Netflix was losing a whole whack of titles (I think it was 1,700+) on May 1st due to Universal, WB and MGM jumping ship on the service, so I had a mini-marathon yesterday just trying to squeeze in what movies I could before they went the way of Vinegar Syndrome's SAVAGE WATER DVD. The highlight of the bunch was THE INITIATION OF SARAH (1978) a TV movie in the vein of CARRIE. For TV it's got a pretty stellar cast, with Kay Lenz (HOUSE), Morgan Fairchild (THE SEDUCTION), Tisa Farrow (ZOMBIE), Robert Hays (AIRPLANE!), Shelley Winters (NIGHT OF THE HUNTER) and a bunch of other solid character actors. Unlike the middling THE SPELL, another 70s TV movie CARRIE ripoff that was on Netflix, SARAH packed a punch with likeable characters, some interesting story deviations from the CARRIE template and a pretty mean streak that runs throughout.
While SARAH is in parts about an outcast schoolgirl getting her revenge on the popular girls, there's a lot more on the table here, with the setting in college and the outcast girl (Lenz) having a sister as part of the popular group. The two battling fraternities also have a dark history, so there's some seething intrigue there as well as some surprisingly unanswered subtext about Lenz's mother and her connection to all this. The film had kind of a PROM NIGHT II vibe in that regard, with the demons from the past partially causing the ruckus in the present. Fairchild is the perfect bitch, and considering this is a TV movie, her comeuppance is pretty nasty. A lot of TV movies of the time would go to some darker places, and that's why I love them, but this one has the stones to do it when it matters most at the end. Pretty harrowing and effective.
Not a lot of style, and the "mind moving" effects are all your basic objects-on-strings sort of thing, but the story and the performances really take it over the top. Solid little TV movie that I see was remade in 2006 (with Morgan Fairchild back but not presumably in her original role given her fate), also for TV. Has anyone else been initiated to this one?