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Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Initiation

This week's SAW is another 1980's slasher, The Initiation. It stars Daphne Zuniga(Spaceballs) in her first lead role in a movie, so it might actually be interesting. Let's cross our fingers! Get your SPOILER goggles on, and follow me....

Right off the bat, it has some B-movie cred going for it, in the form of actors Clu Gulager, Vera Miles and James Read. Vera Miles, of course, was in the first 2 Psycho movies(ie, the GOOD ones!); Clu Gulager has a long history in genre movies, appearing in everything from Nightmare on Elm Street 2 to Feast; and James Read has been a familiar TV actor for years....he's probably most recognizable to current audiences as the dad on Charmed. So again, this one's looking up a bit.

It starts out on the usual "dark and stormy night", in a child's bedroom. There are dolls dolls, teddy bears, wild animal dolls, clown dolls. You get the idea.(Note to self: Add the movie Dolls to my list of horror movies...for some reason, I have them on the brain now) Then we see a little girl in the Valley of the Dolls, fast asleep.

The girl eventually wakes up, possibly because she remembered that this movie had started filming. Offscreen, the director was probably screaming, "WAAAAAAAAAKE UUUUUUP!" Or not. Anyway, she looks at a doll in her bed that appears to be headless, then decides to go exploring.

She leaves her room, and follows the sound of ghostly whispering to her parents bedroom. Seeing them having sex, the little girl backs away toward the hallway, then she reappears next to the bed, and starts stabbing her father with a very large knife. Then her mother leaps out of the bed, as another man enters the room, and her father is seen putting his clothes on like nothing had happened to him. You know, like getting his leg stabbed or something.

Both men start brawling, so I'm guessing that the second one is the girl's father, and the guy stabbed in the leg was some dude her mother was banging. A bottle of wine is poured all over the girl's father by the man-whore of her dreams, and Dad gets engulfed in flames when he stumbles too close to the fireplace. This would make a great PSA for playing with matches!

So, after her Daddy is oven-roasted to perfection, the girl becomes about a decade or so older, and wakes up a second time. This time, she's surrounded by a bunch of scantily-clad sorority babes who are holding candles and chanting something that sounds like "Delta Ro Kai will never die", or words to that effect.

How did we get from a murder to a cheesy porno? And what magic phrase must I utter to make that happen with every movie I watch? Delta Ro Kai must never die, Delta Burke's thigh would feed a family of 5....did it work?

One of the women tells our lead character that a vote is going down, and she leads the girls away in a single file line. As they exit, they all smile and continue chanting. The one they woke up follows the line. Maybe this is a live action version of the video game Lemmings!

The girl and her fellow pledges are brought before their sorority leader, Big Red Riding Hood. Our main girl is named Kelly, and the other pledges are Beth, Marcia and Allison. The pledges take a pledge(heh heh), and swear to be obedient servants for a week, at the beck and call of the other sisters. After that week, it is ON!

The leader, Maggie also anounces that the following week will involve parties, activities, and Hell Night. When Maggie presses another sister for details about the traditional Hell Night prank, we get to listen in on the dumbest plan since Danny Ocean's crew carried off a heist in 5 minutes, then wasted 2 hours tricking the audience into watching a fake caper go on.

Okay, so here's the prank: Kelly's father just happens to own a mall that has a dress shop that apparently has some nice items in it. She has to steal his keys, let the sorority in to throw a party...oh, and get the night watchman to give them his uniform. I've seen blocks of Swiss cheese with less holes than this plot!

Back in the bedroom that they share, the pledges moan and gripe about the stupid prank. Mostly, they're worried about getting caught, arrested, and expelled. Wow, this group may be smarter than the usual human targets in slasher flicks!

As the 4 pledges keep yammering, they discuss how the pledging process began with 15 girls, and they're the only ones left. Hey, no fair! You guys are supposed to film the SLASHER stuff, not the aftermath! Man...why do I have to think of everything?

As they get ready to sleep, Kelly tells Marcia that her recurring nightmare has returned. Uh, yeah Kelly, that's kind of the point of "recurring" nightmares. Buy a dictionary, dumbass, it may just save your life.

The following morning, the movie takes us on a field trip to a looney bin. A bitchy nurse admonishes various patients for different infractions, then sees someone out on the lawn that she can yell at. It turns out to be the dude who was baked goods in the dream sequence. I assumed before that he was Kelly's father, but I guess not, since we were just told that her dad owns a mall. So this guy must be the one that was having sex with her mother. I'm starting to see why Daphne Zuniga was on Melrose Place...her life in this movie was a soap opera.

Anyway, the nurse screams at him to stop digging up the garden, then she storms away. The guy reveals a pretty lethal(or at least "painful") looking digging tool in his hand, which he continues to plunge into the ground. On an interesting side note, as the nurse stomps off, she brushes past a female patient who has her back to the camera. This mystery woman is pounding her fist against her leg, timing the punches to the tool being plunged into the dirt outside. Kelly's mom, perhaps?

Well, before we can clear up that mystery, the nurse makes an announcement: It seems that some of the patients were refusing their meds at the meals. As she threatens to keep their food from them if they don't start to comply, both the men and women in the different sides of the ward begin banging loudly on the chain-link that separates them from the hallway where the staff walk freely. On an ominous note, the mystery woman is also banging her fist to the rhyhmn of their banging as well.

That evening, still at the mental hospital, we see someone roaming the halls. Nurse Bitchenmoan is then seen walking out of the building after her shift, and heading into the parking lot. She suddenly gets a weird vibe, and turns to see if anything is out of place.

Oh good, it's only the patients. Someone let them out of the ward, and they've decided to play a game of Ring Around The Nursey. She orders them to get back to their beds, but they just keep singing instead. In a tizzy, the nurse runs to her car, quickly gets in, and locks the doors.

As she starts the engine, a hand grabs her from the back seat, pulling her head back. The person then uses their other hand to reach around to stab the nurse, who bleeds profusely as the escaped patients all watch her die. She is stabbed a few more times, but only a single lunatic decides to stay and watch the rest of the show.

The morning after the attack, an elderly couple receive a gift. As they discuss opening it, they refer to Kelly living at college, and how getting away from her family might be good for her. Then the phone rings, and the old man grabs it. He refers to a "Dr. Howe", and the scene just ends right there. Nice, keep us confused.

Kelly drives over to visit these fogeys, and they turn out to be her parents. Wait, really?!? They're not her grandparents maybe? Or some elderly couple whose home she randomly broke into, for the sole purpose of pouting on their couch? Man, she must have been a horrible kid, to make them age like this in a decade or so.

She apologizes for not calling them, and her mom admonishes her. After all of the pouting and nagging, her mother says something nice to her about her complexion. Then dad pops a champagne cork like it's a cannonball, and wishes her a happy birthday.

Back on campus, Kelly and Marcia are walking and talking together. They start with Marcia's lovelife(or lack thereof), then switch to what they want to write for their term papers in Psych class. Marcia wants to write about the disturbed mind of one of the bitchy sorority sisters, while Kelly wants to do her paper on the interpretation of nightmares. Gee, I wonder why?

A guy named Andy runs up to the girls, and Marcia makes a hasty exit. Andy tells Kelly about a dumb costume party that's coming up, and invites her to attend. Then we get this bizarrely hilarious exchange, wherein both Andy and Kelly decide to shout their dialogue back and forth to each other. It's random, and I just couldn't stop rewinding the scene to watch this part over and over again.

When talking to her Psych professor, he more or less accuses Kelly of using her topic to suck up, because he's doing a thesis on dream research. When Kelly angily denies it, Mr. Adams asks her for some details. She tells him about her dream, and he sounds somewhat interested. He then offers to show her "the dream factory", which sounds like a bad pick-up line.

Mr. Adams asks her when the dream started, andc Kelly tells him some bull about a treehouse. Supposedly, when Kelly fell from the treehouse, she had a huge memory wipe of everything that happened before the accident. To make matters worse, she was never allowed to see anyone who could help her with her recovery of those memories.

After she tells Mr. Adams all of this, a girl named Heidi literally pops up. She and Adams explain that they hook willing subjects up to some equipment that can help them to recover and extract images from the human mind. So we've gone from Freedy Krueger territory to Dennis Quaid in Dreamscapes. Weird.

When Professor Adams finishes his sales pitch, Kelly catches a glimpse of herself in a mirror. She freezes up, and her entire demeanor changes. She tells the professor that she needs to think about it first, then leaves Heidi and Adams to ponder what just happened. Maybe she saw Heather Locklear in her future.

When Kelly walks down the hallway, the lights begin to flicker and dim around her. She picks up the pace(I wish the movie would...), and soon reaches a lit corridor with other students hanging out. She goes into a restroom to freshen up, and sees an image of herself as a little girl, with her blouse covered in blood. Of course, when she glances back to see the girl, nothing is behind her.

That evening, someone is lurking outside her house. The folks are inside, having a conversation that even David Lynch would find perplexing. There's a reference made by her mother to "living a lie" and some kind of attempt to fool Kelly about something. Then a noise outside distracts them. Do I need a decoder ring to watch this crap?

In the front hall, Dad draws a gun. He opens the front door and sees some Halloween decoration down the street, but decides not to shoot it. Then Mom also goes outside, but appears not to see what he saw, so they return to the house. Does anyone have crib notes for this thing?

On campus the following day, a guy in a striped shirt strolls past the camera. I bet he3's the key to the whole plot! Tell us your secrets Stripe Man!

In the lab, Kelly is calling out "Daddy!" in her sleep. I'll be her daddy....oops, am I still typing? So, yeah, they show a highlight reel from THE NIGHTMARE: bedroom, blood, burning. The 3 Blahs. Kelly wakes up screaming, and Professor Adams asks her to lie back and tell him what she remembers.

They skip over that, and show the teacher explaining some of the dream symbolism to Kelly. As they go over it, Heidi interrupts to tell them both that Kelly's brainwaves indicated very little dreaming, if any, at all. Adams chalks it up to a malfunction in the technology. A class bell rings, and Kelly gets mesmerized when she looks into a mirror. Again. The professorv makes a cryptic comment about her parents and mirrors, and the scene ends, just to confuse us further.

At dinner that night, Dad bores the family with business talk. When he gets up to make a phone call, Kelly tells her mother about her professor's dream research, and keeps calling him "Peter" instead of "Professor Adams". Someone's hot for teacher!

The chat becomes a heated discussion soon enough, as Kelly gets tired of having to bow to her mother's wishes concerning her romantic life. She leaves the dining room, only to catch a snippet of the conversation her father is having on the phone. It sounds like he's calling someone "babe", and making plans to meet them that night. Oops!

Someone is seen lurking outside again, and an owl tries to give a warning hoot. Seriously, this actually happens. The stalker moves in closer as Dad turns away, then stabs him in the neck with the very same(or similar) digging tool that Butterface was using at the asylum. Well, at least that narrows down the suspect list to only a couple of possibilities. Plus we finally started the slasher portion of this accursed film! Yay!

As Dad gets stabbed several more times, Mom gets drunk. The lush. She gets tired of drinking alone, and goes to the front door to see what's taking so long, only to see his car driving away. She then makes a snarky joke about how he'd lose his head if it wasn't attached, which would be awesome if we had seen him beheaded. But we didn't. If he was, it was removed from the version I watched.

Next, the killer approaches the sorority house. They're all in various states of undress, which is unusual for these kinds of films. There's even a full frontal scene, featuring a young Hunter Tylo. Maybe they figured if the slasher stuff didn't pan out, they could do a college comedy instead.

As Kelly leaves the shower room to get dressed, she notices that a window has been left wide open. She shuts it, then dresses as someone watches her from a hiding place in the closet. She shuts the closet door as well, and out pops Andy, I believe. Frankly, I had forgotten about him almost entirely after his early scene in the film. Oh, and for some reason, he's dressed like a singer from Oingo Boingo, and his date is Maggie, the Ice Queen of the sorority. That should be a fun date.

The "party" is like watching bad outtake footage from American Bandstand. People are aimlessly moving their arms and legs around when the camera is on them, but none of them seem capable of anything resembling human dance movements. I've seen zombies dance better, and I'm not even referring to Thriller.

Kelly and Professor Adams find a place to talk, and tease each other about their costumes. Then we see a guy dressed as a gigantic penis, next to his mortified date. I'll bet it took balls to put that costume on.

What follows next I'm not even going to bother fully describing. It's a stupid-ass montage, showing various characters trying to pick each other up. It's like the portion of the show HeeHaw where they all just stand around in a fake cornfield telling jokes, minus about a zillion IQ points, if that's even possible.

Marcia's date, "Ralph", asks her to confirm some rumor, but the DVD glitched out the portion about the rumor. It picks up with her leaving him alone. Confusion reigns supreme in this stupid movie!

Back in Adams' office, Kelly reveals what she remembers about her past. They kiss, and night turns to day. Kelly is hypnotized, and she's describing what happened at the treehouse. Her dolls were all broken, but not by her. Meanwhile, her mother is seen arriving at the school, but she can't locate Kelly. She finally asks a student where the Psychology Department is, and is pointed in the right direction.

As she walks in on the dream study, Professor Adams is unable to get Kelly to wake up from her session. Counting doesn'tv work, his soothing voice fails to calm her, even saying her name. Her mother gives them a different surname for Kelly, and that does the trick. Sure it does.

Kelly reluctantly leaves the room, so that her mother and teacher can speak in private. They have a shouting match, and Mom threatens to sue the school if the instructor continues to try to experiment with Kelly's memories. Adams demands to know why Kelly has a different last name, and that makes Mom leave his office.

Alone again, Professor Adams and Heidi realize that Kelly isn't having a nightmare, but a repressed memory. He also theorizes that she has a split personality, and that the mother might have one as well.

The night of the mall prank has arrived! The guard sees a light on his security panel go off, and leaves his station to investigate. He strolls through the mall, stopping in a room with red, flashing lights. Using a key, the guard goes outside to the loading dock, where a tin can rolls in his direction. He crushes it under his shoe, then heads back in.

As he starts to backtrack to his desk, he hears his radio get turned off. He picks up the pace, and discovers evidence that someone may have messed with his control panel. He does some more looking around, and stops to admire a rack of sunglasses, but detects a presence close to his location.

He calls out and returns to the main lobby area, where he backs up into the killer. He gets stabbed by the same gardening tool in the chest, and several dolls and mannequins watch his murder. I'll bet they make lousy witnesses.

There's a silly scene where we see Megan "bless" the pledges, minus Kelly. Megan tells the others that Kelly doesn't ever need to be told about the blessing, and will never get one. Bitch of the Year goes to....

As the pledges arrive at the mall, one girl has a hissy fit. She refuses to go in, even after Maggie threatens to kick her out. They should have done a sequel, where this girl gets stuck in a different slasher scenario, and is the first one killed. That would have been mildly amusing, at the very least. More than this snoozefest, at any rate.

After she exits the realm of slasher movie history forever, we see a trio of frat boys sitting drunk in a car. Then Maggie catches up with the pledges, and takes the keys that Kelly absconded from Dad. She locks the pledges inside the mall, and the plot finally kicks into gear.

The trapped girls sneak over to the night watchman's desk, then worry when they can't find him. Kelly reassures the others that he's most likely making his rounds. She devises a plan, and asks Allison to create some type of distraction, while Marcia will remain at the desk, in case he comes back, so that she can explain that Kelly needs him to be discreet and give them his uniform.

They ask Kelly what her part in the plan is, and she tells them that she's heading to the employee lounge, because the guards keep spare uniform in there. That's actually somewhat clever. What couild go wrong? I mean, besides the whole "splitting up and getting slaughtered individually" thing...

Well, Maggie could screw it up for them. She gathers the trio of guys we saw earlier in that red room. and tells them that they'll split into pairs: her and Andy, and the remaining 2 guys. They have 2 goals, to be sneaky, and to scare the pledges when they are spotted.

While strolling through the mall and looking for Todd, Alison(I think....this cast is pretty bland) is seen trying on tight clothes, then puts on a pair of roller skates(???). Also, Kellly ransacks a closet for a uniform, and the killer briefly checks out the knife selection in a hunting/camping equipment store.

Marcia gets bored at her hiding spot. As she decides to leave the guard station, Alison skates out of the store in her tank top and short-shorts. She skates past the hunting goods shop, never noticing that it's been broken into, and that the display case has been tampered with. She explores the mall, and meets up with Marcia. Both women then realize that they haven't seen Kelly since they all split up. Marcia spots someone on another floor above them, but Alison convinces her that she's just "spooked".

Literally 2 seconds later they bump into Kelly, and she has the uniform. As they wander the mall a bit, a phantom bowling ball frightens one of the girls so much, she almost literally chews the scenery. The girls taunt the person who rolled it, and it turns out to be 2 of the srat boys who were instructed to scare the pledges, Chad and Ralph.

The pledges decide to leave the mall, only to discover that Megan has used the keys to lock them in. They reluctantly decide to go back into the mall, and wait for someone to show up. Good thinking...without them, there'd be no film!

Outside the mall, a motorcycle cop sees one of their cars in the mall parking lot, and decides to check it out. He whips out a flashlight, and examines the interior as he circles the vehicle. Then he sees a Texas license plate, and that just clears all of the confusion right up. Not.

Megan decides to ditch her boy toy Andy, and he chases her, even though he's half-naked. Andy sees lights on various floors flickering on and off, then hears her voice, and follows the sound of it. He slows down near a Christmas sisplay, then runs in the diresction of the elevator. The elevator door opens, and Andy gets a forehead full of aze. And we're not talking about body spray!

Megan/Maggie/Whocarespeople? then appears, saying that she was just joking around. Before anything happens to her, we return to Marcia and Alison. They decide that either the night watchman is pranking them, or that maybe he was paid to leave early. They decide to out-prank the pranksters, and split up to hide.

Still looking for Andy, Megan/?Jane Doe heads to a shadowy satairwell. She then wanders through a lamp shop, and gets rattled as entire sections of lamps begin to switch on around her. She runs away, and the killer fires an arrow into her chest.

Kelly reunites with Marcia, and they start to look for the other various characters running around in the mall. Chad and Ralph put on rubber masks and wield rubber knives, and leap out at the pledges from inside a curtained booth. They all realize that Alison, Andy and Megan/Jane Doe are missing, and the guys tell the girls that they're spooked.

Back on campus, Professor Adams is interrupted in his very serious coffee ritual by Heidi. She has a ton of papers and folders in her arms, and she shows Adams a newspaper article from a Texas newspaper. Dated a decade earlier, the article is about an act of arson, in which a man was severely burnt. It turns out that the man in Kelly's memory was her father, and that the "father" she was living with was her mother's lover. The man Kelly thought of as her father was actually the chairman of the board at some department store.

After showing Professor Adams a second article, about Kelly's mother marrying her lover a short time after the fire, she drops a piece of info: Kelly's real father was ome of the patients who had escaped the asylum the previous week. Adams tries to call Kelly in her room at the sorority to warn her, but he doesn't know that she's out at the mall....

When no one picks up, the professor tries to call the house where Kelly's "parents" live. Someone picks up the receiver, but places it on the table next to the phone. Adams calls a second time, gets a busy signal, then rushes out of his office to find Kelly. Heidi is left behind, and she bitches and moans after he leaves.

In the mall, the remaining group get drunk together. Then Marcia is teased by Alison about being a virgin, so she tells a story about a teacher who molested her when she was a child. Awkwaaaaaard. The group disbands, and Alison is ditched by her boyfriend so he can take a leak. The lights in the restroom turn off suddenly, but the scene just ends there.

Alison sees a wedding display and tries on a veil, while Kelly announces over the loudspeaker that she wants Megan and Andy to meet them at the entrance and unlock the doors....or else! Boy, there's a huge threat, huh? Oh, and Alison finds a dead body, then another.

She runs back to Kelly, who wants to see the bodies for herself, but Alison is too frightened to return, so Kelly tells her to hide at the security desk. Alison scampers off, leaving Kelly to investigate the area by herself.

She finds Chad, and starts to break down. Then she hurries away, and we see Megan and her main squeeze boinking. Then the killer rises up from out of nowhere, and stabs them both several times, as Megan screams. Kelly arrives just in time to witness the bloody aftermath.

Professor Adams meets up with Mrs. Fairchild, and she tells him that her husband is dead. Adams calls the soroity house, and a girl named Becky informs him that the rest of them are at the Fairchild Mall, pulling a prank. He hangs up on poor Becky, then yells into Mrs. Fairchild's face, asking if she has KEYS! I NEED KEYS! to the mother-flunking mall.

She gives him a set of keys, and he tells her to CALL...THE...POLICE! When he takes off, we see Marcia and her boyfriend Ralph getting dressed after sex. Seriously? After she literally just revealed that she was molested? Dude, choose your moments better! He reveals that he only jokes to cover his inner pain, then his outer pain is revealed with a swift arrow in the back.

As Marcia realizes that he's not joking, another arrow sails past her head. Kelly hears her screams, and rushes to rescue her. When they find each other, both are screaming into each others' faces. This would make a great screwball comedy.

They huddle together in a freight elevator. Marcia's cries waver between donkey brays and mouse squeaks. The scene ends with her making this bizarre open-mouthed face that has to be witnessed, as it truly is beyond words to describe. This movie is so horrible that nit's awesome.

We see the professor speeding to the mall, then we see the girls still hiding. Just as Kelly gets Marcia to calm down a little, the freight elevator is plunged into darkness. Both girls are now screaming, and then we get the best moment in this movie, thus far. Both sides of the elevator open up, and Kelly ditches Marcia the first chance she gets! She then turns back, only to witness Marcia being dragged back into the freight elevator by the killer, right before the door shuts again. That's what friends are for....if you're an asshole.

Professor Adams is STILL driving, which could make his arrival at the mall a post-credits sequence at this point. Kelly is seen walking around in the loading/unloading area of the mall, and spots the killer dragging a body around a corner. Then she spots her father, the Krispy Kritter, and he tries to approach her.

After another split-second of the longest car ride ever filmed, we see Kelly attempting to escape from her father via a ladder. He follows, but why not just say something like, "Hey Kelly, who's your Daddy?ME!" That would work....maybe....okay, probably not.

They both climb up into a dark, shadowy area, and he DOES try to talk to her. Man, I called that one! Kelly hides from him, and she pushes him off of the roof. Then she cries and whines because she has second thoughts. Your timing sucks, Kelly.

And that's when Professor Adams finally arrives. He finds the dad's body, then enters the mall. As he and Kelly embrace, she stabs him in the side, and ANOTHER Kelly arrives on the scene. Ah, okay. The killer was her twin sister. That was why she seemed to be in 2 places in her flashback scenes, and why they had to hide the face of the woman in the mental hospital. Kinda clever.

The sister smiles at Kelly, taunts her, then they run around in the mall. Kelly begs for her life, but the sister hates her for being free while she was locked up. After another short chase, she reveals that the scarred man was their real father, and that she plans to kill Kelly, then assume her identity.

Just as Kelly is about to get stabbed, a shot rings out. It turns out that their mother showed up at the mall, armed with a small handgun. Then we see that the professor survived, and he, Kelly and Mom watch the bodies get carted away. Then some soft jazz starts playing. THE END

Boy, this movie was all over the place....part soap opera, part comedy, part horror....and mostly crap. The effects were good, though. They just needed a good movie to be featured in. Since this was a pretty average film, I'm giving it an average score: 3 killer trees out of 5.

And what did The Initiation teach me?

-Telling your boyfriend about that time you were molested doesn't make him any less horny.

-When you reunite with a parent you haven't seen in a decade, it's customary to throw that person off of a rooftop.

-Walking away from an obvious slasher scenario is actually an option! Why has no one tried that before?

My next movie will probably be either Pranks or Pieces, depending mostly upon which one arrives first. Oh, and next Saturday is my birthday, so if you see me that weekend, offer to dry my big, pathetic, middle-aged tears! It'll take a beach towel.