Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Scary Schools: The Initiation of Sarah (2006)


The Art of Witching may or may not be a class taught on a college campus somewhere in the world. But the lessons are sustainable beneath the polished, hardwood floors of Temple Hill University's rival sororities. The Initiation of Sarah (2006) makes the whole pledging process seem so complicated. And if you've got some magical powers, complicated and dangerous.

Sarah (Mika Boorem) and Lindsey (Summer Glau) are entering college together and seem closer than close. Lindsey, the follow-mom's-lead one in prep school threads has her mindset on a fresh start with the top tier sorority, Alpha Nu Gamma. The elusive, cynical Sarah is looking for that same start, but on a non-linear road that leads to friends and allies on the fray of the bubbly Alpha "Plastics" that seem to be both revered and the envy of the entire university.

Sarah (left) & Lindsey (right)
With this trajectory split, both sisters find themselves at odds with one another, bringing up lingering tension between the two that puts Sarah in the reverse role of protector, all the while wanting the responsibility burdened Lindsey to truly have her first taste of independence. It's pretty clever how both characters, so strikingly different on the surface were so similar in their essence. More importantly, Boorem and Glau demonstrate these varying conflicts so well throughout the entire movie.

What you may expect from an ABC Family film that tries to cater to Halloween enthusiasts looking for something much more tame to watch at a sleepover is kept at a simmer with a little trace of bad dialogue, over acting, and heavy handed emotional themes. Cheesy pop/rock and awkward character introductions happen seldom and not nearly enough to make you wanna find something else to watch. But man, are they ever present. I was thoroughly surprised by how good this movie was. Unexpected plot twists and a Xander-like performance from 'the guy' (Ben Ziff's Finn), The Initiation of Sarah is palatable for the entire spectrum of spooky movie fans. It may not be everyone's flavor, but I imagine that few people would label it "bad".


Performances by Women of Color

Jennifer Tilly as Dr. Eugenia Hunter


Wide-eyed with pleasant shock and glee, when Tilly graces the screen as the natural witch with all the answers, I knew my enjoyment would be amplified. Dr. Hunter looks over rival sorority Pi Epsilon Delta that acts as an 'Xavier school' for Temple Hill's magic women. She also teaches European Mysticism where she breaks down the definition of the occult so eloquently, has an office to die for, and a wicked wardrobe. I hope to be as cool of a professor as she. All hippie goth and smarts, Jennifer Tilly is still the Jennifer Tilly we all know; so one-note yet so enjoyable.

Tessa Thompson as Esme


Second in command at Alpha Nu, Esme's role is the very basic sidekick to head antagonist Corinne (JoAnna Garcia). She makes nice when needed, turns up the evil where necessary, and punks out when Morgan Fairchild shows up at the house in no mood for games and critiques their lack of time sensitive efforts to preserve the power of their sisterhood. But this isn't a condemnation on Esme's role. It's much more significant and a lot less stereotypical than one would imagine. Remembering Thompson from her days on Veronica Mars, loving to hate her is nothing new. But what also lies within is the potential and ability to understand that there's so much more to Esme if given the chance. With the film's ending, there's additional lingering intrigue about who Esme really is. In short, underdeveloped with no trepidation about a possible sequel.

Watch the full movie on YouTube right now!
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