Drive-In Dive In: Initiation

Posted: August 12, 2016 in Action, Drive In
Tags: , , , , , ,

img_0348The last couple of trips to the virtual drive-in have been pretty rough. The movies weren’t good; they weren’t drive-in good; hell, they weren’t even so bad, they’re good. They were just bad. The kind of bad that makes you wonder if you’re spending too much time watching movies and not enough time exercising or reading or talking to your family or engaging in some other bizarre behavior. Thank goodness then for Initiation, a little exploitation diamond in a rough patch of mediocrity.

This flick is just damn good drive-in. And what do we mean by that? The finest pieces of exploitation film make you feel just a little bit bad for even wanting to watch them. They tap into the primal, the urges we were meant to have put behind us, but still lurk just below the surface veneer of civility. Lurid is the perfect adjective to describe a good drive-in movie: gruesome, sensational, and unrestrained.

You start with a simple, horrible premise, and Initiation has one of those. Five men are randomly kidnapped, brought to an out-of-the-way location, and forced to fight to the death. That’s just awful, isn’t it? Awfully good, you might say. And if you can’t help but be intrigued despite whatever moral reservations you might have, then Initiation is for you. If the plot sounds familiar, you might be flashing back to one of the finest drive-in films of recent years, 2013’s superb Raze, in which 50 women are kidnapped, held captive, and forced to fight one another to the death.

In deference to what was undoubtedly a much smaller budget, Initiation is a stripped-down version of Raze. Our five captives are matched against five pledges to a fraternity, whose final challenge is to beat a man to death. The five abductees are a solid mix: the gangbanger, the rich boy, the pacifist, the milquetoast, and the Marine. The pledges, on the other hand, are interchangeable except for the big SOB who is slated to fight the Marine, and another one who is a brother of the Pledgemaster aka Marok (Dan Horton giving off a bit of a Patrick Swayze Road House vibe). Mark’s accomplices in crime, Denny (Hunter Smit) and Dale (John Winscher) are terrific henchmen, who provide just the right comic, creepy tone to the proceedings.

Initiation is the product of cousins Oren and Dan Benamor, who collaborated on the script while Oren directed. The story is well paced, maintains its own internal logic, and does not ask more of its cast than they are capable of delivering. The movie’s focus is on the captured Marine, Simon, (Adam Ryan Rennie)  who flashes back to his basic training. While the budgetary shortfall in these flashbacks is obvious, the performance of David Terrell as the Drill Sergeant does lend the scenes needed authenticity.

But, hey, this isn’t about mise-en-scène; it’s about delivering visceral thrills through a series of mortal battles leading up to the big fight. And, for that, the Benamors deliver. They even include a little bonus gift for the viewer, a mid-credits scene that ties up some loose ends regarding one of the characters. Initiation is life affirmation for those who have chosen the Way of the Drive-In.

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