There’s something about a made-for-TV movie that seems lower stakes, emotionally speaking, than a film that was released in theatres. Maybe because made-for-tv movies traditionally get a bad rap, we expect them to be crappy and laughable, so we have virtually no expectations of them. I don’t know, but personally, I kind of love them.
I think I first heard the made-for-tv movie The Initiation of Sarah mentioned in a Gaylords of Darkness episode, and I mean aside from being interested in it because the title contains my name, I’ve also heard it described as “Carrie–but with sororities,” and that is more than enough to pique my interest!
Sarah Goodwin and her sister Patty are going away to college together. Sarah’s been adopted into the family for some mysterious reason or another (or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention) and while their mother has high hopes for the beautiful, vivacious, and outgoing Patty to get into her old sorority, she’s not so sure about shy, withdrawn Sarah. Oh well, she seems to say, cut her loose, she’s a nobody, she’s dragging you down. Great parenting! What Sarah lacks in popularity, though, she more than makes up in the interesting currency of psychic powers, causing “bad things” to happen to people when she gets angry. We see this at different points while the film is setting up: some handsy guy gets knocked down by a wave when he won’t take Patty’s NO for an answer; a piano being rigged up above a sidewalk by a bunch of dumb-dumb jocks, almost falls on someone, while Sarah is sulking about something or other. Wow, I just watched this and I’ve already forgotten most of it.
Anyway! Patty gets into the snobby sorority of beautiful people, led by the iconically bitchy Morgan Fairchild, and Sarah gets into a rival sorority of losers whose members and membership recruitment are pretty lazy and apathetic. Sarah gives them a pep talk and gets everybody jazzed up about things, even the prone-to-self-harm Mouse (played by Mia Farrow’s sister!) who’d actually like to just hide in her room and be creepy and play the violin, thankyouverymuch! Satanic Housemother Shelley Winters has a longer history with the college than anyone realizes and senses Sarah’s special powers– and the wheels start spinning in her weird, permed head that perhaps she will harness them for some sort of long-game revenge plot against the other sorority, just in time for Hell Week!
I actually thought this one was a lot of fun and there were SO many good late 70’s cardigans! I just realized there is a 2006 remake with Tessa Thompson in it, and because next to Michelle Yeoh, Tessa Thompson is my biggest celebrity crush, I will probably have to watch it. It also has Summer Glau and Jennifer Tilly in it. Gosh!
If you want to watch the original 1978 version of The Initiation of Sarah, you can find it on YouTube.
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