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  Initiation, The Shop Horror
Year: 1984
Director: Larry Stewart
Stars: Daphne Zuniga, Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, James Read, Marilyn Kagan, Robert Dowdell, Patti Heider, Frances Peterson, Hunter Tylo, Paula Knowles, Trey Stroud, Peter Malof, Christopher Bradley, Joy Jones, Mary Davis Duncan, Rusty Meyers
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Kelly Fairchild (Daphne Zuniga) has had that dream again, where she sees herself as a little girl waking up to find her dolls have been ruined, then creeping through the dark house to see her parents making love - or are they? What if that man is not her parent at all? Why does she then see herself stabbing him? Who is the man who falls into the open fire? Never mind that, however, as she has woken up in fright to discover more pressing concerns. Kelly is a student at this sorority house, and she is about to be told the details of her initiation...

Hence the title. This was one of the latter slashers to arrive after the boom for such things around the start of the eighties, and while by this time the whole style had become hopelessly derivative of a very basic set-up, for aficionados this was judged not to be half bad. At least it was preposterous enough to be enjoyable, probably a symptom of the way these films were feeding on each other and forced to either go the heavily predictable route or alternatively go nuts with their concept, which is what writer Charles Pratt Jr did here.

With television director Larry Stewart at the helm, having replaced the original director, you were not going to be watching this for any grand artistic statements which was just as well because you were not going to get them. It was all built around keeping the audience on their toes, sustaining the suspense, springing the twist out of apparent nowhere, and on this evidence keeping us off guard with a plot so strange should you choose to analyse it that there was little chance of you working out what was going to happen next. Well, apart from expecting more of the characters getting offed.

Kelly doesn't really know what's going on either, thanks to the mystery of her childhood which in an "only in the movies" development she cannot remember due to amnesia wiping out all memories from before the age of nine. She suspects this is to do with her recurring nightmare, so meets up with a teaching assistant at the university who is researching dreams for his parapsychology thesis, Peter Adams (James Read), and he gets over his uncertainty about her motives when he realises she could be a very interesting case for him to study (although his snarky assistant seems to do most of the work). Soon Kelly is hooked up to his machine, undergoing hypnosis, and making progress.

But what does this have to do with the initiation? Well, presently Kelly is instructed to go to the shopping mall owned by her parents (Clu Gulager and Vera Miles, the latter fresh from Psycho II and opting for something less prestigious, though in the same genre, as a follow up), use the keys she's appropriated to break in with three fellow students, and steal the nightwatchman's uniform. This location is where the film settles for its second half, nothing pushing at the boundaries but offering a note of variety for what was oft-trodden ground, as the characters are bumped off by a mysterious, never glimpsed person whose motives even by the revelation at the end are somewhat hard to fathom, granted they are insane but talk about an overreaction. There's little here that was wonderful exactly, yet there was a barminess about it, and yes, a cheesiness too, that slasher fans would appreciate. Not very good music by Gabriel Black and Lance Ong.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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