[JA Kerswell talks to Peter Malof one of the stars of THE INITIATION (1983)]

Peter Malof recalls what it was like to shoot this slasher in a mall; trying to sneak a look at topless girls on rollerskates and trying to charm an unimpressed Daphne Zuniga ...

Q: You play Andy – who is at first the potential love interest for Kelly (Daphne Zuniga), but who eventually ends up with Megan (Frances Peterson) the bad girl. How did you get involved with movie?

Peter Maloff“Love interest” is a stretch. I tried hopelessly to badger Kelly into a date, but she had zero interest in me. Ostensibly, I got involved in the movie the usual way: my agent sent me to the auditions. But it was really sorcery – not acting talent – that won me the job. There were several callbacks, and I was being considered for multiple characters. We local actors were very excited about the project because union shoots were relatively rare in Dallas back then. Near the end of the audition process a lawyer I’d met in a yoga class (which was, incidentally, taught by Kumar Pallana of Royal Tenenbaums fame) volunteered to intervene on my behalf. He had some ties with Native American medicine men in New Mexico (his home was filled to the brim with kachina dolls, eagle feathers, and various other Indian fetishes). When I told him I’d never had a significant role in a real movie before, he asked me what part I wanted – as if he could actually do something about it. At first I told him I wanted Ralph, because Ralph was goofy and got to dress up as a giant penis. But I settled on the more dick-ish Andy because Andy had more scenes and would get a bigger paycheck. My lawyer friend’s face turned ashen. He asked me if I was absolutely sure I wanted to go through with it. Yes, I told him, I was. I definitely wanted to be in a movie. He said, okay, and promised me it would happen. He went home and presumably did something magical. The next day I got the part. I had no idea it would haunt me forever – with obsessed writers tracking me down some 30 years later.

Q. The film was released late in 1984 to American screens. Do you recall if it was filmed the previous year? I understand that it was filmed at Dallas Fort-Worth.

That sounds about right. Yes, it was all shot in the Dallas area. I think the big party scene was shot in an actual frat house on the SMU campus.

Peter MaloffQ. Half of the film was set in the mall, where you are hunted down by the killer (Kelly's insane twin!). It's a great location that was well utilised. Was that all shot at night and how long did it take?

Seems like we filmed the mall scenes – which was actually the Dallas Market Center (or whatever they called it back then) – for a week or so. And, yes, I do think they were all-night shoots, probably because the Trade Center was only available to us after hours. I have fond hallucinogenic memories of sitting in that great cavernous space waiting for topless girls on roller skates to occasionally flit by in the distance.

Q. You get a hatchet to the head! Was it a complicated scene to film?

I did have a stuntman for one angle – as I was thrown back. But mainly it was done with a head rig, a blood tube, and just the right camera cuts. Went pretty fast. I fell into a big stack of empty cardboard boxes, and then let my bloody head release toward the camera. No acting required.

Q. Did you see the film when it came out? And have you seen it recently?

Peter MaloffI saw a VHS not long after it was finished. Haven’t seen it recently, but I watched parts of it a few years back. I was curious about the acting styles. In a sense, I think it’s fair to say that we were all miscast, because the director who cast the project was fired just a few days into the shooting. I don’t remember his name, but he was an introverted European. Kind of a Roman Polanski type. Much more sensitive and artsy than the brassy, quick-witted Larry Stewart who swooped in to replace him. Stewart was old-school. He worked very fast, preferring theatrical bits and schlocky double takes to the kind of method acting we young “artists” were all attempting at the time. No doubt he would have chosen different actors, but, of course, he was stuck with the original cast. So, watching the movie years later, I thought it was an amusing mixture of earnest, sometimes rough-edged actors trying to stay afloat in a tacky, sexploitative environment. Maybe that’s just what low-budget movie-making looked like in those days (some of the scenes remind me of, say, Caddyshack), but I do wonder what the original director’s vision would have looked like had he been allowed to complete it. Something much more surreal and psychological than a traditional slasher?

Q. Did you expect to be talking about the film almost 30 years later?

Oh, hell no. Why am I, anyway?

Q. Do you have any other recollections or anecdotes about making the film?

I remember Daphne Zuniga stayed in character quite well. Even between scenes she managed to roll her eyes at my flirtations with perfectly believable disgust. (I’m sure she was really charmed.) I remember “Megan” convinced me to strip down to my tiny leopard-skin underwear before abandoning me, and then Larry Stewart made fun of the way I ran when I chased after her across the mall. Most of all I remember having a blast during the entire shoot.

Relevant Links

Read the review of THE INITIATION.

Visit Michael's IMDB page.

Listen to the Hysteria Continues podcast dedicated to THE INITIATION. And also check out the special minisode which features audio interviews with fellow cast members Joy Tipping and Christopher Bradley.