By David Dent
We’re in the sorority and fraternity houses of a contemporary American University for this involving but occasionally uneven social commentary/slasher flick.
Ellery (Lindsay LaVanchy) is a sensible student (she’s just returned from an internship and helps out in the Uni lab) whose sorority sisters are attending yet another wild party where the drink flows and social media activity is high. Ellery is the designated rounder up of those girls who’ve partied a little hard; she mislays one, Kylie (Isabella Gomez), who she finds, passed out, in the room of one of the frat boys, Beau (Gattlin Griffith); also in the room, and looking worse for wear is her brother Wes (Froy Gutierrez). The boys have developed a way of tagging girls who they’ve slept with by including an exclamation mark after their name on their social channels. And guess who’s just had one added after hers?
But things are about to get worse when a mysterious and powerful mask clad killer begins to stalk the university corridors, bumping off the male students; two separate storylines develop; the race to find the murderer and to discover what actually happened to Kylie; red herrings, as you would expect, abound.
What becomes equally apparent, and the locus of the film, is that once again we’re in a man’s man’s world; the frat boys are all sporty types presided over by their alpha male coach (“there is no second place!” they’re told). The police investigating the crimes talk down to the girls, and the frat boys clearly get away with murder; it’s hard not to see this through the prism of the recent incumbent of the White House, or to be reminded of a similar set up in Sophia Taka’s 2019 reboot of ‘Black Christmas’.
Ultimately the film has to make the leap and settles on a good old-fashioned slasher chase finale, which is handled confidently if not originally. What’s clever about the movie though is that the tension generated by the murderer sits on top of the increasingly awkward atmosphere of male dominance that pervades the film. If I was 15 in America and considering my education options I’d definitely be thinking them over carefully after watching this.
Signature Entertainment presents Initiation on DVD and Digital Platforms from today.