I actually like this made for TV 'Carrie' cash-in more than De Palma's horror classic. A large part of that is due to the likability of Kay Lenz in the titular role and the connection I feel to her. I also love the storyline centered around sororities, hazing and campus rivalry. Throw in Shelley Winters as Ms. Hunter, who views her sorority as more of a cult, Morgan Fairchild as the queen bitch and Mia Farrow's sister, Tisa, and you've got quite the cast. Honestly, this doesn't even feel like a TV film. It had been a while since my last viewing, but as I sat watching it again for the first time in years, I was taken with how it never once struck me as something made for television. There was even an absence of the typical fade-outs for commercials.
This is much more than just a 'Carrie' copycat. The characters have real depth and there's a solid message about one's own self-image. The story leaning toward the occult makes for a unique take which I am all for. The addition of this aspect and Shelley Winters as someone who wants to use Sarah's abilities for her own personal vendetta makes for a very interesting climax. While the direction isn't anything out of the norm and there are no De Palma style flourishes, the lush photography is terrific.
Even though it may always be seen as nothing but a copycat by certain people, I firmly believe that 'The Initiation of Sarah' is more than capable of standing on it's own as something special. I do love De Palma's film, but I also love that it inspired something like this. 'The Spell', on the other hand, not so much.