Dir. John Berardo
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
During a university's pledge week, the carefree partying turns deadly serious when a star athlete is found impaled in his dorm. The murder ignites a spree of sinister social-media messages, sweeping the students and police into a race against time to uncover the truth behind the school's dark secrets and the horrifying meaning of a recurring symbol: a single exclamation mark.
Filled with plenty of blood soaked murder scenes and a masked murderer it's no surprise that INITIATION is firmly for those who love teen based slashers. Unfortunately, unlike anything from the teen slasher genre, INITIATION is too story based and the gripping detective nature of the whodunnit really stops it from being as enjoyable as it should be. With only one major death within the first 45 minutes, there's a lot of ground to cover in the latter half which is mostly spent uncovering the murderer rather than watching his victims numbers rise, which they do slowly.
There's a few familiar faces here, Lindsay LaVanchy (SCREAM: THE SERIES), Froy Gutierrez (TEEN WOLF) and Lochlyn Munro who will be mostly familiar from the SCARY MOVIE series all have genre blood in their veins but despite a gruesome murder scene, there's actually very little to be spooked about in this by the numbers murder mystery.
The deaths are interesting but when the reveal happens the lengths the killer goes to seem unnecessary and it's far more grounded and straight than it deserves to be. It is as if there are two films that want to break free here, one is the male centric abuse at the heart of universities and the second is a slasher in the vein of SCREAM and URBAN LEGEND. The two don't blend and it plays itself too seriously to be enjoyable despite there being a decent story here, just not perhaps the one you want from a slasher film.
There's more depth in the film that should be the focus of the film instead of meandering through the bulky climax which tires too hard to hamper the slasher tropes to add any emotional value to proceedings. It would be easy to dismiss as a lazy slasher but instead it should be experienced with less a taste for horror and instead for the psychological nightmare that mirrors the reality of abuse in the world of young adult education albeit one that lacks the punch more focus would give it.