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TV Terrors: The Initiation Of Sarah/Are You In The House Alone? (DVD Review)

TV-TerrorsTV movies aren’t quite what they used to be decades ago.  Made for TV films were big deals leading all the way up to the start of the 2000s.  There were big events, like a mini series or a movie of the week.  I think we could all recall our favorite Stephen King mini-series event or getting hyped up for the next one.  People loved sitting around for a Sunday night movie that was all new and didn’t require going to the theater.  Somewhere along the line, the quality of these or audience expectation and desire for them dropped significantly.  Now the big ones are intentionally campy exploitation films like Sharknado.  Scream Factory is digging up history and trying something new out here with TV Terrors, resurrecting two made for TV horror films from 1978.  This is a “feeler” release.  So if there are titles you’re hoping they’d pick up and put out, you best show this one some love.  And I would love for you to preorder it below as always.

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The Initiation Of Sarah  

Patty and her adopted sister Sarah have always been BFFs.  Sarah is kind of the shyer reclusive one of the two and seems to have some telekinetic powers.  Patty is the beautiful outgoing and popular one of the two while others tend to ignore or not care much for Sarah.  A big split comes for the two when they both enter their freshman year of college and go through sorority recruitment.  Their mother was an Alpha Nu Sigma, so both are definitely eyeing being picked up there.  While Patty is warmly welcomed and heavily recruited, Sarah is cast aside and treated like dirt.  Sarah finds more solace in the maligned sorority PED.  When bid day comes, as expected Sarah doesn’t get one from Alpha Nu Sigma, while Patty is welcomed with open arms.  As things go, tensions mount with sororities, sisters test their friendship, Sarah explores hers powers and the PED housemother has a devilish secret.

This made for TV movie definitely feels a response to Brian de Palma’s Carrie, only this time we set things in college instead of high school.  The movie actually does pretty well by its relationship with its sisters.  The characters, while wholly different, feel very genuine to each other.  Credit needs to be given to the leads Kay Lenz and Morgan Brittany as they really sell us on this.  Kay works really well in the weird girl that you could sort of see being attractive if done up right.  The whole film predicates on this relationship and it surprisingly works and carries the film.

Another major tipping point is Morgan Fairchild as, get this, Jennifer Lawrence.  She’s an absolute bitch in this movie and you really just want her to get hers.  There is just a snide sense of pride and arrogance leading you to pretty much hate this character.  I also found it funny when she pronounced her own sorority’s letters (“A-N-S”) it sounded like she was saying “anus”.  The weaker performance I found to be the PED house mom (Shelley Winters) and she was a bit too goofy and over the top campy for the tone this movie was being filmed and the precedence set by the other performers.

Be warned, this movie does tread pretty slowly.  This is the 70s and a television movie that has a time it needs to extend to.  It definitely can be a slug.  It also doesn’t have the money to be all effects heavy and fill the voided moments with something.  Everything to keep it rolling is rooting in dialogue and character for the most part.  I think it’s an enjoyable little film.  It may be unfair of me to say given its format, but a tighter cut of this movie would have gone a long way.

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Are You In The House Alone?  

This one tells the tale of Gail who we immediately find out has been raped.   We are told through a flashback of her being harassed by notes in her locker and a strange caller.  People tell her not to worry and not make a big deal of it.  However, things ramp up a notch when she gets a call while babysitting.  Who is this mysterious harasser and will he be caught?

I’m not sure whether Are You In The House Alone? is a straight up horror movie or not.  It felt like an after school drama that had some horror and thriller elements to it, but more than anything was some sort of lesson teaching those movies brought.  Even though it predates it by a whole year, I was getting a When A Stranger Calls vibe from it.  However, When A Stranger Calls was the full length version of a short from years before called The Sitter, so maybe the makers of Are You In The House Alone? were inspired from that.

The fun part of this movie was seeing Blythe Danner and a young Dennis Quaid.  As a matter of fact, you get Dennis Quaid in rare form.  Blythe Danner shows you that she has aged rather well over the years, so Gwenyth probably has some lucky genes that’ll keep her going as well.  Like the other movie, the cast is full of young faces that primarily did a lot of TV work in this era.  The faces will look familiar to those generations growing up during this time, but will likely be a mystery to the younger generations that pick up this release.

Once again, this is another slow mover, and that’s how it was back then.  There’s plenty here to keep you going and a mystery you’re trying to figure out.  After the mystery is figured however, it then becomes intriguing as to how it’s going to play out.  I found the politics of the era to be kind of shocking and humorous at the same time.  The parents and lawyers of the girl raped keep going on that she’s got no chance in this case because she “wasn’t a virgin”.  Just, wow.  Anywho, this is another pretty enjoyable look back at a lost TV movie from 1978.

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Video  

The prints on both films are in very good shape.  There is a little bit of blocking on skin tones if you’re looking very closely, but that comes with using the DVD format.  There’s a healthy layer of grain present with specs and dirt at a minimum.  This is actually a really good picture for a DVD.  There’s a nice level of detail and a very fall feel to both these movies.  Both have a very nostalgic look to them that gives me a fondness for this era.  Having 2 films on this disc doesn’t seem to cause any trouble as both look as good as they can on a DVD.

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Audio

Both films have a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio presentation.  The audio is pretty clean, but sounding very much of its time.  In a few areas it has a little bit of a muffled sound that is likely in the source and is common from films of this era.  This is a TV movie, so the 2.0 is the original presentation and the only way which these films have been known.

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Extras

There are no extras on this release.  The disc does not even have a chapter select option.

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Summary

Scream Factory doesn’t just give you one movie to test these waters, they give you two.  While the disc lacks any extras, having multiple movies should count for something.  Both films provide a nice look back on the landscape of the television movie in a time where it was taken more seriously and with more prestige.  You’ll find back then there was a bit more care, better performances and better dialogue.  For those who aren’t big on horror because of things being too gruesome or too intense, these might provide for you a side of horror to enjoy.  If you are a fan of these old films on television I highly recommend you pick this one up.  Who knows, success on this release could lead to that awesome Salem’s Lot or It Blu-ray down the road from Scream Factory.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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