EDITOR’S NOTE: This movie originally was on the site on April 1, 2018. Now, Arrow Video has a new release that we’re so in love with. Extras include brand new audio commentary by TV movie queen Amanda Reyes; Welcome to Hell Week: A Pledge’s Guide to the Initiation of Sarah, a brand new appreciation by film critic Stacie Ponder and queer horror programmer Anthony Hudson, co-hosts of the Gaylords of Darkness podcast; Cracks in the Sisterhood: Second Wave Feminism and The Initiation of Sarah, a brand new visual essay by film critic and historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas; The Intimations of Sarah, a brand new interview with film critic Samantha McLaren looking at witchcraft, empowerment, TV movies and telekinetic shy girls post-Carrie; The Initiation of Tom, a brand new interview with Tom Holland on this his first film writing credit as well as an image gallery, a reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Luke Insect and a fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Lindsay Hallam and Alexandra West. You can order this from MVD.
Originally airing on February 6, 1978, this movie reminds me of a very important lesson: the occult was everywhere in the 1970s and it was ready to mess your life up.
The film opens with Sarah (Kay Lenz, House) who joins her stepsister Patty (Morgan Brittany, who was in Death Car on the Freeway and was Katherine Wentworth on Dallas, who was Bobby’s killer before the shower scene retcon) going to the beach. A young man forces himself on Patty and Sarah saves her with telekinesis.
The movie tries to set things up with Sarah as some ugly duckling, but in every other movie I’ve seen Kay Lenz in, she is portrayed as being attractive. That’s the only hollow note in this movie.
The girls go off to college, where they both plan on joining Alpha Nu Sigma. Their mother is even the head of the alumni committee, so it’s a big deal for her to get her biological daughter, Patty, in. For some reason, Patty is welcomed with open arms while Sarah is directed to join Phi Epsilon Delta.
All of the PED girls are rude and ill-tempered other than Mouse (Tisa Farrow, Zombi 2, Anthropophagus), a shy girl who everyone else is mean to. Mouse just wants to play her violin because otherwise, she gets nuts!
Jennifer (80’s sex symbol Morgan Fairchild), the head of ANS, forbids her sisterhood from fraternizing with the PED girls, which tears the sisters apart. Meanwhile, Sarah starts to fall for Paul (Tony Bill, Are You in the House Alone?) while staying wary of den mother Mrs. Hunter (Shelley Winters in an unhinged performance).
Even after she uses her powers to shove Jennifer into a fountain, Sarah doesn’t want to give in to her powers. But once the ANS girls retaliate and throw food and mud at her, she gives in to Mrs. Hunter’s call to hatred and gives in to an initiation ceremony.
That ceremony? It involves blowing off the evil girl’s dresses, permanently ruining Jennifer’s face and killing Mouse, but Sarah decides at the last second to kill both herself and Mrs. Hunter to stop the sacrifice. As the film ends, Patty joins PED and becomes friends with Mouse. They both mourn the loss of Sarah.
These are the kind of movies that made me glad that I went to art school and a downtown college instead of a real university. That said, I would not be eligible for a sorority, so I guess the point is moot.
This movie also has appearances by Michael Talbott (Freddy from Carrie), Robert Hayes (Airplane!), Deborah Ryan (Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park), Talia Balsam (The Supernaturals) and Kathryn Grant (The Night the World Exploded).