• Init!ation (Lionsgate) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Lionsgate
    Released on: July 20th, 2021.
    Director: John Berardo
    Cast: Lochlyn Munro, Yancy Butler, Jon Huertas, Isabella Gomez, Lindsay LaVanchy, Froy Gutierrez
    Year: 2020
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    Init!ation – Movie Review:

    Directed by John Berardo, 2020’s Init!ation is set in and around Whiton University. Here, a segment of the student body is hooked on an online game but when elements of that game are taken offline and into the real world, things get pretty scandalous!

    It all starts when star athlete Wes Scott (Froy Gutierrez) is found dead in his frat house, clearly the victim of foul play. This spurs his sister, Ellery (Lindsay LaVanchy) to put on her detective hat and try to figure out not only who killed him, but just as importantly, why he was killed in the first place. As she sets about doing this, she has to confront issues of her own regarding Wes’ death. Meanwhile, a masked maniac has been running about the campus adding to the body count. The movie Ellery is able to uncover about Wes’ murder, the more she comes to believe that this was no random killing and that all of this ties into the school’s dark past.

    This was a solid effort from Berardo and company. While it borrows from more self-aware teen horror/slasher films lie Scream, the film winds up putting its own quirky spin on the tried and true ‘slasher on campus’ concept that we’ve seen done more than a few times at this point in horror movie history. The way that the film incorporates society’s obsessive use of social media platforms into not only the narrative but the visuals as well is done very effectively, used here as not just a gimmick but as a way to advance the narrative and allows us into some of the characters’ heads a bit. It takes a little bit of time to adjust to how this is done – it’s literally worked into specific scenes as part of the location and landscape where it all plays out – but once you get used to it, it’s pretty effective.

    Production values and performances are fine across the board. No one in the cast stands out as a superstar here butt Lindsay LaVanchy (who was also one of the film’s writers) makes for a likeable lead and she handles the material well enough. We believe her character to be strong enough to do what she does here, but she’s also got a believable humanity to her that grounds things in the right way. There are some pretty good murder set pieces worked into the film, typically always the highlight of any slasher picture, and these scenes are done with style. The movie is paced well, it’s got a good flow to it and moves quickly.

    Init!ation – Blu-ray Review:

    Init!ation comes to Blu-ray from Lionsgate framed at 2.39.1 in AVC encoded 1080p high definition taking up 30.6GBS of space on the 50GB disc. The transfer looks great. Colors in particular are quite impressive looking here, the purple and red hues that certain scenes are bathed in look really nice. Detail is quite strong and there’s a good amount of depth here as well. Black levels are nice and deep and the image is free of any compression problems. As this was shot digitally, the image is free of any dirt or damage and is literally pristine from start to finish. Nothing to complain about here, really, the movie looks excellent in high definition.

    The only audio option on the disc is a 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track in the film’s native English. Subtitles are provided in English and Spanish. This track is excellent. It’s very immersive with some really strong bass response and a lot of directional activity evident in every channel. Dialogue stays clean and clear, the score sounds perfect and the levels are nicely balanced. The movie is brand new and so there are no problems with any hiss or distortion. The sound design in the film is frequently very clever and the mix on this disc brings that to life very nicely.

    The main extra on the disc is a half-hour featurette called Hidden Secrets: Surviving Init!ation which is an interesting, if fairly standard, making of documentary. Made up of interviews with the cast and crew, this explains how the feature was born from a short film and then goes on to explore the making of the film and what it was like on set.

    A second featurette, The Final Twist: Post-Production, is a seven-minute piece that explores how social media use was worked into the film and a lot of the post-production digital tweaking that went into making that work. It’s short, but worth watching if you have an interest in digital effects work and editing.

    Menus and chapter selection are also provided on the disc. This release also comes packaged with a slipcover and an insert with a code that can be redeemed for a digital HD version of the movie.

    Init!ation – The Final Word:

    Init!ation may borrow a bit from other, better known slasher pictures but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a pretty fun watch. Lionsgate’s Blu-ray is light on extras but the presentation is excellent.

    Click on the images below for full sized Init!ation Blu-ray screen caps!