The new Scream? Or more of a whimper? John Berardo’s directing slasher debut is an infuriating watch!
With a bold tagline on the poster that calls this the “Gen Z answer to SCREAM” no doubt catching the eye of all slasher fans, desperate for a bit of a Ghostface type murderous action, INITIATION is one of the most frustrating watches I have experienced so far in 2021.
I am easily seduced by any new slasher film as its my favourite of among all the horror genre and no matter how big the budget or how cheaply its made, its quite easy to get the blueprint of a slasher right, to easily please the fanbase. All you need is a cool opening to grab your attention, a killer mask and some wicked death scenes and many watching will be onboard to enjoy the ride.
Initiation arrives with a pretty decent growing reputation and with the SCREAM link, no doubt a massive selling point on the advertising campaign, it also adds some pressure, because Wes Craven’s 1996 iconic horror film, is such a fan favourite, that anyone, including myself, was hoping that even if this new addition had half of the greatness of that Ghostface flick, then we would be in for a real good time.
The trouble with INITIATION is for the first half hour it forgets that its a slasher flick. Its all great putting the building blocks in place for the rampage to begin, but even the granddaddy of the them all, HALLOWEEN had a strong opening few minutes and then built a creepy atmosphere, with Michael stalking in the shadows, ready to pounce at any given time.
Here, it feels that we are sold the wrong film as for a while there is nothing on show to suggest that this is indeed a horror film. The theme of a Sexual Assault is such a strong subject matter, even more so for a horror film, but much like the 2019 remake of BLACK CHRISTMAS, its done in such a cumbersome way that it feels underwhelming, missing its point on many of its targets, that include Social Media and the most obvious, campus life and the behaviour of young adults of the modern age.
As always, it begins at the typical frat house animal party and the usual Alpha male Beau (Gattlin Griffith) and his pals are on the prowl for some action with some unfortunate women. Its the job of Soritery sister Ellery (Lindsay LaVanchy – who also co-wrote) to look after some of the group, most notably Kylie (Isabella Gomez), the youngest and the one who is eager to fit in and yet also the one who has drunk the most and is hardly in the right frame of mind. In one of the most uncomfortable scenes, which also demonstrates you do not need to show any blood, to make the viewer shake their head in disgust, Ellery loses Kylie for a brief moment, then finds her, passed out on the bed, with the bedroom door having been locked, with Beau and Wes (Froy Gutierrez) standing over her, with the look of guilt on their face.
The next day Kylie believes she was a victim of assault, in which the boys act on by shaming her on Social Media, Ellery tries to investigate and so far, INITIATION is really playing out like a decent drama on a very serious matter. Then 40 minutes into the film, a masked killer emerges with a power drill (must admit that was cool) and soon bodies start to pile up and a lot of red herrings are thrown to the audience as the plot becomes a second rate 90’s slasher flick, that rapidly becomes a tiresome watch.
Getting a release soon after one of the year’s best films, PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN is also unfortunate as while the Carey Mulligan tale had the right cutting edge and menacing tone which at times made it feel like a horror, INITIATION lacks the bite and kills to really make an impression as by the time the killer is unmasked in the Scooby Doo typical fashion, you left with a “is that it? “feeling, but the most disturbing of all, the real victim of the story, Kylie gets forgotten in the mix…..
2 HATCHETS OUT OF 5