The Initiation of Sarah (TV Movie 1978) Poster

(1978 TV Movie)

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Carrie who?
Cujo10814 September 2011
Timid Sarah and her popular stepsister, Patty, are pledging sororities at their new college. Patty gets into the most celebrated sorority on campus, but Sarah is only accepted by the least prominent. It doesn't help that Patty's new sorority sisters are elitist scum who do all that they can to make Sarah and her sorority mates miserable. Sarah has a power, though, which takes hold when she's angry. Her eccentric housemother, Ms. Hunter, is intent on helping her harness this power to use against their rival sorority.

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.
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Never p... off Kay Lenz.....
shanakin23 January 2007
OK, I never saw this in 1978 or in any reruns but because I grew up in the seventies, I have a weird affinity for liking these made for TV movies of the week. This one turned out to be a lot of fun to watch. The acting is pretty good by all involved, Kay Lenz in the title role makes it believable and Morgan Fairchild is good as the queen b....., Morgan Brittany is lovely as ever and Shelly Winters is completely over the top in her scenes especially towards the end of the movie. (SPOLIERS) Story wise it's not strong, the movie itself is a little slow at the beginning of the movie and there are some things left unresolved at the end of the movie such as what happened to all involved but that does not distract from a fun movie. My copy was on an older tape and it was quite granny but it reminded me of the quality of the made for TV movies of the week back in the 70's. I say if your a fan of the TV movie's of the week you'll enjoy this one. OH, and buy the way if you ever meet Kay Lenz be nice to her you just never know what may happen.
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I've loved this movie since it first came out!
Carrigon22 August 1999
I always felt that this movie was chopped to pieces and that there was so much more to the story than what we got to see. I wish I could have read the original script for it. This is such a classic Carrie-type story, sort of a Revenge of the Nerds meets Carrie. But for some reason I just love the story. Maybe because both Morgan Brittany and Morgan Fairchild are in it. If you want a college horror story with a twist, this is it. It's creepy and fun.
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First rate flick
belladumonde21 October 2006
I, too, have always loved this movie. Morgan Fairchild really camps it up as the stuck-up sorority princess. Shelly Winters is suitably creepy. Kay Lenz is somehow a sympathetic yet frightening character. (Ever since I first saw this movie at the age of ten, I have considered Kay Lenz one of my favorite actresses!) I don't know the name of the actress who portrayed Mouse, but I found her performance very authentic as well. What I really wanted to comment on is my indignation over the fact that ABCFamily has a remake out now but is billing it as a new original ABCFamily movie! How can they get away with that? Anyway, this really is a great flick for this time of year.
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A very good supernatural flick
Daniel-Couri17 March 1999
Here we have kind of a 'Carrie-look-alike' film, but I'd say a little bit moralist. Sarah (Kay Lenz), a weird girl (yes, she does have telekinetic powers) scorned by snobbish dull colleagues is admitted in a strange sorority where she is manipulated by the evil house mother Mrs. Hunter (Shelley Winters). On the other hand, her beautiful and ingenuous sister Patty (Morgan Brittany) joins a renowned sorority where she is forced to cast Sarah away by no less manipulative Jennifer Lawrence (Morgan Fairchild). The entire film has a 'gloomy aura', it's a somewhat sad story which could never have happened if it wasn't for the juicy 70's!... The TV production is poor, nevertheless it doesn't matter once this is a very enjoyable flick.
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This movie makes me remind my childhood!
martinchicago12 February 2001
The first time I saw this movie,I was 9 or 10 years old.Now,I am 30 and I still enjoy seeing it.I know the story is not so good, but the idea wasn't so bad as many people say.The cast was interesting.Shelley Winters was great as usual.Kay Lenz made a good job.Morgan Fairchild and Morgan Brittany were really good.Some people compare this movie with "Carrie", but I think this one is a little better.If you would like to enjoy a good horror movie, rent "The initiation of Sarah".You would be able to see the beauty of Morgan Brittany.I have never forgotten her blue and big beautiful eyes and her Black hair.
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Sure it's a "Carrie" clone but not bad
preppy-324 February 2009
Shy withdrawn Sarah (Kay Lenz) and her sister start college. Her sister is outgoing and popular and gets into a popular sorority. Sarah gets into an unpopular one with creepy head Erica Hunter (Shelley Winters). Evil Jennifer Lawrence (Moragn Fairchild) hates Sarah and starts to torment her and her friends. Then Sarah realizes she has telekinetic powers and uses them for revenge.

The story is familiar, the special effects cheesy, the acting just OK (save Winters who REALLY chews the scenery) but this is an enjoyable made for TV movie. It's not as violent or sexist as "Carrie" so you can just sit back and enjoy it. This was a very popular hit when it first played on TV and was replayed again and again. It was even remade in 2006. Recommended--if you can find it.
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One of the most entertainingly ridiculous TV movies ever made
lazarillo5 June 2010
This is one of the most entertainingly ridiculous TV movies ever made. It has often been written off by many smug critics as "Carrie Goes to College", but that's not entirely accurate. It has a bit more of an occult angle for one thing (Why not "To the Devil, a Coed"?). Mostly though, unlike "Carrie" it's pretty hard to take seriously, and I think most of the people involved in it were perfectly aware they were making a cheap TV movie and were in on the joke.

The casting is pretty ridiculous. There is ugly and then there is "Hollywood ugly", but Kay Lenz wasn't even "Hollywood ugly", and it's pretty hard to buy her as a socially shunned girl who has to join the loser sorority. Lenz (who was married to 70's heart-throb David Cassidy at the time) was actually a lot prettier than walking, talking Barbie dolls like Morgan Brittany, who plays her much more popular sister, or Morgan Fairchild, who heads the popular sorority. Anyway, it is testament to her acting ability that Lenz is at all believable in this role. Tisa Farrow who plays a put-upon character named "Mouse" is highly annoying but not exactly ugly either. (She is famous for three things: she is Mia Farrow's sister,she was the female lead in Lucio Fulci's "Zombie",and she was involved in a famous falling out the Beatles had with the Maharishi in the 60's after the transcendental mystic couldn't transcend the urge to pinch the butts of her and the other young starlets in their entourage).

Of course, the best thing as usual is Shelley Winters as a house mother with an interest in the occult who encourages "Sarah" to use her latent telekinetic powers against their popular rivals. Winters was derided by some for gaining a lot of weight late in her career, but given all the scenery she typically chewed (or simply swallowed whole), I thought she stayed remarkably svelte. (Around the same time as this movie, Winter squared off with a giant octopus in Italian "Jaws" knock-off "Tentacles", and frankly she was far, far scarier than the octopus). The handsome but rather bland Robert Hays ("Airplane"), on the other hand, has an especially bland role as the Morgan Fairchild character's boyfriend and mostly just fades into the 70's wood paneling.

This doesn't really compare to "Carrie", but I would definitely recommend it highly to fans of cheesy 70's TV horror flicks.
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Childhood nightmares because of this movie
mrsly693 July 2006
I agree with the earlier critique. I saw this movie as a kid about 10 and it still haunts me to this day. I couldn't remember the name, but I do remember the stars. I remember Shirley Winters and Morgan Fairchild co-stared and I was watching The Poseidon Adventure and I had to find this movie. I can't believe I still have memories of this movie and how I was so scarred that I loved it. I guess I am looking to find that 1st movie that scared me as a youth. I hope the movie is as good or "bad" as I remember. I am actually excited to see a movie. I would recommend this movie for someone wanting to have a good scare and not get grossed out. Plus, Morgan Fairchild was so hot. I still think Morgan is the classic look that I loved in my youth. My memory tells me that there were a lot of good looking women in this movie.
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Quirky Charm
Uaerosmith218 October 2005
I won't pretend that this made for TV film is one of the greatest horror movies I've ever scene (what made for TV horror film is?). However, it has a certain unexplainable quirky charm about it that makes it a very enjoyable film. I often feel the same way about 80's films that love watching and I don't know quite why. It has that certain unexplainable magic similar to the 1986 "The Canterville Ghost" (which is a Family Comedy). I tend to like all sorts of mystery's with secret rooms and antient stories. I liked the story, however I wasn't 100% satisfied with the ending. All actors involved gave great performances, which alone is worth the viewing.

This is perfect for a midnight movie when you just want to sit back and throw something one when you're tired. Don't hope for a masterpiece, but enjoy the overall feel and vibe of this pleasantly quirky film.
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A really enjoyable made-for-TV "Carrie" clone
Woodyanders18 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Shy Sarah Goodwin (a strong and sympathetic portrayal by the lovely Kay Lenz) and her more outgoing half sister Patti (stunning brunette Morgan Brittany) go off to college together. Patti gets accepted into the snobby ANS sorority while poor Sarah has to stay at the oddball intellectual misfit sorority PED. PED's weird witch housemother Erica Hunter (the indomitable Shelley Winters at her most gleefully unrestrained and over the top) encourages Sarah to use her potentially lethal psychic powers on the ANS sorority, specifically targeting snotty stuck-up bitch Jennifer Lawrence (deliciously played to catty perfection by Morgan Fairchild) as the key deserving recipient of Sarah's wrath. Adequately directed by Robert Day, with decent cinematography by Ric Waite, a spooky score by Johnny ("The Evil") Harris, a rousing fiery conclusion, and fine acting by a solid cast, this modest made-for-TV "Carrie" cash-in clone does the trick as a fun little fright feature. Lenz and Fairchild excel in juicy substantial roles, with nice supporting performances by Tony Bill as an affable teaching assistant, a pre-"Airplane!" Robert Hays as a friendly frat guy, and Tisa ("Some Call It Loving," "Zombie") Farrow as the frail, timid Mouse. Moreover, there's a pretty racy and surprising gay subtext to be discerned in the relationship between Sarah and Ms. Hunter, who appears to be a repressed lesbian with a lascivious interest in comely young ladies. My sole criticism: the gorgeous Kay Lenz is rather miscast as a character who's supposed to be a frumpy and unattractive plain Jane wallflower. That minor quibble aside, this nifty flick overall rates as a most entertaining item.
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A cheesy thriller
Randy-316 January 1999
A shy girl with strange telekinetic powers joins an unpopular sorority, where the house mother is a mysterious and manipulative Shelley Winters. Meanwhile, the girl's sister joins a popular sorority, where Morgan Fairchild is the queen snob. A sacrificial initiation has tragic consequences. Bad acting, poor production values, seventies threads -- in other words, cheesy fun.
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Watchable TV fare.
Scott LeBrun19 March 2015
This mildly entertaining TV movie benefits largely from (mostly) appropriate casting, and decent performances from the cast. Kay Lenz is extremely appealing as Sarah Goodwin, a shy young woman going off to college with her adoptive sister Patty (Morgan Brittany). Patty is determined to become part of a particular sorority, but these snot nosed gals turn up their nose at Sarah, for no really good reason. Sarah finds a home with a more low key sorority, while her new found nemesis Jennifer Lawrence (Morgan Fairchild) looks for ways to humiliate her. Jennifer and her compatriots are playing with fire, however: Sarah just so happens to possess telekinetic powers, which prove to come in handy.

Adequately directed by TV veteran Robert Day, this is a quite obvious carbon copy of "Carrie" for the most part. It can boast a different element, though: a conniving, manipulative, crazed house mother played to perfection by "special guest star" Shelley Winters. Lenz is a gorgeous woman, therefore maybe not the best choice for her part, but she takes it seriously and still looks good even when deglamourized like she is here. Filling out the cast of familiar faces are Tony Bill as well meaning teaching assistant Paul Yates, the briefly seen Kathryn Grant as the Goodwin matriarch, Robert Hays of "Airplane!" as amiable lug Scott Rafferty, Tisa Farrow ("Zombi 2") as the aptly nicknamed "Mouse", Talia Balsam ("Crawlspace") as sorority sister Allison, and Michael Talbott (who was actually in "Carrie") as Freddie.

The music by Johnny Harris is good, and special effects are used sparingly. This being a TV movie, of course, it likely won't be too satisfying for horror film fans hoping for spectacle and a body count. At the very least, it builds to a reasonably fun finale.

Six out of 10.
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Respectable Made-for-TV Movie
gavin694231 May 2014
A withdrawn young girl joins an unpopular sorority in college. It turns out she has psychic and telekinetic powers, and she uses them against a rival sorority.

This film is often compared to "Carrie" for the obvious reason it is an outcast girl with telekinetic powers. This is then compounded by a scene that is not completely different from the infamous "pig blood" scene (though thankfully no pigs or blood are used). But there is something to this.

There is a good cast, with Shelley Winters, Morgan Fairchild and a pre-Airplane Robert Hays. The female leads are more than adequate (and one wonders why they did not get top billing). And there is enough plot here to really call it something new. Perhaps if it had not been made-for-TV we might have seen an even edgier version of events. What did writer Tom Holland ("Fright Night", "Child's Play") have in mind?
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the 70s look
Katy-135 April 1999
"The Initiation of Sarah" was made about a decade ahead of "Heathers" and it basically follows the same ideas. Morgan Fairchild is perfect as a vicious blonde barbie-like sorority sister. Just like "Heather #1". Then there's the other Morgan in this production, Morgan Brittany, who plays Sarah's brunette sister. They both have this perfect 70s look, like Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman), Farrah Fawcett, Cheryl Ladd, Jaclyn Smith. Fairchild is very convincing as a popular b**** and she has a whole horde of other barbie friends to back her up. I wish the film spent more time, and gore, in getting back at them. The horror element could have been expanded at this time. Of course, it was a made-for-TV movie.
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Decent if very derivative TV flick
rdoyle294 December 2017
This TV movie is "Carrie" set on a college campus combined with the type of Satanic secret society movies that were popular in the 70's. Kay Lenz and her sister are starting university together (Lenz is an adopted orphan and hence can be the same age as her sister) and are excited to join a sorority. While her sister is pretty, outgoing and popular, Lenz is mousy and plain (in that actress sense of "plain" which translates to "mildly less hot than everyone else"). Her sister gets into the top sorority, while Lenz is only accepted to the sorority for losers. There is a fierce rivalry between the sororities, so leader of the top sorority Morgan Fairchild forbids Lenz's sister from associating with her. Lenz has to settle for her new sorority sister Tisa Farrow.

So ,,, Lenz also has psychic powers, and as she's increasingly ostracized and picked on, they start manifesting more ferociously. Her house mother Shelly Winters mysteriously knows about her powers, and hints that they will be the key to making their bottom feeding sorority the new top sorority on campus.

There's a ton going on in this pretty decent if derivative flick. Tony Bill appears as a Psych prof interested in Lenz and Robert Hays hangs around as one of the guys on campus.
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Is It Me, or Does Morgan Fairchild Look About a Decade Too Old For College?
Timothy Liebe16 April 2017
This "CARRIE For Seventies Television - With Witchcraft" doesn't quite go where you expect it to, thanks to a surprisingly sympathetic performance by Morgan Brittany as Sarah's adopted sister Patty, Key Lenz's complete commitment to Sarah's mousiness and the strength she finds once she uncovers her psychic (or is it witchcraft?) powers, and Tisa Farrow as Sarah's depressive violinist friend "Mouse". The rest of the cast doesn't fare quite as well, either due to less commitment to their roles or the simple fact they're completely unconvincing as college students - Morgan Fairchild, though only a year older than Brittany or Farrow, comes off more like a Bitchy Society Wife in her thirties than as Snooty Sorority Queen, while Robert Hayes (two years before AIRPLANE!) makes about as old a college student as the geriatric ones in MST3K favorite RING OF TERROR! Shelley Winters sadly turns in one of her over-the-top performances that she all too often gave in the Seventies, so when the final act "twist" comes in I doubt anybody's in the least surprised.

If you can get past that? It's not a bad TV-Movie - no TRILOGY OR TERROR, but enjoyable and with some strong lead performances.
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Does Carrie knows about Sarah?
Who would know that a telekinetic would be part of higher education. "The Initiation of Sarah", is like a whole new story here. Here you have two sisters who start college. A timid sister named Sarah (Kay Lenz) and popular Patty (Morgan Brittany). Hoping to get into the same sorority together, only to be met with animosity. It turned out that Sarah is adopted. And the sorority leader(Morgan Fairchild) drives the wedge between the two. When Sarah joins the opposite sorority, she meets another pledge name Mouse (Tisa Farrow). Sarah uses her telekinetic powers on several occasions. This draws attention to the den mother (Shelley Winters) to use her powers for her own purposes. When Sarah and Mouse started to bond, the den mother sets out her plans of revenge on the rival sorority. When Sarah discovers her den mother's plan, she thwarts it. This movie kinds of copies "Carrie". A few subtle changes but not too much. Enjoyed it though. 2 out of 5 stars.
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Although it's a bit slow, "The Initiation of Sarah" serves up some fun TV-safe scares
ersinkdotcom7 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"The Initiation of Sarah" tells the tale of a college freshman (Kay Lenz) with telekinetic powers. She is pressured to join a sorority after her sister (Morgan Brittany) is recruited to a rival chapter run by a group of popular bullies. It just so happens that the house Sarah pledges is run by a witch (Shelley Winters). She wants to use the girl to exact revenge on the daughter (Morgan Fairchild) of the sorority girl that spurned her when she was a student 20 years earlier. Will Sarah give into the temptation to put her and the house mother's tormenting rivals in their place or resist the unrelenting anger brewing within her?

Although it's a bit slow, "The Initiation of Sarah" serves up some fun TV-safe scares. I can see this airing the week of Halloween in 1978 and doing quite well in the Nielsen ratings. No one can deny the influence "Carrie" had on this movie. Shelley Winters ("The Poseidon Adventure") effectively plays the creepy old house mother with diabolical plans for the naïve Sarah. Morgan Fairchild ("The Seduction") is perfect as the venomous leader of the mean sorority girls who pick on poor Sarah. Morgan Brittany ("Dallas") and Kay Lenz ("Moving Violation") are wonderful as the two sisters torn apart by their rival houses.
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Well-produced "Carrie" clone for television...but imagine this story without the telekinesis
moonspinner552 August 2016
Beautiful college freshman and her plain-Jane adoptive sister shop around their university for the perfect sorority, eventually separating once they've been accepted into rival houses off-campus--one the popular clique for the spoiled and pampered, the other a haven for misfits. So far, so good for this TV-made thriller with an exceptionally fine cast, particularly Kay Lenz as Sarah, the psychology major harboring a life-long secret: when she's angry, she can make things 'happen.' Unfortunately, the teleplay by Don Ingalls, Carol Saraceno and Kenette Gfeller, working from a treatment by Saraceno and Tom Holland, is too intent on aping the 1976 theatrical feature "Carrie" (one might call it Carrie Goes to College). Characters are introduced, but not taken into consideration; there's speculation about Sarah's biological mother that might have provided some insight into Shelley Winters' odd-acting housemother, but none of this is built upon. It must have been troubling for Lenz and the supporting cast to see their hard work go up in flames (literally); the movie sidesteps all the points it has initially made about being true to one's self in order to have a cataclysmic conclusion. Had the telekinesis and black magic been taken out of the mix, they might really have had something here.
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Laughably Awful!
Kyle9910 April 1999
This is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. Granted, it was a made for TV horror movie, but still! Morgan Fairchild is the one bright spot in the movie. She does an excellent job as snobbish sorority girl Jennifer, even with the terrible dialogue she's forced to say. The rest of the younger cast members are awful to some degree or another. Shelley Winters is totally over the top and I spent the entire movie feeling sorry for her for even being in the movie to begin with. In short, this TV movie (made in 1978) tried to copy Carrie and failed miserably.
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Campy made-for-TV Carrie rip-off
a_chinn21 June 2017
Co-written by the man who wrote the hilariously awful 1970s Captain America TV movie comes this made-for-TV ripoff of "Carrie," except with a mousy sorority sister seeking revenge on her mean fellow sorority sisters. Morgan Fairchild plays the lead mean sorority sister, so that's pretty fun. Kay Lenz plays the Carrie-like character, Sarah Goodwin. Airplane's Robert Hayes plays the nice guy of the film. Shelley Winters, Tony Bill, Kathryn Grant, Tisa Farrow, and Michael Talbott also appear in this camp fest. Overall, this is a terrible movie, but it was VERY entertaining on a campy so-bad-it's-good level.
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