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Film / The Initiation

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The Initiation is a 1984 American slasher film directed by Larry Stewart, and starring Daphne Zuniga, Clu Gulager, Vera Miles, and Hunter Tylo.

While trying to understand a frightening reoccurring nightmare, a pledge is coaxed into breaking into her father's department store by her sorority sisters, where a deranged killer targets the girls and their boyfriends.

The Initiation contains examples of:

  • All Guys Want Sorority Women: A killer is picking off sorority pledges (and their boyfriends and assorted other hangers-on) during their initiation. The film includes plenty of Lingerie Scenes, Shower Scenes, nudity and sex in between the violent deaths.
  • Alpha Bitch: Megan is the president of the sorority and in charge of hazing the pledges. She takes a special dislike to Kelly (implicitly because of her wealth and social cachet) and endeavours to make her life a special hell.
  • Battleaxe Nurse: Nurse Higgins rules the inmates of the sanitarium with an iron fist.
  • Bedlam House: The little that is shown of the sanitarium where Jason Randall is housed shows it to be fairly nightmarish.
  • Big Damn Hero: Frances saves her daughter Kelly in the end by shooting her other daughter Terry dead.
  • The Can Kicked Him: Chad is taking a leak at the urinal when the killer catches him and slits his throat.
  • Crusty Caretaker: The badly burned Jason Randall is an inmate groundskeeper at the Bedlam House sanitarium the killer escapes from.
    • Played with Kelly, who isn't a virgin but the only one who doesn't have sex within the film itself.
  • Dramatic Irony: Frances Fairchild comments to herself "he [her husband Dwight Fairchild] would forget his head if it weren't attached to his body" only moments after he is beheaded by the killer.
  • Evil Twin: The twist at the end of the film is that the killer who has been stalking Kelly and murdering her sorority sisters (and assorted hangers-on) is not her father Jason as has been implied, but her identical twin sister Terry. Kelly, who has amnesia and cannot remember anything before age 12, does not even know she has a twin.
  • Final Girl: Kelly. Although not a virgin, she is the only one of the girls not to have sex over the course of the movie. Justified as the killer has a specific reason for saving her for last.
  • Flashback Nightmare: Kelly's dreams are revealed to have been traumatic memories she blocked out from the age of nine.
  • Foreshadowing: A party scene midway through the movie has Kelly staring out windows, giving her a dual reflection. This foreshadows the reveal that she has a twin sister, Terry.
  • Gardening-Variety Weapon: The killer uses a weeding fork to stab Nurse Higgins and Dwight Fairchild to death.
  • Good All Along: After being suspected of being the killer, it turns out that Jason Randall was simply trying to find Terry and save Kelly.
  • Hand of Death: Until the closing scenes, the killer only appears as a gloved hand holding a weapon.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Megan is impaled through the heart with an arrow.
  • Initiation Ceremony: Unsurprisingly given the film's title. The scene with the girls holding candles that appear on all of the posters is part of the official initiation ceremony into the sorority. However, most of the film takes place during the prank that the pledges have to pull at the end of pledge week.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Alison’s violent murder scene is spliced with Marcia and Ralph having sex.
  • Ironic Nursery Rhyme: The escaped lunatics surround Nurse Higgins' car slowly singing "Ring Around the Rosey".
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Kelly suggests this with Marcia and Alison, though none of them die...yet.
  • Machete Mayhem: After stabbing Dwight Fairchild, the killer uses a machete to cut his head off.
  • Man on Fire: As a child, Kelly saw her father catch fire, and keeps revisiting this scene in her nightmares.
  • Motifs: Reflections and mirrors are prominent motifs within the film, initially meant to allude to the duality of Kelly's psyche but also foreshadows the existence of her Evil Twin Terry.
  • Offing the Offspring: To save Kelly's life, her mother shoots Terry, her other daughter.
  • Potty Failure: Chad is taking a leak when the killer turns out the lights in the men's room. Chad thinks it is Alison playing a joke and complains loudly that she has just made him piss down his leg.
  • Primal Scene: As a child, Kelly walked in on her mother and her lover mid-coitus. This scene branded itself in her mind and is constantly repeated in her nightmares.
  • The Reveal: In the finale, Peter is stabbed by the killer, who is revealed to be Kelly's twin sister Terry, whom she forgot existed due to her amnesia and had been institutionalized for a decade.
  • Searching the Stalls: When Alison gets spooked and goes looking for Chad, she enters the men's room and starts pushing open the doors of the stalls one by one. She finds Chad propped up in one of the stalls with his throat slashed.
  • Sex Signals Death: Alison is described as being the type to really get around, Marcia has sex with Ralph after revealing she had been sexually abused by her piano teacher at age 12, and Megan is in the early stages of sex with Andy when she walks off. All five die.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Beth gets sick of all of the crap Megan is piling on the pledges, and quits the sorority without undergoing the final initiation: an act which probably saves her life.
  • Shower Scene: A shower scene as the girls get ready for the frat party is an excuse to show all of the nubile young pledges either topless or completely naked.
  • There Are No Therapists: Frances and Dwight forbade Kelly from receiving any form of psychiatric or psychological help after her trauma. When Peter starts analysing Kelly, Frances demands that she stop seeing him, but Kelly stands up for herself and refuses. It is eventually revealed that Frances and Dwight had reasons for never wanting Kelly to recover her lost memories.
  • Trash Landing: Kelly shoves Jason off the roof of the shopping center, where he lands in a pile of wooden and cardboard boxes.
  • Wacky Fratboy Hijinx: Most of the killings take place during a sorority initiation that goes horribly awry.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Well, not hero, but Kelly's final gaze towards her mother in the aftermath of the finale suggests this.