Friday, October 28, 2016

THE INITIATION (1984) (Arrow Video Blu-ray Review)


Label: Arrow Video 

Release Date: November 7th 2016 
Rating: R
Duration: 97 Minutes 
Region Code: A/B
Audio: English LPCM Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video:  1080P HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Larry Stewart
Cast:  Daphne Zuniga, Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, James Read, Marilyn Kagan, Robert Dowdell, Patti Heider, Frances Peterson, Christopher Bradley, Joy Jones

The Initiation (1984) is a fun and nostalgic 80s slasher trip that doesn't stray too very far from the classic slasher themes with a wink and a nod to John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) and an inspired bit sort of borrowed from Happy Birthday to Me (1981). It stars Daphne Zuniga (The Dorm That Dripped Blood) as a troubled college-teen named Kelly Fairchild who is plagued by recurring nightmares stemming from a traumatic childhood experience and a long buried family secret. Throw in a sorority prank gone awry with some teen sex, an asylum, and a fun mall setting with a shocker of an ending and you have yourself a real slice of 80s slasher fun and an enjoyable 80's whodunit.

I love the surreal nightmares and how they pay off, plus we have the added benefit of a few rather sweet kills, a few using garden tools which set-up a rather obvious red-herring early on, you have to love those red-herrings in these 80's slashers. The cast is a parade of 80's familiars, beginning with fresh-faced Daphne Zuniga who is a total knock-out as the final girl with a twist. Add to that the awesome Clu Gulager (The Return of the Living Dead) as Kelly's father, who is not the worst guy in the world but definitely a bit of a scumbag. Then you have Vera Miles from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) slumming it as the mom who would rather keep her past buried even if it means risking her poor daughter's sanity in the process. I also love that the writer and director give the movie a decent amount of character development before the blood begins to flow. It starts off a bit slow but once the pranksters arrive at the mall things amp up and you really feel for a few of the character when the bite it. There's a good variety to the kills with a fair amount of the red stuff, too. Outside of the main characters mentioned we have the usual array of sorority bitches, 80s goofballs and a virginal cutie. My favorite aside from Zuniga would be the nerdy teacher's aide Heide played by actress Joy Jones, she was a blast. 

The film leans a bit towards the surreal with the nightmares and repressed childhood memories which turn out to be key to the mystery at hand, which is a real humdinger of a zinger. The dream sequences are neat, particularly one where she catches her mom screwing a man whom she sets a man on fire! The mall setting is a slice of early 80s awesomeness which brought to mind Chopping Mall (1986) minus the murderous robots - though Chopping Mall came years after this one.  The movie is a fun watch, with plenty of gratuitous nudity, sweet kills and some cool 80s atmosphere, with a finale that is a bit of crazed awesomeness. 

Audio/Video: The new HD restoration from Arrow Video looks impressive, a nice upgrade from their region 2 locked DVD. There is a lot of soft focus cinematography on screen and the poor quality 80's film stock doesn't help, but the new 2K transfer is a nice advancement over anything we've seen before on home video with a tighter grain structure and improved clarity with more depth to the image. The 80s colors are more vibrant and nicely saturated, and skin tones look more natural. The lossless mono audio does what is required with the dialogue and band synth score nicely balanced, overall unremarkable but fine. Optional English SDH subtitles are included. 

Extras on the disc begin with a new audio commentary from The Hysteria Lives podcast crew, who might be an acquired taste. I do love the podcast and they're commentary, chock full of slashery goodness and fun background on the movie cast and crew. The guys are not of the scholarly sort and this track is not lacking any of the casual charm of the podcast, complete with snarky in-jokes and references to English 80s pop sensation Toya.

Arrow Video and Red Shirt Pictures have also brought us some new bonus content, including brand new interviews with writer Christopher Pratt Jr. (22 Mins), actress Joy Jones (14 Mins) and actor Christopher Bradley (19 Mins). The disc comes in the standard Criterion-style Arrow clear keepcase with a sleeve of reversible with the original and newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn, which is fantastic, plus a collector's booklet with new writing by movie critic James Oliver. 

Special Features: 

- Brand new restoration from original film elements
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- Original Uncompressed Mono PCM audio
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Brand new audio commentary by The Hysteria Continues
- Sorority Saga: Brand new interview with Writer Christopher Pratt Jr. (22 Mins) HD 
- Pledge Night: Brand new interview with actor Christopher Bradley (19 Mins) HD 
- Dream Job: Brand new interview with actress Joy Jones (14 Mins) HD 
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn
-  Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic James Oliver (First Pressing Only) 

I love The Initiation, about eighty-percent of it is standard slasher tropes but the twist is a ton of fun and Daphne Zuniga is awesome. It is the rare slasher movie that cares to create actual fun characters with any sort of depth to them, in top of that the kills are good, the nudity is nice and the new transfer from Arrow looks and sounds great, and at long last we have an edition of the movie with some decent extras.