Tag Archives: slasher

THE INITIATION

initiation

4.5 Stars  1983/18/93m

“…The night new blood is pledged.”

Director: Larry Stewart / Writer: Charles Pratt Jr. / Cast: Daphne Zuniga, Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, James Read, Marilyn Kagan, Frances Peterson, Hunter Tylo [as Deborah Morehart], Paula Knowles, Joy Jones, Trey Stroud, Peter Malof, Christopher Bradley, Robert Dowdell, Patti Heider, Mary Davis Duncan, Rusty Meyers.

Body Count: 10

Dire-logue: “[Here’s] to being young, staying young, and dying young.”


Four-and-a-half stars!? You may spit your coffee across your keyboard – but yes, almost top marks for my favourite stand-alone slasher flick of the 80s – it is The Initiation. Read on and I will explain my madness reasons…

Things begin in the normal film style with the credits. These are boring. After the credits, things begin in normal slasher film styleé with a nightmare sequence of a little girl wandering down a hall, into her parents room, there’s a fight, there’s a fire, there’s the no-longer adorable child wielding a knife… Time to wake up! The dream belongs to Kelly Fairchild (Zuniga, later from Melrose Place), who is rudely snatched out of her subconscious by a load of sorority girls with candles chanting (somewhat ironically given what’s to come) “Delta Rho Chi, never will die,” over and over and over.

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Kelly and three other pledges – slutty Alison, wise Beth, and virginal Marcia – are escorted down to learn about their ‘hell week’, which will finalise their induction into the sorority. Big-mouthed bitch Megan informs them that their hazing stunt will be to break into the mall that Kelly’s father owns and steal the nightwatchman’s uniform.

Meanwhile, Kelly flits between seeing her arms-length parents (Miles and Gulager) and frequenting ‘the dream factory’ run by young professor Peter and his absolutely adorable assistant Heidi. Together, they aim to expose the root of Kelly’s recurring dream and find out what happened before a convenient amnesia-fest for everything before she was nine.

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Elsewhere, a group of mental patients are released from their asylum and one of them, seen only by his surgical gloves, rakes the stern ward nurse to death and steals her car. Who is it? What do they want? What does that man keep doing with his tongue?

Kelly’s parents try to hide the truth from her and also the viewing audience by talking cryptically and blaming themselves for ‘what they’ve done’ la la la… The teens attend a come-as-your-suppressed-desire party where we acquaint ourselves with who’s going to die later, see a giant walking penis and witness Kelly and Peter hook up.

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Amidst the slowly building madness, Peter and Heidi wax lyrical about what’s up with Kelly, who’s dream features standard Freudian, Jungian set-pieces: mom, dad, fire, mirrors – or is it…deeper? You don’t have to procrastinate for too long to figure out Kelly’s dream is, in fact, a memory, that the burnt guy is probably the same burnt guy working at the asylum and that there’s gonna be a whole lotta death comin’ our way!

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On Prank Night, Beth decides that hazing jokes aren’t for her and drops out, leaving Kelly, Marcia and Alison to gain access to the mall where, unbeknownst to them, Todd the security dude has already been raked to death!!! with the small, trowel-sized rake thingy the killer likes to use. Alison dons rollerboots to ‘create a diversion’, while Megan and three frat boys enter the mall to scare the crap out of the pledges. Boys include walking-penis Ralph, Megan’s dorky boy-toy Andy and ‘other bloke’ Chad.

The teens split off into groups and are stalked and killed by axe, bow and arrow, and hunting knife. The original UK video release had been trimmed by 59 seconds so it was nice to catch up with the grue on the DVD release, which includes a gratuitous cross-cutting between two teens having sex and another being stabbed to death, while screaming into the tannoy system.

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This is a customer service announcement: Aaaaaaarrggghh!!

Peter and Heidi figure out most of the mystery and he gets to the mall just in time to save the day – or so he thinks – as The Initiation pitches its curveball straight out of nowhere, opening us up to one of the campest, most fabulous reveals EVER! I want to tell you because I love it so much but up until this point the filmmakers were savvy enough not to let anything slip so you’ll just have to see it for yourself. Or read someone else’s review who gives it away.

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What distinguished The Initiation for me was chiefly a mix of more comprehensive plotting and rounder characters: few films would dabble with so much Freudian-psychology so in your face and create the story around it. The identity of the killer isn’t spelled out for you, repeat viewings show that the clues are there but, unlike most other horror movies, there are no enormous neon arrows steering you to figuring it out first.

Kelly is a rather standard final girl, battling with her rich-and-therefore-emotionally-barren parents and trying to fit in with her friends; Marcia is her luckless best friend who informs the others that contrary to their assumptions about her, she is not a virgin and was raped as a child, never having told a soul. It’s a sad, desolate moment, waaaay more than we expect from a slasher flick character but it makes us care about her fate. Hell, even Alison is more than your uno-dimensional slutty girl (despite appearing naked several times). The creators cared about their characters and therefore so did I, I didn’t want them all to die so brutally as they do.

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Also impressing is the use of light and dark and shadows: the killer moves about in the background or appears as a creeping silhouette to catch their next victim: the camera work is great, timed to catch every glimmer of light on a sharp knife blade, swooping and panning to make the most of the shot and giving us way more than we expect in low rent filmmaking. Considering the crew shot overnight in a Houston Mall, the number of takes to perfect some of the setups must have been through the roof.

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I love The Initiation; it’s enthusiastically made, well-acted, brilliantly shot, involving, confusing, surprising and you get the feeling that they really put their hearts into making a quality horror film. For a horror film it retains a crucial sense of fun (“Kelly didn’t get the blessing…” / “She’ll live without it.”) – there’s a huge walking penis for Christ’s sake!!

Altogether now: Delta Rho Chi…never will die…Delta Rho Chi…

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Blurbs-of-interest: Daphne was an early victim in The Dorm That Dripped Blood; Clu Gulager was the dad in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 (ironically another film about dreams, return of the repressed blah blah); Vera Miles was, of course, Lila Crane in the first two Psycho flicks.

TERROR AT TENKILLER

tenkiller1 Stars  1987/18/87m

“Just when you thought it was safe to go on vacation!”

Director: Ken Meyer / Writers: Claudia Meyer & Ken Meyer / Cast: Stacey Logan, Mike Wiles, Michele Merchant, Kevin Meyer, Dale Buckmaster.

Body Count: 5

Dire-logue: “Somehow…some way, I’ve got to protect myself.”


No-frills Friday the 13th wannabe #623 where another teen vacation ends up with dead bodies all over the place.

Gal-pals Logan and Merchant take time out at Lake Tenkiller to evade the former’s scary ex-boyfriend (who intends to “get even” with her) where they swim and take jobs as waitresses at the local diner where the serving beauties have a habit of ‘walking out’ on their jobs and never coming back.

Of course we know that they’re really being slashed to bits by a local psycho who the film makes absolutely no attempt to disguise in any way – but in a film with a cast of eight people, there ain’t much they could do to distort his identity.

Tenkiller looks like the scraps of a million better killer-on-holiday slashers with tedious scenes and precious little dialogue or bloodshed – the film even has a tacked on voiceover epilogue in a vain attempt to make sense of itself. There’s one good laugh: the road sign for Lake Tenkiller also mentions the next town along – called Gore! Maybe that was going to be the sequel.

Permanently offline

voyeurVOYEUR.COM

2 Stars  2000/18/90m

“The new website everyone’s dying to see.”

A.k.a. BigBrother.com: The Movie

Director/Writer: Miles Feldman / Cast: Jena Romano, Travis Shakespeare, Adam Weiner, Tawnya Richardson, Keri-Anne Telford, Vanessa Nachtmann, Shannon Hutchinson, Laurie Searle, Ryan Boone, Kevin Pass, Iva Hasperger, Eric Adam Wittgren, Rob O’Malley, Scott Berman.

Body Count: 13

Dire-logue: “You’re killing my buzz, Euroboobs!”


Exploitation horror sometimes requires a bit o’ sleaze. Is there anything that bad about a dash of sleaze? Sleazy-sleazy-bo-beazy, banana-fana-fo-feazy, fee-fi-mo-meazy, Sleazy… OK.

Anyway, Voyeur.com, released in the UK under that dog-shit title BigBrother.com: The Movie (!), was one of the earlier attempts to fuse stalk n’ slash conventions with reality TV, which was arguably at its peak in 2000. So, three horny Californian dorks audition a group of nubile airheads who’ll “try most things once…no animals,” to live in a house rigged with cameras, while virginal nerds max out their debit cards to watch and “beat off” over the internet – although watching a girl on the toilet isn’t my idea of titillation.

Shy narrator and bargain-basement Winona Ryder look-alike Mary is worried because she has no personality and doesn’t sleep around like her housemates but facially-inept mastermind Alex likes her and that’s all that matters! Meanwhile, a masked killer begins knocking off the ancillary characters, including a dim-witted gardener-slash-perv. Aside from he and Mary, the others are the usual pick n’ mix of jocks, potheads, bitches and bimbos whose always-sexual conversations limit their vocab to ‘cool’ and ‘party’ and they are thankfully laid to waste, more often than not during the act.

The most memorable sequence (also known as the only one I didn’t forget ten minutes later) is when the aggressive lesbian goes down on a Pammie Anderson-a-like, who sees the killer approaching but is, y’know, unable to get out of the way! There’s also the obligatory Scream-lite opener that doesn’t remotely connect with anything else that happens.

For all these flaws in credibility, acting talent, photography, lighting, audio and plotting, Voyeur.com never became so bad that I wanted to kick the screen in and some of the characters here are still less pretentious, transparent and stabbable than those in Big Brother!

PARANOID

paranoid-copy2 Stars  2000/18/87m

“Look behind you, he might be there.”

A.k.a. Frightmare

Director/Writer: Ash Smith / Cast: Shanda Lee Besler, Shawn Wright, Summer Sloan LaPann, Brandon O’Dell, Michael Short, Denny Zartman, Tyler Thebaul.

Body Count: 9

Dire-logue: “If a serial killer was stalking me, I think I’d know.”


I couldn’t find a good enough scan of the DVD cover so I had to draw it with Paint. That’s a bloody face and a knife instead of the ‘i’ in Paranoid. Yeah, I even drew the knife.

Anyway, let this not distract you from learning that this Australian film is an out and out Scream clone, which pretends to be be American. It begins with a girl and her parents being wasted in Sugar Hill, Georgia – “the most boring town in the world” – by a famous serial murderer known by the media as The Conscience Killer, who dresses scarily similar to the loon from Cherry Falls.

A slaughter subsequently begins after a an article about the killer is printed by budding high school journo Sarah, whose twin sister Laurie, we learn, was murdered. Yes, nothing ever happens in Sugar Hill. Four murders!? Move away, man! Move to Tazzie. Laurie had a bit of a Maureen Prescott reputation going for her. Let us stroke our chin and utter a big ‘hmmmm’…

Meanwhile, Sarah’s schoolfriends have staged a Halloween funhouse in order to raise money to send the senior class to the Cayman Islands. Why, I wasn’t sure, possibly to open a bank account. To the surprise of nobody bar the cast: the killer stalks Sarah, kills some extras and then goes for a homicidal home run on the last night of the funhouse’s operation – is it the Conscience Killer?? Is it fuck.

This roughtly demonstrates a choice scene from 'Paranoid'

A thrilling screenshot from ‘Paranoid’.

The resolution is far from satisfying and about as convincing as Arnold Schwarzenegger in drag, but apparently “no one suspected a thing!” In all fairness, the young thesps do quite well with the sub-par script but gaping plot holes claim any credibility that happened to be driving by and the score sometimes completely ceases during moments of ‘high drama’ only to return later as if nothing had happened.

But it’s just so lazy… Scream was successful everywhere so why bother trying to pass off a third generation photocopy as anything but a big pile of pants? The Gale Weathers wannabe is even called Kate Windsail!! Windsail!!?

Blurb-of-interest: Michael Short was Chet in The Greenskeeper.

Cutthroat Alley

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2 Stars  2003/15/96m

“The only way out of the hood…is in a body bag.”

Director/Writer: Timothy Wayne Folsome / Cast: Cisco Reyes, Marquita Joyce, Jose Turner, A. Ramirez, Khalida Outlaw, Glenn Herman, Hadrian L. Hooks, Josh Watson, Mack 10, Janice Palmer.

Body Count: 9


Yo yo yo, it’s time to scream in da hood coz of da masked syko shanking everyone, yo!

About ten years ago, a film called Homecoming: The Revenge was planned to cash-in on the let’s-copy-Scream trend at its peak, it was declared that the only avenue left unexplored in the genre was the urban slasher flick. The film never appeared and seemed forgotten, leaving the gate to the meadow open and others soon found their way to the fresh pasture…

Ergo, it’s the knife for the members of a south-central LA ghetto crew as a cloaked, skull-masked killer slices and dices his way through the cast of this urban slasher landscape.

In the week before reformed gang member Reyes is to leave for college after turning his life around when his dad was murdered in a drive-by, the schizo pops up all over the neighbourhood to waste his ex-friends, making him everybody’s choice suspect. Obviously we know he’s not the killer and after a good seven or eight slayings, the true fiend is literally unmasked for long enough for him to spurt out a long winded exposition before the happy ending is thwarted by a twist that can be seen flying in all the way from the East Side.

Although it can boast a bit of surface polish and is way better than the similarly themed Urban Massacre - which lacked even the courtesy or script intellect to bother revealing who the killer was – writer-director Folsome can’t seem to let the ghetto clichés be and continually appears to forget it’s a slasher flick he’s making.

Racial issues crop up but aren’t forced down our throats, although anybody unfamiliar with the stereotypes of rap culture may find deciphering the dialogue a real challenge: barely a sentence passes without one of the gang-members referring to a ‘punk ass nigger’ within their clique or swearing out statements.

One of the cast members (I think the first victim) was once a member of Bone Thugs n’ Harmony. I have no idea what this means. The film received a horrendous rating on IMDb of 2.4; it’s not a good film but probably wasn’t quite that dismal. Or I just had no idea what was going on.

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