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The Initiation (1984)
Thunder! Lightning! Rain! A doll’s head! A dimly lit hallway! Curtains blowing in the wind! Walking in on your mother having sex! A man on fire!
Are you still with me?
This is the dream that Kelly (Daphne Zuniga) has been having. As if that isn’t bad enough when she awakens from this nightmare she finds a horde of sorority sisters gathered around her bed chanting “Delta Ro Kai never will die.” It is the hour of the oath, yo.
The official commencement of hell week is about to begin and Daphne, Marcia (Marilyn Kagan) and Alison (Hunter Tylo) are the only three who have made it this far. And since Daphne’s father owns the Fairchild Department store and she has access to the keys, the prank of PRANK NIGHT! (hmmmm, I kind of like that for a title) will be for the three pledges to sneak into her father’s store Saturday night after is has closed and steal the night watchman’s uniform.
In what feels like the channel being changed we now cut to Fireside Sanitarium. There is a mean old nurse inside threatening all the patients and outside working in the garden is a guy with some very awful scars on his face. I did not like them. They really creeped me out. How could he have gotten them? A fire perhaps? The nasty nurse shrieks at him about hanging around (even though he seems to be employed there) and he stabs the ground furiously with a garden fork – uh oh, anger issues much? There is one patient in the sanitarium whose face we do not see – they just film the back of her head. I wonder why. Don’t you?
Later, someone is spooking around the place in latex gloves and unlocking all the doors that hold the patients – who free proceed to go outside and play Ring Around the Rosie – harmless enough – they weren’t hurting anyone! Well unfriendly Nursey Nurse Nurse discovers them and is all – What do you think you’re doing out here?! Get back inside! They don’t listen to her, so she runs to her car and they gather around the vehicle. And someone is in her back seat! And they stab her to death with – a garden fork! This nurse has some claws on her. Check out those nails. She could have used them to defend herself!
Kelly’s parents Frances (Vera Miles) and Dwight (Clu Gulager) get a call from… the sanitarium. Seven inmates escaped. Vera says, “Oh my God, was – ?”
“Yes,” answers Dwight, “but the doctor said not to worry about it. These people usually turn up in a day or two. And we are three hundred miles away.”
Ooooooh, we’re not being told everything!
Kelly wants to write her Psych paper on dreams. She has to run this by her T.A. Peter (James Reed) and he is pretty into dreams himself and wants to know why she picked that topic. She mentions it is a personal interest. Well, has Peter got something to show her! He leads her to THE DREAM FACTORY. And no, it has nothing to do with Rob Dyrdek. That is THE FANTASY FACTORY people!
THE DREAM FACTORY is a lab where Peter works with his research assistant Heidi (Joy Jones) and studies dream patterns and brain waves. Kelly says that she fell out of a tree when she was nine and was in a coma for three months. When she came out of it she had no memory of the accident or anything before it. She tells Peter about her burning man dream and he says – Ah, yes, all the classic symbols. Freud! Jung! Peter wants to hook Kelly up. “Everybody is a little nervous the first time…” he tells her. Kelly says she’ll have to think about it.
Over at Kelly’s parents place, Frances is staring at herself in the mirror and wondering “why we did this thing, why we created this horrible lie.” She says, “For years I thought it was for Kelly, but it was for us wasn’t it?”
Kelly decides to do the dream study. She gets all hooked up to electrodes and as she dreams she moans, “Daddy.” (All this Daddy stuff and the dolls and the recurring mirror motif – are you thinking what I’m thinking? If it is about that short black and white film Illeana Douglas shows the kids in Ghost World – then you are!)
Peter later tells her that her EKG indicated little or no dreaming, which is probably a malfunction of the machine. Heidi thinks it isn’t that at all – she thinks it is psychic phenomenon! Peter doesn’t buy it, which is surprising since he is working toward a degree in parapsychology.
At Kelly’s parents house, someone is sneaking around. Dwight comes outside to get into his car. We get a cute shot of a lil’ owl. Awww, this movie just went up in my book. And now Daddy is stabbed with the gardening fork. And oh, wow, he gets beheaded. With a big machete. I didn’t expect that. I’m starting to like you a lot The Initiation!
Frances notices that Dwight forgot his glasses. “Sometimes I think that man would forget his head if it wasn’t attached,” she says. Zing!
Now someone is sneaking around outside the sorority house. Very Black Christmas.
Look! A Tom Selleck poster!
And it is time for the “dress as your suppressed desire” party! Marcia goes with Ralph who dresses as a giant penis and says, “If a woman is turned on in bed I know she’s insincere.”
Kelly and Peter leave the party and go back to his place. What follows is a scene that would never exist in most horror films made today. Kelly and Peter have a conversation. And not about anything that really pertains to the events of the film. They just talk, like real people do! The best acting in the film is right here. This added substance and made me care more about these two. What is up with that? Like – character development?
Well, it took me until half the film was over to remember that Hunter Tylo was supposed to be in it. In case you don’t know – who the hell are you? – Hunter is a reigning daytime soap diva on The Bold and the Beautiful. In this film – her first role – she is credited as Deborah Morehart. Hunter is also – I am just guessing here – a fan of plastic surgery.
Kelly and Peter do some more sleep stuff – no, not that – regression and hypnosis. He wants to take her back to when she was nine.
These scenes made me think of one of my favorite EVER slashers – Happy Birthday To Me and indeed the films do have some shared elements and a similar feel.
Kelly in her trance, remembers Houston and broken dolls. Being in Mommy’s room…
Well, Mama Miles shows up looking for Peter and discovers what is going on and does not like it one bit. The professor tries to awaken Kelly – he says “Kelly Fairchild, you will awaken” and nothing happens. Frances says – “Randall, for Christ’s sake, Kelly Randall!” So Peter uses that name and Kelly opens her eyes!
Mother tells Kelly to wait outside and threatens Peter saying that if he talks to her daughter ever again she’ll have him thrown out of the school.
Peter realizes that the dream isn’t a dream at all. It is a memory!
Well, good job Peter, but we have a PRANK NIGHT! to get on with. Kelly got the keys and goes ahead of everyone else to turn off the alarm so they won’t be caught. Three frat boys are on hand to give the girls a good scare. Kelly, Marcia and Alison have one hour to get the guard’s uniform. Which should be a lot easier now – because he is dead!
What follows is everyone splitting up, Alison putting on roller skates and zipping around the store, Kelly and Alison and Marcia getting the uniform (spares are kept in the lounge) and attempting to leave and realizing they can’t because Megan (Frances Peterson) the alpha bitch ringleader who was supposed to wait for them outside the door is now somewhere inside with the boys – and she has the keys!
Everyone meets up (except for Megan and her boyfriend – they’re dead!) and they decide to get all Dawn of the Dead-y. They get themselves some new clothes from the shops and sit down to share some wine. Marcia decides to inform everyone at this moment that she is indeed not a virgin as is the rumor, but her violin teacher raped her when she was a young girl. Way to ruin the mood, Marcia.
Back on campus, Helen runs into Peter’s office and boy has she gotten the lowdown. She knows all about why Frances told them to use the Randall last name and who it belongs to and Houston and the secrets being kept from Kelly that are the key to her dreams.
The relationship that develops between Ralph and Marcia is cute, tender and sweet – I liked these two and wanted to see them make it work.
As in most horror films, the character don’t seem to possess any peripheral vision, and while they do hear a vase falling over they do not hear a display case being smashed as the killer gets a knife.
When there are just two left, they do exactly what I would do – they jump into an elevator and stop it between floors. I’m not kidding, I’ve considered that option often when watching these movies. Oh, but the damn killer comes in through the top. See – that was my major concern with that plan. That and the killer cutting some cords and me plummeting to my death.
The killer’s idenity is revealed and boy did it give me pause – but wait! It was only a fake out! I was right all along!
Daphne struggles here at points – she doesn’t seem to be able to play frightened very convincingly – and her acting while “dreaming” leaves a bit to be desired. But I still liked her. Not my favorite final girl, but I found her endearing and girl-next-door-y.
I liked this one a lot. I was expecting it to be pretty awful or at the most just okay, and it really worked its charms on me. Don’t expect a masterpiece and you’ll find a nice little gem in the rough. B-