May 5th, 2021
STARRING: LINDSAY LAVANCHY, ISABELLA GOMEZ, LOCHLYN MUNRO, YANCY BUTLER
DIRECTED BY: JOHN BERARDO
AMovieGuy’s RATING: 1 STAR (Out of 4)
Any movie that attempts to do what Wes Craven achieved with Scream is doing things right in my eyes. The problem, however, is that if you’re trying to be like the king, you best not miss. Initiation is a slasher film, with a masked murderer stalking and killing students on a college campus. There are a myriad of reasons why director John Berardo’s movie doesn’t work, where the characters are dull stereotypes, the horror is more annoying than fear inducing, and the general production is a bore. Initiation has the right inspiration, it just doesn’t understand how to turn inspiration into art.
The plot starts with a party at a fraternity house. Ellery (Lindsay LaVanchy) is the responsible sorority girl, while her brother Wes (Froy Gutierrez) is the star swimmer on campus, and a fellow frat member. At the big bash we see the standard college events, beer pong, fraternity leaders giving advice on how to treat women shitty, and loud music drowning out conversations. Ellery is supposed to be looking out for her fellow sisters, but Kylie (Isabella Gomez) makes her way upstairs with Wes and another guy Beau (Gattlin Griffith). To Ellery’s surprise, something has happened in the room, a possible rape. Later in the week, Wes leaves a dreaded exclamation point on one of her Instagram photos, this is bro code to let others know that girl is a slut. But when Wes is murdered in the fraternity house, his body is drilled to the wall, sparking an alert that there’s a killer on campus, looking for more vulnerable students to slash up.
It would be fun if Initiation genuinely did work, but it’s the dragging minutiae of the narrative that makes it impossible to enjoy. Just going back over the plot, it’s hard to see how the dots connect and that’s because they don’t. As more characters are picked off, there’s not much rhyme or reason to the characters being taken, because the script never establishes any of them. Random fraternity brother killed in a bathroom stall. Okay. Another friend of Ellery taken. Why should we care? The screenplay by Berardo, Brain Frager, and LaVanchy makes the strange choice of involving various authoritative figures- Lochlyn Munro as the school’s oddly involved president, detective Fitzgerald (Yancy Butler) is on the case so little, it’s an utter shock when she arrives on murder scenes, and Martinez (Jon Huertas) is the officer involved that postures around with his blue lives matter flag while providing nothing to the investigation. There’s a lot of characters standing around in Initiation.
If there is anything positive to say about Initiation it’s that the last twenty minutes provide thrills with a cat and mouse chase on campus between the masked killer and Ellery. No matter how that turns out, it isn’t much to hold onto, as the ending twist is not only fumbled, it’s incoherent with what the final message is. It’s not a meta look at scary movies the way Scream was, or a new riff on slasher genre like Happy Death Day, or a fun body switch like Freaky. I think that’s what it wants to be, but it’s not close to any of those hits.
There’s not a single reason to recommend Initiation. This is only the second feature for director John Berardo, who has the inspiration down, some clear ability to set a scene, but Initiation looks like a bigger Hollywood production gone astray. Initiation retroactively makes bad movies better, mediocre horror movies into four stars, and great horror movies into absolute masterpieces. Initiation is repeating the mold of horror movies from before and providing nothing new. This Initiation is something you don’t want to be a part of.
INITIATION IS IN SELECT THEATERS, ON DEMAND, AND ON DIGITAL MAY 7TH, 2021
Written by: Leo Brady