31 Days of Horror: The Initiation (1984)

31 Days of Horror - October 2011

They said it couldn’t be done. A fifth year of 31 Days of Horror? 31 more terror, gore and shower scene-filled movies worth highlighting? But Rejects always say die and never back away from a challenge, so we’ve rounded up the horror fans among us and put together another month’s worth of genre fun. Enjoy!


A tough, young co-ed named Kelly (Daphne Zuniga in her first film role) is juggling the final week of joining the Delta Ro Kai sorority, parents (Vera Miles and Clu Gulager!) who treat her like a child, a new psychologist boyfriend and, as we’ve all experienced, terrifying nightmares that seem to point toward the nine years of memories she can’t recover. We all dream about a man boning our mom, then fighting a stranger who gets lit on fire, right? Right, everyone? Raise your hands.

So poor Kelly is trying to solve the riddle of her childhood while, hundreds of miles away, a mental patient with burn scars escapes, and now people in Kelly’s life are ending up with hand rakes shoved into their throats. All of it comes to a head in an empty mall as the pledges conduct an overnight prank to ensure their membership. Too bad their desire to be accepted by people who judge them for being a pound overweight puts them in a locked building with a murderer. Let’s just hope there’s a crazy twist!

Killer Scene:

There is a healthy handful of stabbings and a few gallons of the red stuff here, but it’s tough for anything to beat the opening sequence for the creep factor. Sure, a maniac on the loose with garden tools is a little bit scary, but dozens of abused asylum residents banging on the flimsy chain gate between them and a poor man’s Nurse Ratched is the real thing of nightmares.

The fact that it’s followed up by them surrounding her in the parking lot while singing a children’s nursery rhyme only increases the need to take a shower (and make sure there’s no escaped asylum patients in there).

The Initiation Movie 1984

Kill Sheet


2.5 Skulls Out of 5

This college-set flick has a shower scene and a general environment of sorority girls bouncing around without much on. Plus, there’s a handsome gent in tight jeans (just like all college professors wear!) to keep things balanced. The nudity is minimal. Tasteful even (except maybe late in the movie when one of the girls takes off her shirt in the mall to put on another shirt because, why not?). At any rate, it doesn’t feel like a porn, but as a proud child of the 80s, it doesn’t disappoint either.

Oh, and did I mention the parental sex scene dream sequence that leads to the guy being lit on fire? That should probably count twice. Since they show it twice.


2 Skulls Out of 5

A half-dozen people get shuffled off the mortal coil with landscaping tools, but the presentation isn’t all that intense. It happens, some super fake blood is squirted into the air, and…scene. The quantity is there, but there’s nothing that will force you out of your chair to shout, “Hell Yes!” while confusing the other passengers on the plane who can’t see your laptop or hear through your ear buds.


1.5 Skulls Out of 5

This thing isn’t just loaded with terror or anything, but it still achieves more than a lot of schlock from the same time period. When it does build atmosphere, it almost always differs to the tone delivered by giggly school girls trying to get their Porky’s on. It’s a lot of fun as a result, but it’s not terribly scary. Fortunately, once they all realize a missing security guard is dead, the fan gets covered in feces, and all bets are off. The kills come fast and furious, which helps up the fear quotient.

Note: Trailer is NSFW. It’s also a pretty crappy representation of the plot.

Final Thoughts

Despite the trailer, the bulk of the film doesn’t actually take place in the mall at night, although it makes sense as a Haunted House-style marketing angle. The great thing about The Initiation is that it has all the hallmarks of being an awful movie without being an awful movie. It’s maybe nothing to write home about (“Dear Mom, You won’t believe what Daphne Zuniga looks like wearing only black panties and a look of concern…”), but it’s fun, and that should count for something.

Plus, it delivers a twist that’s high on the ridiculous scale. It’s one of those things that makes absolute logical sense, but simultaneously appears like a Hail Mary from the filmmakers. It also involves a trick of technology that probably blew minds 30 years ago.

At any rate, it’s slightly better than average, and you get to see an off-putting turn from Psycho star Vera Miles as well as the earliest work from Zuniga (when she didn’t even look Druish).

How Can You See It?- Blu-ray/DVD/Netflix/On Demand/YouTube

Click here for more 31 Days of Horror

A veteran of writing about movies for nearly a decade, Scott Beggs has been the Managing Editor of Film School Rejects since 2009. Despite speculation, he is not actually Walter Mathau's grandson. See? He can't even spell his name right.

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