The Initiation of Sarah

The Initiation of Sarah is a 1978 American made-for-television supernatural horror film directed by Robert Day.[1] It first aired on ABC on February 6, 1978 and starred Kay Lenz as a shy, withdrawn young woman who discovers that she has psychic powers after joining a sorority. The film achieved some controversy upon its initial airing on television as part of the film's plot involved Morgan Fairchild wearing a wet T-shirt after being thrown into a fountain, something that had not been previously shown in a made-for-TV movie.[2]

The Initiation of Sarah
DVD cover
Screenplay byDon Ingalls
Carol Saraceno
Kenette Gfeller
Story byTom Holland
Carol Saraceno
Directed byRobert Day
StarringKay Lenz, Shelley Winters, Tony Bill, Morgan Fairchild
Theme music composerJohnny Harris
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Executive producer(s)Charles W. Fries
Producer(s)Jay Benson
Allan Marcil (associate producer)
Production location(s)357 S. Lorraine Blvd., Los Angeles, California
CinematographyRic Waite
Editor(s)Anthony DiMarco
Running time96 minutes
Production company(s)Charles Fries Productions
Stonehenge Productions
Original networkABC
Original release
  • February 2, 1978 (1978-02-02)

The film was later re-made in 2006 for ABC Family and Fairchild returned to portray the mother of the titular Sarah and her sister, who was renamed Lindsay.[3] Fairchild initially regretted portraying Jennifer in the 1978 film but later changed her mind after producer Chuck Fries stated that while it was easy to find an ingenue, it was difficult to find someone who could play a convincing "bitch".[3][4]


The film opens with Sarah (Kay Lenz), a painfully shy young woman, and her beautiful sister Patty (Morgan Brittany) playing on the beach at sunset. Patty wanders off to play in the surf with a young man, only for him to try to force himself on her. After a moment the man recoils and it is implied that Sarah has used telekinesis to save Patty. The film then cuts to the two sisters driving to college. On the way there Patty and Sarah discuss plans for the two of them to join Alpha Nu Sigma (ANS) as their mother was a member of the sorority. Sarah points out that she (Sarah) is adopted and that Patty is their mother's only biological child, as she was adopted shortly after she was born.

Once at the campus the two girls attend a rush week party at ANS. Patty is instantly welcomed into the sorority's clique while Sarah is directed to the nearby Phi Epsilon Delta (PED) house, as they do not view her as a potential candidate. The sisters both go to the PED house, where they are met with a general lack of enthusiasm from almost all of the girls other than Mouse (Tisa Farrow), an awkward and shy young woman who is instantly drawn to Sarah. After rush week is over Patty is overjoyed to get into ANS, but is somewhat hurt when she discovers that not only did Sarah not get in, but that ANS president Jennifer (Morgan Fairchild) insists that Patty not speak to Sarah, as she was accepted into PED. This causes friction between the two sisters, as Sarah is frustrated at Patty's reluctant willingness to follow Jennifer's orders.

As the semester progresses Sarah begins to strike up a relationship of sorts with Paul (Tony Bill), a teaching assistant for her psychology classes, and becomes somewhat closer to Mouse. She's unnerved by the PED's den mother Mrs. Hunter (Shelley Winters), who recognizes that Sarah has special powers and insists that she use them to lead PED to glory against the ANS. Patty continually tries to find ways to talk to Sarah but is repeatedly unsuccessful and Jennifer's taunting ultimately leads Sarah to use her powers to push Jennifer into a fountain. Feeling vindicated by the encounter, Sarah begins to open up to the idea of her powers but does not fully embrace them until Jennifer orchestrates a cruel prank against Sarah where she is pelted with rotten food, eggs, and mud. While the prank is successful in humiliating Sarah, it finally pushes Patty to leave Jennifer's sorority. Angry, Sarah rebuffs Paul's attempts to persuade her that Mrs. Hunter is evil and that she should leave the sorority, ultimately deciding to hold an initiation ceremony with Mrs. Hunter.

On the night of the ceremony Sarah and the other PEDs eagerly follow Mrs. Hunter's lead. Sarah notes that Mouse is not at the ceremony but is pacified by Mrs. Hunter's assurances that Mouse will show up at the final portion of the night's events. As the group is led through the ceremony, the ANS are also going through their own initiation rites. At Mrs. Hunter's prompting Sarah uses her powers to disrupt the ceremony for an interruption, causing the wind to blow the ANS' dresses and cause Jennifer's face to permanently warp into a horrific visage. However, when Sarah discovers that the PED ceremony will end with Mouse getting sacrificed, she uses her powers to stop the ceremony but ends up burning herself and Mrs. Hunter alive. The film ends with Patty deciding to join PED at Mouse's insistence and the two sorrowfully gaze at a picture of Patty and Sarah in happier times.



Critical reception for the DVD release of The Initiation of Sarah has been mixed to positive.[5] Most of the reviews shared the opinion that while the film was cheesy, they enjoyed the acting.[6][7] Multiple reviewers also noted its similarity to the 1976 film Carrie, which also dealt with the subject of a female outcast that discovers telekinetic powers, with comparing it unfavorably to the earlier film while still maintaining that The Initiation of Sarah was overall enjoyable.[8][9]


  1. Murphy Pizza, James R. Lewis (2009). Handbook of Contemporary Paganism. Brill Academic Publishers. p. 571. ISBN 9789004163737.
  2. Paul Kane, Marie O'Regan (2010). Voices in the Dark: Interviews with Horror Writers, Directors and Actors. McFarland. p. 145. ISBN 078644634X.
  3. Hughes, Mike. "Halloween time for oldies and remakes". Tucson Citizen. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  4. Cerio, Gregory. "Platinum Predator". People. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  5. From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century. Andrews McMeel Publishing. 2005. p. 234.
  6. Alexander, Chris. "TV TERRORS Double Feature: "THE INITIATION OF SARAH" & "ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE?" (DVD Review)". Fangoria. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  7. Jane, Ian. "Scream Factory TV Terrors". DVD Talk. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  8. "Scream Factory Presents TV Terrors: The Initiation of Sarah / Are You in the House Alone? (review)". Dread Central. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  9. Sullivan, Gordon. "TV Terrors (review)". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
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