Init!ation Is A Blood Splattered Good Time

Although familiar, Init!ation puts a fresh spin on a retro classic with the perfect amount of camp and cheese with your power tools. Beware the metal mask.

Init!ation pays homage to all those fun horror movies of the ’90s and the early oughts with a new school twist. I loved that era of films. I have a soft spot for the crazy-eyed hackers that kill with glee and cleverness that you can’t help but laugh while cringing. There’s a place in the lauded canon of horror for movies that entertain with unbridled abandon. Init!ation understands the kind of movie it is and dives headfirst into that deep end. Those sorts of movies are as much fun as they are disgusting. Init!ation has all the same elements of I Know What You Did Last Summer and Valentine. Fast-paced and gory it is a perfect Halloween movie.

After a night of partying leaves one young woman questioning what happened to her, a series of shocking murders rock a college campus. Whiton University has a reputation to protect, and a rash of grisly deaths is just one of the school’s many problems. Ellery is a smart, popular sorority girl who is hiding a dark secret. Her brother, a star athlete, is wrapped up in the mess that is bro-culture and monetary coverups. Their shared secret might get them both killed. As the body count piles up, she must outwit and outrun a killer with a love of screwing and not the fun kind.

College campuses can be a great place. They can provide education, social interaction, and romance even. Unfortunately, they can also be breeding grounds for the entitled to get away with anything. When a social media game goes too far, all that’s left is a whole lot of blood and an exclamation point.

As with most of the movies of this ilk, blood and stalking are the prime ingredients. Writers John Berardo, Lindsay, Brian Frage, and Lindsay LaVanchy, who also stars as Ellery, clearly love these kinds of films and their devotion shows. John Berardo, who also directs, manages to take the universal theme of fear, mix a dash of familiar horror tropes including a stylish and reflective mask, and layer it with the modern dangers of silence, willful ignorance, and denial. There’s a cheekiness to the mask, which not only calls back to other masked slashers but is also a comment on looking at yourself for the monsters that lurk in this world. They are often right in front of you.

Performances by Lochlyn Munroe(Bruce Van Horn), who gets to display his particular cool smarminess that he did so well in Shudder’s recent Spiral, and LaVanchy, walks a thin line between complacency and sympathy, are good. Kent Faulcon(Chief Adam Tahan) is a standout in his brief screentime as an incredibly pompous, overly important cog in the nasty wheel that is school protection.

Pacing is good with minimal downtime, and the film flies towards the end. Practical effects are done well enough to make you squirm, and some inventive kills are entertaining. The beginning is a little clunky, but the cast quickly settles into their roles, and the story takes hold. My one complaint with Init!ation is the ending, which is intended as a colossal gotcha and is more a huh. The final act is strong clear until the end when the rushed conclusion leaves you wanting a little more explanation. Who did what and when are huge questions left sitting out there. You are never entirely sure if the killing spree was justified or not. That’s a problem if the central conceit is the arrogance of powerful boys and men and the crippling fear of the truth.

As part of Screamfest 2020’s lineup, it is perfectly placed as the headline alongside five horror shorts. Tickets are still available and can be found here.

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