Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Mika Boreem, Summer Glau, Joanna Garcia, Jennifer Tilly, Morgan Fairchild, Tessa Thompson, Amber Wallace
Directed Stuart Gillard
The 1970s was a golden age for televised horror. Perhaps it was because that decade is considered by many to have been the last great golden age for cinema and that quality bled over even into the made-for-TV movie biz, but there were quite a few supernatural-oriented TV movies produced that were shockingly good, and despite showing the sometimes campy earmarks of the era in which they were made, many still hold up quite well today. They just don’t make them like they used to. Just watch the Sci-Fi Channel any given Saturday night and you’ll know what I mean.
For even further proof one need look no further than the ABC Family Channel’s remake of the 1978 cult classic TV movie The Initiation of Sarah. I freely admit that it has been so long since I saw the original version (a film that like many of its era appeared in frequent rotation in syndication during much of the Eighties, where myself and most others saw them for the first time) that I don’t vividly remember all the details of the plot but I do vividly recall it leaving a good impression on me as a fairly effective supernatural chiller that relied more on mood and atmosphere than cheap shocks and special effects that drive much of what we see today. Far from perfect, most surely dated given the decade it was made, but a solid effort none the less.
This remake has clearly been dumbed down dramatically to appeal to tweener audiences, preferably the same teen girls that wear “Princess” T-shirts and can recite for you every cast member of a show like “Laguna Beach”. Gone is the ominous mood and atmosphere of dread in favor of some slick (and not-so-slick) special effects and a tone that’s too jokey and lightweight to elicit any real scares. I’m not even sure this movie even knows what being spooky is. Even R.L. Stine put more effort into giving the audience goosebumps than this.
Sarah Goodwin (Sleepover‘s Mika Boreem) and her fraternal twin sister Lindsey (Serenity‘s Summer Glau) are off to Temple Hill College and all but guaranteed acceptance into Alpha Gamma Nu, the most popular sorority on campus which their wealthy mother (Morgan Fairchild, who co-starred in the original version) was once a member. Terminally cheerful Lindsey is only unhappy when she worries that her supposedly troubled due to being psychic powered ala Carrie sister will spoil things for her as she has apparently done for much of their lives. While Lindsey goes full speed ahead into trying to get into the good graces of Alpha Gamma Nu, the sorority’s queen bee, the witchy in more ways than one Chorinne (Joanna Garcia, giving the best performance in the film), only seems to have eyes for Sarah. This is because Sarah is “The One” and the blood of “The One” must be drained and fed to the eternal flame. You see Alpha Gamma Nu is a demonic sorority with a sacrificial altar in their basement that’s surrounded by this ring of fire from which stems the Alpha Nu’s eternal youth and other assorted supernatural powers. The fire is beginning to fade and now they’re desperate to initiate Sarah ASAP for the ultimate sacrifice that they’ve been waiting 18 years for. Sarah cannot be sacrificed until she has willingly given herself over in the form of getting initiated into Alpha Nu.
Sarah is alerted to the danger awaiting her and her sister as well as the reality behind her powers by Dr. Hunter (Jennifer Tilly, channeling Morticia Addams by way of Betty Boop), the college’s European Mysticism instructor and head mistress of Pi Epsilon Delta, a sorority of good Magi that are the sworn enemies of evil Alpha Gamma Nu. Toss in a hunky guy named Finn for Sarah to fall for, a new Sara Rue look-a-like best friend who never really contributes much to the plot, Chorinne’s right-hand henchwoman, and a lot of manipulation, backstabbing, potions, spells, and chanting and you end up with a remake of The Initiation of Sarah that sacrifices damn near everything that made the original worthwhile in favor of a flimsy hybrid of Mean Girls and “Charmed”.
I can think of no better example of what’s wrong with this remake than when Sarah learns a shocking secret about her mother that should have completely shattered her world. I mean we’re talking about the sort of revelation that would make one question their entire life. Yet learning this barely registers anything more than some minor pouting on Sarah’s part and she’s back to making out with her boyfriend two scenes later. There isn’t even a scene where this bombshell gets dropped on Lindsey. This happens again with another big revelation dealing with the scars on Sarah’s wrists that she’s been covering up with some bracelets. It’s referenced that she’s attempted suicide several times before and may even be into cutting herself. The truth behind those cuts is revealed in a scene that doesn’t even involve Sarah and, best I could muster, she never even learns this truth herself nor is the subject ever brought up again.
It becomes aggravating how nothing ever sticks in this film and anything that might add some weight to the story gets brushed away like it was nothing. If you’re going to include stuff like this then you’d better damn well deal with it in at least a semi-believable manner. It’s as if it was initially written to be a darker, more serious film like the original but then the producers ordered a rewrite to make sure everything remained ultra light and breezy even though these heavier aspects of the screenplay were left in the final script.
The original movie portrayed Sarah Goodwin as an emotionally withdrawn and rather downbeat individual. Other than being occasionally surly and getting freaked out whenever she inadvertently causes something to shatter or go flying with her powers, this Sarah Goodwin is almost as cheerful as her ever giddy sister and really just your average girly grrl despite Lindsey constantly paying lip service to what an emotional trainwreck she supposedly is. Mika Boreem is a perfectly fine actress. Heck, everyone here does a good job acting-wise. But it doesn’t change the fact that the performance doesn’t fit the character and it’s again due to the film being too lightweight for the story it seems to want to tell.
I fully realize that this movie was produced by the ABC Family Channel, but still, if you’re going to make a movie that includes references to human sacrifice, blood drinking, suicide, occult rituals, etc. then it hardly seems too much to ask that the filmmakers try and make something at least up to the standards of a show like “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” that dealt with the same sort of subject matter on a weekly basis with a vastly superior balance of intelligence, humor, maturity, and suspense. Besides, this is the same ABC Family Channel that regularly airs Cruel Intentions, a film with a plot that’s hardly family friendly regardless of what they cut out to make it acceptable for airing on broadcast television. ABC Family even included a “Viewer Discretion Advised” disclaimer for The Initiation of Sarah and I’ll be damned if I know why. Perhaps it has to do with the scene towards the end where Sarah drops by Finn’s dorm room for a quickie deflowering so that she won’t have that pesky virginity stifling her full power for the final showdown with the Alpha Nu’s.
That third act really is quite stupid. The idiocy begin with Sarah giving up her virginity to Finn during that impromptu booty call, then Pi Delta’s in black robes begin chanting a loud vortex of wind and magic around the Alpha Gamma Nu house that no one else in the neighborhood seems to notice, a big plot twist gets tossed in that really does feel like a twist that’s been thrown in just for the sake of there being a twist, and it all culminates in an overly long music video style montage of young women in black robes and stern looks on their faces marching forth to the tune of a song called “Children of the Revolution.” I have no clue what the heck was up with that last part there since these were the good witches and this montage actually did a better job making them seem like a menacing force than anything else in the movie ever did to make the Alpha Nu’s appear evil.
And a word of advice: Don’t tell the person trying unsuccessfully to stab you to death with the enchanted sacrificial knife that it can only harm you if it has some of their blood on it and then casually turn your back on them. You’re just asking for it.
Now in the film’s defense, it’s such fluff that it breezes by quickly and the actors are good enough to make this remake watchable even as it does a disservice to both the original and the audience. But no doubt I suspect 14-year old girls will lap this up and tell their best friends just how cool that movie on TV was the other night right after they finish gossiping about which actor in The Covenant they thought was the cutest. They’re clearly the target audience. Anyone else that watches will just get caught in the crossfire.
In an interesting move, ABC Family’s website is currently offering viewers the opportunity to watch both this remake and the original versions of The Initiation of Sarah online via broadband for free. I’d urge checking out the original myself. Heck, I may even revisit it myself.
2 out of 5
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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review
Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne
Directed by Charles Martin Smith
I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.
Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.
Now let’s get to it.
First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.
Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.
I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.
Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.
It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!
And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.
Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.
This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.
And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.
Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!
In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?
That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.
Rockstar lighting for days.
Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.
Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.
More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.
Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcorn, and if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.
Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.
All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!
Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!
Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.
AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters
Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill
Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
** NO SPOILERS **
It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.
To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.
That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.
Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.
Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.
Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.
Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.
But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.
But let’s backtrack a bit here.
Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).
And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.
Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.
With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.
Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.
I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.
Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!
Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.
Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?
On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.
That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.
In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.
While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.
Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.
Bring on season 12.
The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.
The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror
Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro
Directed by Nicholas Woods
The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).
The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.
The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.
The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.
The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.
The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.
- Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
- Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
- If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
- “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
- The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
- As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
- “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
- The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
- Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.
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