Saban Films announced today that they have acquired North American rights to John Berardo’s (The Labyrinth) Initiation. Selected for a world premiere in the Midnighters section at SXSW under its original title Dembanger, the horror crime-thriller 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).
Inspired by his short film Dembanger, about the perils of posting on social media, Berardo penned the script alongside fellow USC SCA and UCLA TFT alumni Brian Frager and Lindsay LaVanchy. Shatterproof Films’ Berardo and Frager produced along with LaVanchy, J.P. Castel, Jon Huertas, Stephanie Stanziano, Artisan Post Group and Malsons Media. XYZ Films is introducing Initiation to international distributors during the Cannes virtual market.
Teen horror is back with a vengeance in this edgy slasher about a cruel social media game that spins out of control. Whiton University unravels 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 race to uncover the truth behind the school’s hidden secrets — and the horrifying meaning of an exclamation point – before they become the killer’s next victims.
“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 director John Berardo. “Initiation pays homage to the nineties 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.”
“John has created a frighteningly realistic horror that will have audiences watching with bated breath,” commented Saban Films’ Bill Bromiley. “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 Films along with XYZ Films and CAA Media Finance on behalf of the filmmakers.
Saban Films continues to grow its presence in the industry, remaining active in the acquisition, production and distribution space. The company’s successes have run the gamut from critically acclaimed theatrical films such as The Homesman starring Hilary Swank, to two of the biggest Fathom events with horror icon and heavy metal mastermind Rob Zombie’s 3 From Hell last year and Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, the sequel to the 2001 comedy Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back which the company partnered on after coming onboard at script stage. Its upcoming slate includes: Nicol Paone’s Friendsgiving with Malin Akerman, Christine Taylor, Jane Seymour, Kat Dennings and Chelsea Peretti; John Suits’ Breach starring Bruce Willis; and Twist starring Michael Caine, Lena Headey and Rita Ora.