What makes a bond between sisters? Is it blood? Family? A sense of belonging? Horror movies love to explore the bond of sisterhood in sorority-set stories. Well… in only a way a TV movie directed by a man and mostly written by men can do. (Shout out to soap writer Carol Saraceno who gets her name in the credits here!)
Sisters Sarah and Patty are off to college together for their freshman year. Patty is the social type, determined to join their mother’s former sorority (or is it the “once your sorority, always your sorority” sort of deal?). Sarah is adopted and lacks her sister’s charms – a much more unlikely fit got Alpha Nu Sigma. But the two are determined to stick together in their new world.
When they head to Alpha Nu Sigma’s rush week party, Patty is immediately taken under the wings of Jennifer, one of the sorority’s sisters. Sarah is left to her own devices, watching from the sidelines. As a cruel joke, the sorority sisters recommend that Sarah rush for Phi Epsilon Delta (which they lovingly refer to as Pigs, Elephants and Dogs).
When Sarah and Patty arrive at Phi Epsilon Delta, they quickly realise that the place is much less popular. The girls are bored and disinterested in new members. But after rush week, Patty gets her dream of making Alpha Nu Sigma while Sarah gets into Phi Epsilon Delta.
The sisters are separated. Though they try to console themselves, evil queen Jennifer forces them apart. If Sarah wants to join her new sisterhood, she must leave her real sister behind.
But no one knows that Sarah has a secret: she has telekinetic powers. She can cause things to happen with her mind. Angry with Patty, she causes a piano to fall, but she decides to save her sister in time. They try their best to make amends, but the relationship remains strained.
At Phi Epsilon Delta, Sarah meets her new sorority sisters and her house mother, Mrs Hunter (played by the DELIGHTFUL Shelley Winters). The house mother quickly lets on that she knows Sarah’s powers, as she seemingly knows who Sarah’s birth mother is.
Sarah is encouraged to use her powers, and she does. The powers begin to make her new sorority a better place. The girls are friendlier not only to each other but to themselves. She finds new confidence in her new role as a leader, being (mostly) unphased by Jennifer’s bullying antics.
It isn’t until initiation night that Sarah realises her powers won’t always be used for good. She must make a decision: reach full success or save her loved ones.
The Initiation of Sarah is one of the best TV movies I’ve seen. It has the classic tropes (sororities, telekinetic powers, crappy moms), but it still makes for an enjoyable watch. The cast is very good. Morgan Fairchild as Jennifer is the queen bitch! She’s a delight to watch. Though I do think it’s hilarious that for the first half of the movie, we’re meant to agree that Kay Lenz is an ugly duckling.
It does veer a little too much into Carrie territory and could do with being a touch more original, but I think it’s easily glossed over if you’re looking for something cheesy and fun. The ending is thoroughly worth it. One of the better TV movie one-two punches!
There is a 2006 remake with Fairchild in it as well as Jennifer Tilly. You absolutely know that’s going to be next week’s pick.