‘Init!ation’ Movie Review: ‘One Day At a Time’ Star Isabella Gomez In a Mature College Horror Movie [Screamfest]

Init!ation tackles a lot for a college movie, a horror movie, and just a movie. It serves all those causes while providing an inventive, poignant modern twist on a teen slasher movie. It has great roles for stars like Isabella Gomez and Lindsay LaVanchy. The film premiered at Screamfest, it’s premiering in Sitges and will open in 2021 for everyone to see. 

Isabella Gomez and Lindsay LaVanchy screams through ‘Init!ation’

The piercing scream that begins Init!ation is actually the coo of sorority girls Kylie (Gomez) and Ellory (LaVanchy) as they chase each other around the sorority house. They’re getting ready for the Homecoming weekend party. The party quickly turns into a buzzkill when Ellory finds Kylie passed out in a locked room with three boys, and Kylie believes she was assaulted but cannot remember. 

Isabella Gomez and Lindsay LaVanchy
L-R: Isabella Gomez and Lindsay LaVanchy | Screamfest/Saban Filmes

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Director John Berardo, who co-wrote with Brian Frager and LaVanchy, show a really mature contrast between the rowdy party girls and the girls who take abuse seriously. LaVanchy and Gomez play the range that is unfortunately what women simply have to be capable of in real life. Any fun could turn dangerous just as easily because that’s the world we live in.

Ellory runs DNA in the school lab, hoping it’s not her boyfriend, who was in the room with Kylie. The fraternity has an initiation where they mark the “sluts” on social media with exclamation points. Even without sexual abuse, that’s horrible and needs to be stopped in the world, let alone college culture. And, it’s only on top of all this that there are murders on campus. 

‘Init!ation’ is the modern campus slasher for 2021

Berardo, whose short film Dembanger also premiered at Screamfest, incorporates social media posts seamlessly on screen. Movies have been getting comfortable with social media as a visual element for the last decade and Init!ation really keeps it subtle. It’s a part of life for these students, as it is for the audience, so it’s a functional, aesthetic part of the movie. 

Init!iation: Froy Gtierrez
Froy Gutierrez | Saban Films/Screamfest

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Students FaceTime each other from across campus instead of calling or texting. So this is the world in which Ellory and Kylie have to cope with a killer on the loose and the possibility of a sex crime at their sorority party. Init!ation spends so much time on the world of the college and the police investigation that it’s a while before more killings begin. The film and characters remain compelling the entire time, and only keeps the viewer off guard for when the carnage resumes. 

A bloody, violent treat 

When it comes to the slasher movie part of Init!ation, the kills live up to the legacy of Jason and Michael. The murders are brutal, but all human. These are killings a real person is capable of, rather than a supernatural monster. 

The Killer | Saban Films/Screamfest

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For years, cell phones have thrown a wrench into horror movies that rely on victims being isolated. Init!ation sees smart phones as a fact of life, not a hindrance, and crafts a poignant scary movie including them.