3 out of 5
Directed by: Brian Yuzna
Rather hilariously detached not only from the Silent Night, Deadly Night series, but also, like, from Christmas, SNDN 4 is more rightly described as a Brian Yuzna flick, with all of the surreality and monster goop that suggests, and also like a parallel universe Society, in which the high-falutin’ club of that group is substituted by a coven of witches. (I think.)
Initiation kicks off with a seemingly homeless man – played by Clint Howard – witnessing a woman, engulfed in flames, falling from a building. There’s apparently no explanation for this beyond everyone jumping to “spontaneous combustion” – because of course, that’s the only possible way this occurred – and newspaper columnist Kim (Neith Hunter) tries to convince her boys club employer (bossed by Reggie Bannister!) to let her write an article on it. Denied, she’s tasked with getting coffee instead. So Kim spits out some fairly evolved (for the time) gender commentary to fellow worker Janice (Allyce Beasley!), then decides to go to work on a spontaneous combustion article anyway. This leads her to bookshop owner Fima (Maud Adams), who gives Kim a book on Lillith, kisses her, and starts going a little overboard with the anti-male sentiment. Soon, Clint Howard shows back up – he’s named Ricky, maybe kinda sorta as a confusing way to connect to the Ricky from the series, and he also watches SNDN 3 on TV at one point and seems to like killer santas, just to keep confounding things – and he starts waving oversized bugs at Kim, and that’s when the movie starts to get especially Yuzna-y (and Screaming Mad George-y, providing some awesomely ooky effects).
There’s a wayward story about Kim being initiated into a coven of witches, which involves weird rituals and lots of freakouts with wild visuals, and vomiting up more oversized bugs. It’s very weird stuff, and not unenertaining – I even kind of admired how little Yuzna (working off of Woody Keith’s script) felt the need to necessarily explain the hows and whys of everything, which felt more in line with the overall off-kilter nature of the flick and not a laziness factor – but it also does just kind of end by the same token, without much sense of consequence to anything. Direction-wise, the “real” parts of the movie bear Yuzna’s B-flick stylings of being rather flat, and unmotivated, but there’s a long home invasion sequence that’s honestly rather terrifying, and when the movie shifts over into Kim’s workings with the coven, Initiation has a lot of personality; similarly Hunter bungles some line readings – Yuzna seems like a ‘first take and move on’ kinda guy – but then really adds a lot to the freakier scenes.
It’s not a Christmas movie; it’s not a SNDN movie; but it is, for sure, a Yuzna movie, and a worthwhile one to check out.