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Review: Initiation (2020)

Initiation (2020)

Directed by: John Berardo | 91 minutes | crime, horror | Actors: Isabella Gomez, Lindsay LaVanchy, Froy Gutierrez, James Berardo, Gattlin Griffith, Adin Kolansky, Shireen Lai, Patrick R. Walker, Maxwell Hamilton, Bart Johnson, Jon Huertas

Slashers do not rely on originality and mainly live on (cheap) effect. As long as the murders look raunchy, brutal and gross, fans will soon be okay with it. Director John Berardo’s ambitions extended further. With ‘Initiation’ he not only wanted to make an entertaining horror film, but also to express some social criticism and to canning an exciting whodunnit.

It is to the credit of the director that he has a lot to say. In the genre of slashers, the principle of ‘kill your darlings’ applies extra hard and Berardo is just such a sweet man! He does not dare to cut his script and that ultimately kills him…

In ‘Initiation’ it is all about a student clique. During a wild night of alcohol spilling, an unconscious girl is found in a student’s bedroom by a friend. This student is not alone. Two boys and a drugged girl: something bad happened there! While the girlfriend investigates to find out what happened in that room, it turns out that a murderer is on the campus. This killer targets students with a dubious reputation.

Berardo draws attention with the drama surrounding the drugged student. Unfortunately, he fails to maintain the interest. This has to do with bad acting, the cartoonish portrayal of students and genre changes. Melodrama is suddenly mixed with a detective twist and some fairly brutal killings.

The drama is worked out too casually for a melodrama, while the horror elements take place much too late and fragmentarily (you only see the first murder after more than half an hour). Also, ‘Initiation’ loses momentum with the introduction of side characters written in the film purely to serve as suspects. For example, an overly angry father and a nerdy stalker are supposed to provide mystery but are not explored in depth.

It’s good that Berardo wants to say something about date-rape, but his message gets snowed in by all kinds of peripheral matters. Still, ‘Initiation’ is a film that you like to watch from start to finish. Unpredictability is a great asset. Tight enough for a slasher who wants to be more than a simple genre film.

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