girl I’ve ever seen) has decided to bring some frat boys along to scare the girls but good. Bodies soon start piling up, leading to our inevitable surprise ending.
“The Initiation” isn’t necessarily a bad slasher movie, certainly not in the sense that “The Dorm that Dripped Blood” (Zuniga’s actual debut) is. It’s just sort of…there. We have to wade through a lot of freshman level psych BS foreshadowing the climax (and a TA who actually uses the word “fictitionalize”) before we get what we really want: naked college girls and gore. There are some obligatory scenes showcasing the former, confirming our suspicion that girls in sororities do little besides sit around in their underwear and groom themselves. The splatter factor is fairly sub-par, however. There are a few blood splashes, but nothing to arouse serious gorehounds.
Putting Clu “Return of the Living Dead” Gulager and Vera “Psycho” Miles together in a movie is an inspired touch, even if their roles are somewhat abbreviated (in Gulager’s case, *severely* abbreviated). Zuniga is passable as Kelly, and eminently more viewable than she’d end up being in “Melrose.” And while I support any DVD with chapter titles like “Sorority Girls in the Shower” and “Sorority Slut Slaughter,” it doesn’t change the feeling I got that Anchor Bay is starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel.