Saban Films has acquired North American rights to John Berardo’s Initiation. The horror crime thriller was previously selected for a world premiere in the Midnighters section at SXSW under its original title Dembanger. XYZ Films is on international rights and is introducing the pic during the Cannes virtual market.
Inspired by Berardo’s short film about the perils of posting on social media, Initiation is scripted by the director alongside fellow USC SCA and UCLA TFT alumni Brian Frager and Lindsay LaVanchy.
Described as a slasher pic about a cruel social media game that spins out of control, Initiation sees Whiton University unravel on the night a star-athlete is murdered in the wake of a buried assault allegation, kicking off a spree of social media-linked slayings. As a masked killer targets students across campus, a trio of sorority sisters races to uncover the truth behind the school’s hidden secrets — and the horrifying meaning of an exclamation point – before they become the next victims. (Check out the teaser poster below.)
Initiation stars Lochlyn Munro (The Predator, Riverdale), Isabella Gomez (One Day At A Time), Jon Huertas (This Is Us), Froy Gutierrez (Teen Wolf), Bart Johnson (High School Musical) and Yancy Butler (Kick-Ass, Drop Zone).
“We hope that the film’s topical themes and innovative portrayal of social media resonate with the cultural zeitgeist to create a thought-provoking thrill ride that will appeal to digital natives and genre fans alike,” says Berardo. “Initiation pays homage to the 90s horror classics I grew up on, but with a modern take for today’s socially conscious generation. We’re thrilled to partner with Saban and XYZ Films, both huge forces in the genre space.”
Saban Films’ Bill Bromiley adds, “John has created a frighteningly realistic horror that will have audiences watching with bated breath. Initiation is the latest addition to our growing catalogue of genre films, and we’re excited to provide a platform and audience for it.”
Jonathan Saba and Ness Saban negotiated the deal for Saban along with XYZ and CAA Media Finance on behalf of the filmmakers. Shatterproof Films’ Berardo and Frager produced along with LaVanchy, JP Castel, Huertas, Stephanie Stanziano, Artisan Post Group and Malsons Media.
Here’s the new teaser poster: