Initiation REVIEW – A Mixed Sorority Nightmare

John Berardo's Initiation may not be the most accurate representation of Greek life, but it is earnest in its approach.


I was a nerd in college, so no Greek life for me. In fact, there were no parties at all, and my sole purpose of making the 1.5 hours trip to college every day was just to attend classes – nothing more, nothing less. I didn’t have the personality to pledge, however, I can see why many would. Not so much for the parties, but for the community and camaraderie – a need to belong to something. When Elle Woods wanted to get into Harvard, it was her sorority sisters who helped her. Oftentimes, fraternities and sororities are associated with the salacious aspects of Greek life, despite these organisations also committing to charitable causes and being beneficial in other ways.

Initiation shows us the party side, as well as the sense of community, especially in a sorority. Ellery Scott (Lindsay LaVanchy) welcomes new pledges into the sorority, and asks everyone to pair up so they can look out for each other during the party. Things are different on the fraternity end, with leader Beau (Gattlin Griffith) instructing his young pledges to “tag the hoes” on Instagram using an exclamation mark, so their bros don’t go after used goods. It’s clear that some of the young men don’t really subscribe to Beau’s way of thinking, but don’t do much to call him out.

This is what Initiation does well: showing how young people are sometimes so tentative around their peers, hesitant to call them out even in the face of a perceived wrongdoing. When Ellery loses track of pledge Kylie Martinez (Isabella Gomez) at a party, and finds her passed out in a locked room with Beau and her brother Wes (Froy Gutierrez), she asks questions but doesn’t really push either of them for answers. However, there’s a sinking feeling she can’t shake, a reality we know all too well.

This first half of the film is pretty good: the cinematography for the party scenes are great (love the social media visuals that are tied in), and the conversations between different characters at different points felt authentic and did well in establishing the various relationships. After all the chaos and frenzy of the party scenes, we transition to the quiet, almost viscous silence in the room, a room coloured with shades of red, with a girl so drugged up she can’t even make it out of the room without assistance.

Ellery’s internal conflict is apparent, and LaVaunchy does such a good job of fleshing out her character’s awareness of a social responsibility, but also indecision because this involves her brother. All the suspense and uncertainty surrounding this situation feels true to real life; Kylie doesn’t know what course of action to even take, especially since she can barely remember anything, Wes goes into full denial mode, and Ellery investigates with tentative steps.

And then, the second half kicks in, and it suddenly feels like we’re in a different movie. Wes is murdered along with a few others, and we traverse into full-blown slasher territory, without an understanding of why. I mean yes, clearly it is about vengeance, and a murderous lesson for these young men who commit such horrible acts, but the thing is, it hasn’t even arrived at a point where vengeance would make sense. Compare this with Promising Young Woman, which has similar themes, and we understand that Carey Mulligan’s Cassandra got to this point because nothing was done to help her friend, who suffered and took her own life as a result of this heinous act.

In Initiation, it is only two days, and we see that even Kylie is barely able to process it yet, and besides Ellery’s initial confrontation of Wes and him walking away, there isn’t a clear sense of evasion. So when we find out who the slasher is, things really don’t make any sense at all. There just isn’t enough time to build up the rage necessary to commit such grotesque murders. I was sold on act one, not so much on act two.

Oh, Troy Bolton’s dad (Bart Johnson) is in this, being an aggressive coach once more. Say what you want, but that man is entertaining.

Review screener provided.

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The first half of Initiation is competent and well-done. Unfortunately, the slasher elements don't gel well with the narrative that was built up, so the end result is quite the mixed bag.