Gilbert Speaks on John Berardo’s ‘Initiation’

I love doing film reviews. When I was asked to review Initiation, I was hesitant because I felt that I would be stuck watching a run-of-the-mill slasher film. Granny is at the age now when I had seen it all…but I decided to take the plunge, and I am so happy that I did.


Initiation is John Berardo’s directorial debut, which he co-wrote with Brian Frager and Lindsay LaVanchy who also stars in the film. Initiation is far from your typical slasher film. It reveals the mindset that is found at most Frat houses around the country: underage drinking, drugs, pledging that goes horribly wrong, and in some cases…toxic masculinity. The sororities aren’t that much better.

Initiation begins with a frat party and the new weapon of harassment is texting, where a group of guys can post an Exclamation Point under a girl’s name which sends the message that she was easy prey.

Now what kept me focused on the film was the great storyline and the actors themselves. The deranged slasher didn’t just show up, and randomly begin his reign of terror. Nope. There was a catalyst for the bloodshed on campus. Rape.

Ellery Scott (Lindsay LaVanchy) is smart, pretty, and loves science, spending her days working in the campus biology lab. Her brother, Wes (Froy Gutierrez) is not only smart but most likely will bring fame to the University if he gets accepted into the Olympic swim team. Ellery is not only protective of her brother, but she also looks out for her sorority friends, Shayleen (Shireen Lai) and Kylie (Isabella Gomez).

When she can’t locate Kylie, Ellery searches the Frat house to find Kylie passed out on a bed in Beau’s (Gattlin Griffith) room. Wes is also there, but he looks drugged, and doesn’t remember why Kylie is passed out. Ellery takes Shayleen and Kylie back to her dorm room. Although Kylie or Wes don’t remember the events of the night before, both are having flashbacks. Kylie is especially upset because she suspects that something was done to her.


The viewer participates in Initiation by reading the text messages that are flashed onto the screen that gives us a sense of being there in real time. We are actually playing detective without realizing it. LaVanchy’s Ellery is such a grounded persona in the film, that instead of the overplayed scream fest that you would expect when a killer arrives on the scene, we get a heroine that is busy solving a crime. Ellery does some forensic testing on Kylie’s clothing that gets her in trouble with the Administration (Lochlyn Munro), and the creepy lab manager, Tyler (Maxwell Hamilton).

When the Slasher, with a love for electric drills and 9-inch screws shows up on the scene, we know it has something to do with what Ellery discovered in the DNA sequencing. One by one people begin to die.


Even though the police are called in to help solve the murders, they are not that much help. Detective Fitzgerald (Yancy Butler) and Officer Martinez (Jon Huertas) do the routine questioning of staff and students, but the Slasher is able to move about the school and dorms unseen. It isn’t until the end, when Ellery, Shayleen, and Kylie are at the administration building that the Slasher identity is revealed. I did not see this coming. Well done!

What made Inititation even more enjoyable to watch was how John Berardo didn’t just portray the male characters as completely toxic. They were stupid kids, doing stupid things, unfortunately for the boys, they were not taught that No meant No!

I am going to watch Initiation again. That is how much I enjoyed watching the film. I would suggest you watch it too.

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