‘The Initiation of Sarah’ – 2006
Director: Stuart Gillard
Writer: Daniel Berendsen
Starring: Mika Boorem, Summer Glau, Jennifer Tilly, Joanna Garcia, Tessa Thompson, Morgan Fairchild
Runtime: 90 minutes
Tagline: “Sisters. Sororities. Sacrifices.”
There are two types of movie that are worth watching; the good ones, the kind that win awards and people recommend to each other, and the bad ones, the ones that are just too amusing to not watch… and people still recommend to each other. But what happens to the ones that float in between the two? That’s what happened with The Initiation of Sarah. Yes, it was rife with cheesy effects and a pretty hilarious plot, but it didn’t quite tip over into the category of so-bad-it’s-good. It’s really just sort of decent, despite the fact that it’s about two rivaling Sorority witch covens, and premiered on ABC Family as part of their 13 Nights of Halloween thingy.
So as you might imagine it’s a glossy affair that stars a lot of attractive females and highly forgettable males that wear clothes that look really good on them and have good hair. Basically, it’s what you would expect, no more and no less. Though, I didn’t realize until I started researching the film after viewing that it was a remake of, or apparently re-imaging (which leads me to believe it has little in common with), a TV movie from 1978 starring Shelley Winters. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to watch that one and we can do a comparison. But really, it wasn’t as amusing as I thought it might be.
Okay, so the basic plot. As always, rife with spoilers:
We start with a ritual that leaves no doubt that this is a movie about witches. A bunch of cloaked girls stand around a sort of table slab in the middle of a basement room with flames licking at the walls. A girl is brought down the stairs dressed in some very typical flowing white robes. Looking around at this obvious sacrificial lair she declares “I don’t want to do this anymore!” leading one to wonder what it was she was thinking of when she agreed to be their sacrificial lamb in the first place. It’s too late, of course, and the sisters strap her down on the slab, their leader, Chorine (Garcia), lifts a knife and is about to plunge it into the girl’s throat area but the knife refuses to puncture the skin. I mean it hangs there in mid-air for awhile before she’s declared not “The One” and they all leave her there still chained to the slab.
We jump ahead eighteen years. Lindsay (Glau) and Sarah (Boorem) are twins headed to the pastoral looking Temple Hill College, which is apparently pretty big on Greek life cause as they make their way through town there appears to be nothing but sorority houses and all the girls plan to rush one Sorority or another. At the top of the food chain are the Alpha Nu Gammas, the hottest, most popular girls at college with the foxiest house mother. Across the way is the creepy old house of the Pi Epsilon Deltas (PED) who have a reputation of keeping to themselves… which is pretty much the only evidence we’re given of their being creepy save for Lindsay’s insistence that they are. The girls have big plans to join the Alpha Nus. Their mother (Fairchild) has groomed them for years, donated a bunch of money, and made friends with all the alumni in order to assure them seats. And Lindsay seems entirely up for the task. She dresses in sweet little dresses and desperately wants to leave behind some sort of currently undisclosed stigma concerning the two sisters. Sarah on the other had doesn’t seem all that interested in sororities. She the “alternative” sister, who wears loads of bracelets on her arms, edgy clothing, and keeps her blond hair masterfully unkempt.
Right from the beginning they allude that something is different about Sarah. She has scars on her wrists, indicating the multiple attempted suicides that Lindsay brings up later while bemoaning how everything has always been about her sister, and things seem to just sort of happen around her. At the Alpha Nu meet and greet, for example, she’s horrified enough to run away when she accidentally makes the wine glass Chorine (who happens to be the aforementioned foxy house mother) explode. She makes things fly across the room, starts fires with her mind… she’s a witch. Obviously. But she wants to leave everything behind. So when she breaks Chorine’s wineglass she runs, Lindsay close at heel, out of the house and keeps going until Lindsay hurts her ankle in front of the PED house. They were both hand delivered some very glossy looking invitations before, but they haven’t considered rushing the old “creepy” house because it’s, well, creepy. But with Lindsay hurt Sarah helps her inside where they meet the girls. And Dr. Hunter (Tilly), the house mother who teaches European Mysticism and couldn’t be more obvious if she actually wore a pointed hat.
Hunter explains; Lindsay and Sarah are not their mother’s daughter, their mother was killed eighteen years ago when it turned out she wasn’t The One, whose blood would keep the Alpha Nu’s eternal flame (which lives in the basement of the sorority house) going. She had been carrying twins and “the signs” (we never learn what they were) were pointing towards the pea sized fetuses living in her uterus. Sarah is The One and the Alpha Nus are planning to drain her of her blood on Initiation night to keep their coven alive. They’re desperate and have thus become even more ruthless, because this is their last chance. The eternal flame is about to go out. The only way to be safe is for Sarah to pledge PED. Sarah’s skeptical, but Hunter promises she can help Sarah temper her powers so that they wont be quite so out of control.
The Alpha Nus are not foiled quite so easily though. They set their sites on manipulating Lindsay into bringing Sarah to their fold. They show her how beautiful she could be if she wore more revealing clothes, poofier hair, and had bigger boobs. And prove the point by bewitching a fellow to drool all over her. Lindsay is swayed and turns away from her sister by pledging Alpha Nu Gamma. Together they set a trap for Sarah by kidnapping her crush and having Lindsay trick her sister into the basement where the eternal flame is still burning and the sacrificial slab is just waiting. However, once the trap is sprung Lindsay is accidentally cut by the knife, revealing that Sarah was never The One at all, it’s Lindsay’s blood they need.
The Alpha Nus build some sort of magic wall of stones out of nothing and lock Sarah out of the Alpha Nu house. Sarah runs to the open arms of PED, pledges, and then there’s a big showdown between good and evil. You can probably imagine which one prevails, and peace is restored. The eternal flame is extinguished and Hunter locks away the Knife of Truth for good. But because these things always have to end slightly ambiguously, head Alpha Nu, Esme, is seen walking away with a caldron containing a small lick of eternal flame.
Would I recommend this? Eh, I don’t know. I wouldn’t say it’s necessary viewing, but if you’re bored and want to look at a few hot girls with a few slightly interesting powers, and don’t care about visual effects, of course, you could definitely do worse.