OCTOBER 29, 2010
Since old school TV movies like Duel, Don't Go To Sleep, etc are just as good if not better than comparable theatrical features, I figured The Initiation Of Sarah, made for TV in 1978, would be a perfectly decent Carrie ripoff. After all, it boasted a story by credit for Tom Holland, and was remade recently, so it must have SOME merit, right?
Yes, it does. SOME. Unfortunately, "some" is not "a lot", and thus the movie is mostly pretty forgettable, with a snail's pace and a lack of the "balls" that those other TV horror films had. Whereas Don't Go To Sleep has a little girl killing her whole family, this supernatural sorority girl can't even bring herself to kill the horrible girl who humiliated her. At least, I don't THINK she kills her - she just makes it really windy at the sorority (?) and the girl gets old crone face, but it doesn't seem like she dies (the epilogue makes no mention of it). Instead (spoiler!) she uses her power to kill the evil witch who runs the rival sorority, killing herself in the process. So our body count is 2 - our hero and a villain (Shelley Winters, by the way). Apart from the wind, the only other thing Sarah does with her powers is make the water too hot in the shower while the 'bad' sorority girls are in there, but she lets them go before any real harm comes to them. So it's the equivalent of Carrie going the prom and just turning the punch sour and maybe letting Chris get minor burns. In other words, WEAK revenge, lady.
Until this non-epic non-showdown, it's just a lot of yammering, as Sarah's sister Patty gets initiated into the "bad" sorority (i.e. the popular one) while Sarah gets inducted to their rival's house, populated by less attractive girls and a total lack of sisterhood (when Sarah and Patty visit the house to check it out, no one even bothers to welcome them, nor do they have any sort of pledge period). And this of course puts a strain on their relationship, as Patty is not allowed to talk to her in public (a pledge rule) and it makes Sarah feel less wanted. It's sad, sure, but it lacks any real punch. Maybe if Patty had gone to the "dark side" and turned on her, it would be more tragic, but from the start Patty defies her new friends and defends Sarah when they pick on her. So there's no real weight to the "conflict".
(It SEEMS like there is, however - one of the sorority sisters looks exactly like Patty, rendering some scenes confusing for me.)
Since it's a 1970s movie, it's fun to see some future stars looking young. Morgan Fairchild plays the bitchy sorority sister who hates Sarah the most, and Airplane!'s Robert Hays plays the William Katrole, duping Sarah into thinking he likes her, leading to the prank that sets her off (though true to this movie's nature, he instantly feels guilty and takes the high road, snubbing Fairchild). Of course, when I say "young" I mean compared to now; none of these people would pass for fresh college graduates let alone freshmen - the average age of the cast seems to be about 26.
My favorite character is probably Paul Yates, the teacher who falls for Sarah despite the fact that, you know, that's totally WRONG. But no one seems to have any problem with it, and he has the best introduction of all time: after Sarah saves Patty from an accident that she caused (one of the few "action" moments in the first 80 minutes of the movie), he walks up and says, all in one breath, "Hey, that was good going, she could have been killed! My name is Paul Yates." His delivery is hilarious too - he says "she could have been killed" almost as if he was impressed, like someone saying "she's really good!" in response to a dance routine or something. Also he looked like my ex-godfather John, who went crazy in the 90s, embezzled a bunch of money from his car dealership, and disappeared. Wonder what happened to that guy.
ABC Family or one of those remade this movie (with Fairchild returning) not too long ago, though that sort of pedigree leads me to believe that if anything, its even tamer (though the trailer - which I put below since I couldn't find one for the original - at least promises a demon of some sort). It's weird that an unabashed ripoff of a successful movie wouldn't even try to one up it (Carrie's a great film, but no one can accuse it of being fast paced), but maybe someday someone can do the "Supernatural Sorority Loser" movie right.
What say you?