Following a homecoming party on the fictional campuses of Whiton University, a student wakes up in a bedroom with three fraternity members and no memory of what happened the night before. As her fellow sorority members help her investigate her probable assault, the frat boys are gruesomely executed by a masked, drill-wielding assassin who leads them to uncover even darker secrets about their university and its toxic guilds.

Although the plot of Initiation is positioned as an archetypal slasher, director John Berardo chooses to confront more than the horrors of an unhinged antagonist: he also confronts the institutionalised horrors of everyday society, including rape culture, privilege and cyberbullying.

While Berardo’s social commentary hauls the high school slasher into the 21st century, it comes at the expense of pace and action. For vast segments of this picture, it’s as if the director has forgotten, or perhaps intentionally jettisoned, the hallmarks of the genre in which he operates.

The result, unfortunately, is a 96-minute feature that takes nearly an hour to establish its cadence and tension. This is a shame considering how remorseless and imposing our antagonist is, who feels like an homage to both Michael Myers and Reno Miller in Driller Killer, except with an unexpectedly principled agenda.

Despite its shortcomings, Initiation, particularly in the wake of the #MeToo movement, should be applauded for fearlessly tackling these serious issues with the gravity they deserve. And the closing 20 minutes, where the storyline finally reaches its intense crescendo, are worth the lengthy wait.

Isabella Gomez
Lindsay LaVanchy
Froy Gutierrez

John Berardo

John Berardo
Lindsay LaVanchy
Brian Frager

24 May 2021

Posted by Jim Reader

Jim is a London-based journalist who has worked for a number of titles, including Bizarre, Vogue, Boxing News and the Daily Sport. He graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2009 and became a Master of Research in American Literature in 2010.