The Screaming Minis: I Start Counting

The Screaming Minis is a new experiment in short (well, shorter) individual reviews, as way for us to talk a little more about the other movies of note we’re watching but without the involved, in-depth discussion delivered as a duo. The name comes from The Screaming Mimi, the 1949 pulp novel by Frederic Brown that inspired Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.

i start counting the ways in which this poster deceives

I Start Counting
Director: David Greene
Released: 1969
Starring: Jenny Agutter, Bryan Marshall, Simon Ward, Clare Sutcliffe, Gregory Phillips
Running time: 105 minutes
Genre: thriller

Another random recommendation from NFLX Watch Instantly, my watching I Start Counting was a happy accident. David Greene’s decidedly obscure 1969 kitchen sink drama cum thriller recalls the political and social realism of the Sixties while embracing the increasing permissiveness of European exploitation in the Seventies. I Start Counting follows Wynne (Jenny Agutter: Logan’s Run, An American Werewolf in London), a naïf Catholic girl adopted by a working class English family. In the absence of a paterfamilias, Wynne’s eldest brother George (Bryan Marshall: The Witches) is both father figure to her–and imagined lover. Surrendering herself to her incestuous infatuation, Wynne finds less confusion in the simple matter of her first love. Except that it’s not so simple. Wynne is fourteen and George is thirty-two. And her adoptive brother. And he’s got some skeletons in his closet. Oh, and there’s a serial killer stalking the area, and Wynne believes that George could be the culprit.

Greene makes every lovely image count. Wynne’s world is rife–RIFE!–with symbolism, such as the abandoned and soon to be demolished family cottage representing both Wynne’s and Britain’s pasts, and which she cannot stop visiting. There’s also the gritty suburban hell of the family now lives in, and the teeming streets Wynne and her best friend Corinne walk. Corinne is Wynne’s polar opposite, hiding her innocence beneath a brash facade, prancing about in miniskirts and loudly (and falsely) proclaiming her status as a non-virgin. Much as she clings to her beloved stuffed rabbit, Wynne clings to their sheltered schoolgirl world, but Corinne is eager to leave it behind. Their developing social and sexual agency is both threatening and a promise of a rich, albeit permissive future, and the adults seem ready to frustrate the girls at every turn. Wynne longs to protect George, and insists she loves and understands him, her affection only heightened by her suspicions as she conceals any evidence that might link George to the crimes. But Greene mocks the notion of feminine love as a civilizing force with both Wynne’s urgent yet impotent love and George’s own tragic personal life (no spoilers!).

Though dismissed upon initial release as being chiefly notable for featuring a seventeen-year-old Jenny Agutter in her underwear and masturbating (not that that isn’t notable), I Start Counting is deserving of reassessment, being less sexploitation slasher than enchanting, dreamy thriller. I thought it was a really lovely little movie, both charming and moving at times, but also suspenseful. Greene handles the element of suspense well, going places Shadow of a Doubt never dared, while perfectly capturing some of adolescence’s mortifications. It’s also a remarkable snapshot of the period; watch particularly for groovy brother Len’s record shop, a retro futuristic dream come true. Plus, a nearly naked Jenny Agutter, masturbating with a stuffed rabbit.

Some galleries of screencaps are up over at the PB&G Tumblr.

(In the absence of an available trailer, here is the opening sequence.)

Ginger Snaps

cursed out

Ginger Snaps
Director: John Fawcett
Released: 2000
Starring: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Mimi Rogers, and Kris Lemche
Running time: 108 min
Genre: horror

A thick, syrupy, voluminous discharge is not uncommon: Well, obviously, there’s a beast in Bailey Downs. It’s climbing in your backyards and snatchin’ your doggies up … and tearing them to fucking pieces, as Ginger would say. Ginger, if you were wondering, is Ginger Fitzgerald, an anti-social almost-sixteen year-old girl from Bailey Downs, a late bloomer, and the idol of her just-turned-fifteen year old sister Bridgette. Together, they do lots of outcasty things, like smoking, cursing at the dinner table, disgusting and disturbing their teacher with a slide show of pictures of gore and death that they posed for as a class project, and sharing snarky remarks about their “standard cum-buckety date bait” classmates while no one is listening.

When one of cum-buckety Trina Sinclair’s friends overhears Bridgette’s insults and rats her out to Trina, the youngest of the Fitz sisters graduates from simple weirdo to target. Trina bumrushes her on the field hockey, uh, field, and knocks her right on top of the latest doggy to fall victim to (read: get torn to fucking pieces by) the Beast of Bailey Downs. Ginger jumps forward to defend her little sis, but her bravery starts to falter when Trina doesn’t back down. Desperate to save face with the sister that looks up to her, Ging starts talking about revenge and promising Bridgette that they’ll get Trina back. They settle on a plan to kidnap Trina’s dog and use their gore know-how to make him look like the Beast got him.

That night, on the way to Trina’s house, psyched up to do their crime, they run across yet another dead dog. (Any person in that town still letting their dogs out, at this point, deserves to be euthanized.) This one is still warm. FREE PROP! They start to pick it up, the perfect addition to their little revenge plot, but a leg comes off and the thing falls and splats all over Ginger’s leg. Except… Oh no! That’s not doggy blood, Ging is a woman now!

Disgusted and, in Ginger’s case obviously freaked, they turn to go home, but that kill was warm. Hot, actually. Sticking around after they found it was so dumb, I mean, really dumb, for real, because The Beast is not far away, and the scent of Ginger’s fresh flow makes her a target for the creature. Ginger is snatched up and dragged her off, mauled and savaged offscreen as Bridgette looks frantically for her. And when The Beast shows its face, Bridgette shows a little more spine than Ging, and doesn’t back down. She batters it with her camera, grabs Ginger, and the girls haul ass. The Beast keeps after them, but is struck by a passing van, splattering the thing all over the everywhere. Back home, Ging begs Bridgette not to tell anyone and, in fact, her wounds are healing. She seems as if she’ll be ok, but as the days progress and Ginger’s behavior starts to change, as she gets more aggressive and shows an interest in boys, as the sisters grow further apart (and their mother revels in their burgeoning womanhood), Bridgette, worried and hurt, begins to think there may be more than one “curse” at work. Run and tell  THAT!

No one ever thinks chicks do shit like this. A girl can only be a slut, bitch, tease, or the virgin next door: Largely overlooked at its debut, Ginger Snaps made up for that false start by gathering a strong cult following (and also a sequel and a prequel) over the last decade, being widely praised for being both smart and nasty, as well as genuinely good–albeit imperfect–horror.

this is normal, north america

your first time can be a little rough

you may find hair in new places

Fisty: I came super late to the Ginger Snaps bandwagon, only seeing it for the first time last year. Not for any particular reason; I saw it pop up in peoples’ Horror folders when I was er, “acquiring” my collection of movie files, but never bothered with it. Shoots, even Eli had seen it before me. Is this the sort of thing that makes me lose my horror cred? Should I not be admitting this? At PB&G, we have a vague policy of candor when it suits us, and I will not deviate from that equivocal convention we’ve worked somewhat hard to establish!

Bill: It’s about goddamn time! Why do you hate Canada so much?

Fisty: I just do, okay? Why do you love it? And why do you love Ginger Snaps?

Bill: Why do I love Canada? Degrassi. Why do I love Ginger Snaps? Hmmm. Why do I love Ginger Snaps? Do I even LOVE Ginger Snaps? I mean, it does have its flaws. The bellybutton piercing scene is a little over the top. It’s just a bellybutton, calm down. But it was made in 2000 when that wasn’t quite as common as it is now, so I can forgive them that. Ginger’s slow motion walk down the school hallway with all the guys turning to watch her is pretty cheesy. I was never a fan of that scene, but, in its defense, I would turn and watch Ginger stroll by in slow-mo if I had the chance, so I can forgive that. There’s a few lines that don’t come off too well in the film, sound false, silly, but I’ll just assume they didn’t have the budget to keep shooting until they got it just right. That lack of budget is probably also why the final werewolf looks kind of unfinished. It’s not too bad, but it is kind of … bald. Jesse Moss, who plays Jason in the movie, is pretty bad, too. More so in some scenes, like the syringe scene, than others. Of course, he only stands out as being so bad, because Mimi Rogers and Emily Perkins are so good. So, it’s a flawed film, but I forgive most of its shortcomings and, yes, I do in fact love it. Enough so that I just had to order the Canadian DVD instead of the American version, just to get more extras. Why? Now, Fisty, I will tell you what love is made of.

plus slugs and snails

so, so dark

homeopathic skillz

Ginger, sexy teen Ginger, is laying in her bed on her tummy. She’s sleeping in her sexy Canadian panties. Bridgette slowly creeps up on her, softly takes hold of the elastic of her hot teen sister’s panties and slowly pulls them down, revealing A WAGGING FUCKING PUPPYDOG TAIL! Hot, teenage, Canadian, pantybutt with a tail! Man, I have had a thing for werewolf girls since Marsha Quist’s naked firelight sex/transformation scene from The Howling kickstarted my erotic imagination when I was but a young boy. With her claws, the supernumerary nipples on display later in the film and that goddamn tail, Ginger is like the Marsha Quist of Degrassi HighThat is why I fucking love Ginger Snaps.

Fisty: And I guess that explains why you love me, too, supernumerary nipple and all.

Maybe I’m a jerk, but I pretty much rolled my eyes at both Ginger and Brigitte right at the start–and I would’ve thought they were ‘tards back in high school, too. Not because they looked different or were morbid (I was plenty of that myself), but because I would have thought them pretentious and laughable in their rampant desire to be SO DARK. Shit, the girl in the Diary Of a High School Death Rocker was less affected. Maybe.

BUT–nothing wrong with that!. The fact that I initially scoffed at them (“Poseurs!”)–and I never really did get to like Ginger, but in fairness, it’s Brigitte’s story–makes it that much more natural.

Emily Perkins and Mimi Rogers OWN this movie; without them, it would be a pallid, flaccid thing. Okay, that’s a little harsh, but they are just SO GOOD. Rogers especially; if Ginger Snaps were made today, she’d be a Mormon mommy-blogger, CriCut, DSLR, trips to JoAnn’s and all. Both shes are amazing, Pamela Fitzgerald the character, a fiercely protective cookiecutter suburbanite, and Mimi Rogers the actress, who so finely brings Pamela to life.

It does have its flaws, though. Moss isn’t terribly convincing, and all the chiaroscuro promise of the first half peters out in the second as Fawcett just starts hitting genre numbers, finally devolving to an overlong and silly chase finale. Even so, it is head and shoulders (and nipples) above the majority of horror teen fare. (Why are teen-oriented horror movies so often inferior?) Despite that, the finely articulated main characters, deep perceptiveness of both female adolescence and sibling relations, and of course the rarely forced trenchant wit put Ginger Snapsat the top of the teen horror game. (I just said “teen horror” three times; if I say it twice more, will SOMEONE jump out of the mirror and kill me?)

it’s a period!

the new normal

and eat it, too!

Bill: As long as it isn’t Stephenie Meyer…

I can’t fault the girls too much for being soooo “nonconformist”, since I was nearly as bad as they were at one point, though I was a little younger than them at the time.  I had my phase where I only wore black and constantly had my hair in my eyes, drew demons on all my notebooks, hissed if I touched a bible, and one or twice yammered on about death and all the horrible ways of dying, like Trash from Return of the Living Dead.

Fisty: I can’t hear you over the sound of my own laughter.

Bill: Yeah, yeah… Thankfully, that was just a phase. Mostly. I say that while wearing a black t-shirt with zombies on it and looking at the skull candle, wind-up chattery fangs, and skull & bats snowglobe that decorate my computer desk.

And, yes, this movie is all about Perkins and Rogers, as you say. Pamela makes me laugh in just about every scene the character appears in and she is so easy to cheer for later in the movie. She may seem kind of lame and embarrassing to those girls, but, man, she is one hell of a devoted mom. Totally a woman you’d want on your side. As a dude, however, I also have to give some respect to John Bourgeois as Henry Fitzgerald. He’s a bit of a non-entity in the movie, as the dad, but the few times you do see him, he’s perfect as the poor, lone male in the house, struggling to keep his appetite while everyone around him gets washed away in a flood of pussy-sludge talk. “Pam, we’re eating.” Kris Lemche’s character, Sam, is a nice surprise, too. Yes, he grows and sells a bit of pot, but the movie never tries to moralize about that, even showing his botanical know-how as an asset while trying to find a cure. There is some talk (by Trina) hinting at a darker side to his character, calling him a “cherry hound”, but that never seems to come out in his dealings with Bridgette. They make sure to show some porn at his place, as well, but never make him out to be a dirty, lecherous perv. He’s a smart, seemingly decent guy that just happens to make a little cash on the side selling weed to schoolkids and likes titties, but isn’t some misogynist, deviant, Date-Rapist Rick. Kind of nice to have a love-interest (or crush interest or whatever you’d call him in this movie) that isn’t bland and one-note or an obvious asshole, but rather a real character.

And yes, Fisty, you and your extra nip will always be my real world Marsha Quist.

we’re gonna need a bigger stainstick

just a dad dude

not down your throat

Fisty: I especially appreciated how Sam wasn’t shoved down our throats as a love interest. It’s almost obligatory that there be some kind of romantic subplot whenever there are both men and women in a horror movie, and though there’s certainly tension, Bridgette and Sam are primarily concerned with rectifying the terrible situation she is in. And fuck that romance bullshit anyways. Granted, my mind was often on boys when I was fifteen, but if my sister were a werewolf, it would have been on that a lot more.

Bill: Yeah, it seemed like, rather than the straight love interest, he was used more to add an extra, adversarial facet to the girls’  relationship. Sure, Ginger was protective of Bridgette and that was a part of how she reacted to Sam, but she also seemed jealous. She was The Cool Sister, the older of the two and The Pretty One, so Sam’s continued focus on her little sister, instead of her, seemed to get under her skin, especially since Bridgette had been passing herself off as the one with “the curse”. It also seemed to bother her that Bridgette, who she says, “Always wanted to be me,” had a potential new hero in her life. It might have also been a way to dig into the weird dynamics that sometimes pop up between sisters when boys and sex become a part of their lives, where they find themselves competing for male attention.

Fisty: Sisterhood is weird, and the often unspoken rivalries and/or resentments can be very fierce. My younger sister and I (three year difference) are best friends, and we both idolized our older sisters (a decade plus older); the two of them (another three year difference) came close to literally murdering one another at times. Like, locked in the bathroom with the baby (me) while the other rages outside the door with a machete. Being a teenage girl kind of sucks for everyone involved.

Bill: Dude, did you grow up in The Overlook? Shine on, Fisty.

sugar

and spice

and nothing very nice

Another reason that I love Ginger Snaps, besides Ginger’s sexy motherfuckin’ tail, is the bitchin’ practical gore. Luckily, the movie came out just prior to the time that CGI really started snaking its way more prominently into the horror genre. So, its animatronics and camera tricks instead of digital transformations here. You’ll find no CGI splatters or sprays in this one. Corn syrup all the way! And for a teeny horror flick, there sure is a lot of it. In one scene that was, according to Fawcett, inspired by the game Silent Hill they actually smear blood all the way through a hallway and across the walls. There’re bloody panties, bloody drips, bloody toilets, bloody urinals, bloody vans, some very bloody deaths, bloody milk, tons of bloody dog corpses (not shown in this review, because awwww, poor doggies) … everything is bloody in this movie. Even the cake (very purposefully, says Fawcett) looks bloody! Given the parallels the movie makes between lycanthropy and menstruation, it would’ve been a total cop-out to see anything less, so I’m glad they didn’t wuss out. While, as I mentioned before, the final werewolf may’ve needed a little more work, all the rest is solid, whether the dismemberments are real or part of the girls’ school project.

And while I’m talking about the effects in the movie, let me make mention of the initial attack on Ginger. It goes by very fast in the movie. It’s easy to miss a lot of the detail in it. It’s worth rewinding and checking out again. When you examine it in detail, you can see that there’s a very sexual overtone to the violence. The werewolf nibbles at her neck, tears at her breast, strokes the inside of Ginger’s thighs, leaving claw marks. I almost thought the thing was going to reach up her skirt. At one point, it practically mounts her from behind, back arched. The beast resembled a dog trying to hump a leg. This is worth noting, because they continue to use the sex-as-violence-as-sex throughout the movie. It leads to one really clever scene, one of my favs in the movie, where you’re not quite sure if Ging has been out sexing or savaging. It’s not a new idea, but Ginger Snaps uses the allegory well, without pounding it into your skull in a ham-fisted Romero-like fashion.

Fisty, you want to wrap up?

like out the toilet?

no use crying

kills werewolves dead

Fisty: In a sec. We didn’t talk a whole lot about the body horror, puberty, and menstruation aspect, but I think a lot of that is pretty obvious and needs neither explication nor defense. For young women especially, menstruation represents the culmination of pubescence, and brings with it a whole lot of baggage in our culture. For a lot of girls it can still be pretty shocking no matter how intellectually prepared we feel we are for it via sex ed, “the talk,” or pop culture. (Shit, I was in denial about mine for two days the first time.) It’s good to see it represented in what really amounts to not a very melodramatic fashion, if you can see past the whole werewolf and murder thing. Poor Ginger–and Bridgette by proximity–speed through this trauma/transition without being able to process it, and their awkwardness as they try to deal is one of the strongest parts of the film.

The practical effects are pretty cool, shades of An American Werewolf in London, but those and the violent episodes lack any real artistic flair that would elevate them from rote setpieces to glamorous, baroque mayhem. That’s about all.

Regardless of its imperfections, Ginger Snaps is a welcome addition to the new canon of horror: a bright, intense, and most of all PERCEPTIVE look at the inner world of the adolescent girl, something found all too rarely in horror, where teenage girls are often relegated to roles of T&A or standard Final Girl with little deviation. It’s also pretty fuckin’ funny. With all the bloody ultraviolence naturally found therein, and a little lycanthropy thrown in for good measure, Fawcett, Perkins, Isabelle, and Rogers take us all along for the ride and oh, what fun it is.

Bill: And check out that tail!

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th, Part VI

NOT IN 3D

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th, Part VI
Director: Tom McLoughlin
Released: 1986
Starring: Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen
Running time: 86 minutes
Genre: horror, slasher

Maybe “lives” isn’t really the best word. There is only one thing that Tommy Jarvis fears … Jason. Tommy convinces his Sweat Hog friend Hawes from the group home (he’s still there?) that he has to face that fear, Maury-style. They road trip to Jason’s burial site in the small, rural community of Forest Green (formerly Crystal Lake). Tommy, however, plans on doing more than just confronting his fear: He plans to murder it by torching Jason’s corpse. After digging up the grave, seeing Jason in the casket triggers one of Tommy’s violent episodes and he repeatedly stabs the body with an iron rod, reliving his boyhood trauma of killing Jason. After the cathartic stabby-stabby, he leaves the rod in Jason’s chest and goes for the can of gas, but a sudden blast of lightning strikes the iron pole, Number-5ing Jason back to a semblance of life. Hawes becomes the first of J’s post-life victims, but Tommy escapes, heading into town to warn the people of Crystal Lake Forest Green that Jason is back and more dangerous than ever!

Naturally, when the survivor of two previous mass murders in the area with a common MO bursts into the Crystal Lake Forest Green police station, screaming at the cops about a killer on the loose, back up is called and they investigate immediately. NOT! Sheriff Garris and his deputy (probably Holocaust deniers) dismiss Tommy as a nut, informing him that they changed the name of the town to put all that Jason crap behind them, and then they lock him up for the night. Meanwhile, Jason is killing the shit out of random people on his way back to the camp, which is just about to open for the season.

The next morning Megan Garris shows up at the station with her friends Sissy, Paula, and Cort to ask her dad to look for a couple counselors (dead, d-e-d dead) that never showed up when they were supposed to. Tommy, still in the cell, not being a complete idiot like the CLFGPD, connects the dots and tries to warn them about Jason.  Megan takes notice of how cute the psycho in the cell is, but her dad shoos her and her crew away. He and Deputy Cologne escort Tommy out of town and send him on his  way, warning him not to come back. But Jason is out there and the body count isgrowing. Kids are showing up at the camp. Megan’s friends (and a bunch of other people) are dying. Only Tommy believes. And only Tommy can stop Jason and save those lives, but the authorities are sure that Tommy himself is the killer and none of his books on the occult will help him if he’s locked in a cell or shot full of holes. “He picked the right day to pull this shit. Happy Friday the 13th.”

never a good idea

number 5’s alive!

this should be a tip off for what to expect

Some folks have a strange idea of entertainment. A crowning moment in the series, IV is arguably one of the very best Friday the 13ths. Production values are high, there’s talent on screen and off, and a charming self-awareness. Presaging the meta stylings of New Nightmare and Scream by nearly a decade, Jason Lives reinvigorated a series ailing from slasher ennui and the vitriolic reactions to A New Beginning. It also classes up the joint, sadly being the first Friday the 13th to not suffer cuts due to an X rating, and also being totally lacking in boobs. You win some, you lose some.

Bill: I wonder if any of the post-A New Beginning movies actually happened or if they’re just the increasingly bizarre nightmares of an insane Tommy Jarvis. That would actually explain a lot. The facts in Jason Lives aren’t consistent with the previous movies in the series. Jason is said to have killed Tommy’s mother and friends, but the people that Jason killed in The Final Chapter could hardly be called Tommy’s friends and there is no mention at all of his sister. Oddly, there’s no Mention of Roy-Jason either when Tommy’s history comes up.

Fisty: It basically retcons the end of ANB, dropping the idea that Tommy could be the new killer. And Tommy kind of implies that Jason really did drown way back in the long long ago and has always been supernatural, and not a baghead feral mountain man-child. Plus, they claimed Jason had been cremated in ANB.

Bill: The timing doesn’t add up either. Tommy has aged at least ten years, but Jason’s corpse doesn’t seem to have been in the ground for nearly that long. And, though the age difference between Tommy and Megan and her friends isn’t that great–handful of years, maybe–Megan acts as if the children of Crystal Lake Forest Green were raised believing that Jason was just a legend, despite the presence of an actual grave with a headstone marked “Jason Voorhees,” and the previous films showing TV coverage and newspaper stories about his killing spree(s). Jason Lives fits so poorly with what we know came before that Fisty was wondering whether Jason Livescould be classified as a reboot of the series. But I’m going with dream, not reboot.

lightning is striking again and again and again and again

do i offend?

trailer or carbonite?

Jason Lives starts out with what is essentially a fleshed out rehash of Tommy’s dream of Jason’s resurrection from ANB. What brings Jason back? Lightning. Does that make any sense? Not really. Does it matter? Not really. It was good enough for Frankenstein and Short Circuit, so it’s good enough for Friday the 13th. Undead Jason then starts doing some really amazing things, like punching his fist through torsos and tearing arms off, folding people in half backwards. I guess he was always strong, what with his being able to smoosh people’s heads (he does some more of that in this one, too) and pop their eyeballs out and whatnot, so maybe that isn’t that unusual for him. Dropping down out of the trees like a hockey ninja, however, is definitely new and very un-Jason-like. Oh, and that one kill that always bugs me: Jason smashes someone’s face into the wall of a motor home and, rather than nose breaking, lips pulping, teeth shattering inward, the victims face makes a perfectly intact face-shaped indentation in the metal of the vehicle. (Lightning resurrection? I’m all in, but my suspension of disbelief stops at face-molds.) But if this is all in Tommy’s head as he sits around in a straightjacket somewhere, drooling, then the non-smooshy face-smoosh doesn’t bother me so much.

Fisty: Okay, I’ll give you the Tommy’s Dream theory, which goes a long way toward explaining the rest of the franchise. Despite the presence of the supernatural, this is the last of the “natural” Friday the 13ths, and it very neatly nails shut the coffin of the Tommy Jarvis Trilogy as well as the Wild Child Jason Hexalogy, while opening the door to the Killing Machine Super Jason as Myth Pentalogy … though if we agree with Horace (“Five acts a play must have, nor more nor less.”) then the franchise is off-kilter. Most fans would blame A New Beginning due to it’s Jason-less status, but I would argue that F13 is rather two pentalogies linked by a standalone episode, that being Jason Lives. “What the fuck are you on, Fisty,” you ask? Hormones and classics, my friends. But really, taking a step back and examining this installment and the franchise as a whole from a distance provides some clarity.

F13P1 through P5 chart the development of Jason, and later Tommy Jarvis. It’s the story of how a lovable little mongo kid drowned, his mother took revenge by murdering those she held responsible, and when she in turn was killed, her wild child takes his turn at vengeance, only to be brought down by an intended victim, little Tommy Jarvis, who then himself suffers the consequences of violence and takes refuge in insanity, even possibly becoming a killer himself and continuing the cycle. Again, this is all very classical, with Jason’s saga recalling The Oresteia (I was always kind of pissed that SPOILER Orestes got away with it; Clytemnestra is a much more sympathetic character to my mind).

stroke for bloody stroke

a mask tells us more than a face

going mano a mano

Bill: Whoosh! Right over my head! I get what you’re saying about the linked pentalogies, but I don’t think you can really break the series down that way. For one, you can’t really consider Jason Lives a standalone movie. It would have to be part of the Killing Machine Super Jason cycle and that would throw off your numbers. Plus, wtf? You’re counting Jason X and Freddy Versus Jason? You can’t count those. Neither of them are by title Friday the 13th movies. Jason X is still great and sure the X can mean ten, but it’s still more of a spin off movie than truly part of the F13 series, a Laverne and Shirley to the Happy Days of F13. And lets just ignore FvJ. Seriously, Jason’s afraid of water now? Fuck that movie. That leaves us with nine movies. Traditionally,  they’re broken down into two bookend standalone flicks, Mother at one end and Parasite at the other, with three overlapping trilogies between them, being comprised of One Weekend (2-4), Tommy Jarvis (4-6), and Zombie Jason (6-8). That works, but, if you really wanted to simplify it, I think it makes more sense to break the franchise down into two tetralogies, an ascending tetralogy and a descending tetralogy linked by ANB as the apex movie.

Now, I don’t pick ANB as the standalone because it’s not really Jason, but because it comes between Jason’s death and rebirth, when he existed purely as legend, as a boogeyman to be mimicked, as a sort of Candyman to refer back to one of the captions from our review of ANB. The Ascending Cycle begins in a pre-Jason era with Pamela, has Jason taking the murder-reins from her, moving out into a wider world away from the lake in P3 (IN 3D!!!) and the beginning of The Final Chapter, then returning  to die and become true legend. Then, after A New Beginning, the series begins to move in reverse back to the beginning, although in a more exaggerated way. Jason returns to life, after a movie or so in the immediate area of the lake, goes back out into the world, returns to a child state, then a practically fetal state, and eventually passing into non-existence/Hell and leaving a Jason-less world. And Jason Lives, as the first movie of the Descending Cycle, perfectly signifies this switch into reverse, as it’s basically all of the previous movies played backwards: Tommy comes back to CLFG from Pinehurst, Jason starts off dead and unmasked, returns to life, remasks himself at the beginning of the movie, (Fisty: Notice also that he starts out by killing random folks, then moves on to counselors), the camp opens and Jason ends up in the lake. And, from what I read about what was removed from the script but left in the novelization, Jason’s parent, his father this time, would’ve appeared at the end of the movie.

Fisty: Sooo, Jason is Orpheus? (Bill: No, but he was an Argonaut! *ba-dum-tish*) And wait a minute, they don’t overlap as trilogies, only as tetralogies. Not by my reckoning of the franchise timeline. And even then it doesn’t come out even because you’re jettisoning Jason X. I count what I count! PLUS, FIVE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER. Damn it, math is hard. I have to move on because all these numbers are blowing my mind.

One thing that’s a bit puzzling is the presence of the Jason as Myth in Crystal Lake Forest Green. After all, 2 through 4 went down what, ten years ago? That’s a pretty short timespan for culling a murderous episode from a town’s history (how very NoES) to the point that no one believes it ever happened. How is it that all of the kids were raised on the Jason as Myth and Camp Blood Legend, yet don’t remember any of the news reports of that era? And how do they not even remember that the town was called Crystal Lake only a decade previous? I guess that could be more support for the Telekinetic Tommy Jarvis Dream Theory, since dreams have their own logic and that logic only needs to meet minimum requirements to keep the story rolling. Like how Jason’s grave is different in both ANB and Jason Lives–though I will grant you the former as clearly being a dream gravesite–and especially how Jason in Jason Lives is granted a plot in a fancypants cemetery, while Pamela Voorhees is relegated to a plot on the side of the road in The Final Chapter. Dream logic! Or gaping holes in continuity! You decide!

say, what?

he is risen

this book reads like stereo instructions

Bill: What? Of course the trilogies overlap. But don’t yell at me about them! That’s not my idea! I just mentioned them as  that’s how I’ve seen the series broken down by other people. I like my Ascending/Apex/Descending idea better, mostly because it gives ANB more of the respect and importance that it deserves in the franchise. Five is the magic number, as in PART 5!

I touched on the timing of that Jason as Myth thing a bit before.  It really doesn’t add up.

Fisty: No, it doesn’t. Let me put it to you like this: Jason as Myth is not the same as the Telekinetic Tommy Jarvis Dream Theory (or TTJDT), but is the STORY of Jason that emerges following the events of The Final Chapter, after Jason the Feral Murderous Man-Child is killed by Tommy Jarvis the Civilized Murderous Man-Child (Wait–is Jason Enkidu? Can we really afford another digression?). Once he”s dead, whether it’s his legend being used by Roy or his reanimated bad self slaughtering the innocents, it is Jason-as-Myth, the Jason of legend and folklore, from the mouths of babes. Ten years is not adequate time for Jason the Fact to be erased and replaced by the legend.

Bill: So, if I go by your Jason as Myth theory, does that mean everything from A New Beginning on are just Jason’s legend, stories told around the campfire? Are the further sequels just the increasingly exaggerated re-tellings of Paul’s campfire story from The Final Chapter from after the real Wild-Child Jason’s death? (Hey, whatever happened to Paul?) Wow. That’s like Frank Miller framing 300 as an oral, fireside tale so he can trick out the history however he chooses. And I think it works even better than my TTJDT (Telekinetic Tommy Jarvis Dream Theory).

Honestly, I don’t really think it was a dream or anything like that, just bad continuity. The series has always been pretty shitty at keeping the story straight. That doesn’t really bother me. This movie is probably the worst of the bunch in that regard and it’s full of silliness, like the face smoosh I mentioned earlier. I don’t care. I still adore it. It’s a good thing we spent so long talking about the franchise as a whole because really, I could never review Jason Lives with any kind of objectivity. My attachment to it is even greater than my attachment to The Final Chapter. This movie started getting heavy rotation on cable at just around the time I moved beyond needing someone to watch a scary movie with me. I had seen all the other movies in the series, but I’d watched them with my sisters or my mom or my brothers. I was finally old enough to sit and watch them by myself and BAM! Jason Lives is on every other night. So I watched it every other night. And it’s so damn fun. And so funny! This was also about the time I started buying Gorezone and Fangoria, a very special time in my life.

he’s everywhere you want to be

darling, it’s better down where it’s wetter

rising up to the challenge of his rivals

Fisty: I would love to take this all the way back to Paul. (What happened to him!?) But why do you keep shooting down your own crackpot theories?!

Bill: Because I keep having new ones! Just wait until I suss out my ideas on this new Crystal Lake as a Static Pool in the River of Time/Jason as Nexus of All Realities theory I’m developing.

Fisty: Well, I care not for other crackpot theories on the F13 timeline, and before we spend the entire review arguing over it (seriously, you cannot separate 1 from 2! CANNOT!), we need to move on.

Jason Lives is fun because it’s so self-aware. McLoughlin knows he’s making a movie for horror fans, and that they have certain expectations, so he lives up to them while playing with them. From nods to Universal horror, to breaking the fourth wall, to metareferences like Lizabeth’s “I’ve seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly,” the film is peppered with meta. Everyone–except perhaps the principals of Tommy, Megan, the Sheriff, and perhaps Jason–is aware of being in a slasher.

McLoughlin takes the humor over the top, bringing the film into parodic territory. The silly face smoosh you mentioned is just one of those ridiculous moments, like the smiley face kill. Personally, they take it a little too far; I don’t think kills have to be silly in order to be funny, and these are points against Jason Lives in my book. But McLoughlin recovers with the other jokes; I was especially fond of the campers themselves (is this the only F13 to actually feature kids at camp?). The comics and Sartre and No Future boys are probably my favorites. “What did you want to be when you grew up?” They’re no Reggies, but they’re cool little dudes.

we could’ve gone to camp north star, but no

reading material for the cool

reading material for the uncool

Bill: “I think we’re dead meat.” I love those two! And that comic the one sleeping kid has is actually an issue of Heroes for Hire featuring Power Man and Iron Fist, two of the coolest superheroes ever, inspired by Blaxploitation and Kung-Fu movies, respectively. The kids in this (and I think they are the first kids we’ve seen since the first movie) have better taste in reading material than the counselors do. Sissy is reading some lame Men at Play magazine? That’s not nearly as cool as Debbie and her issue of Fango from Part 3. Still, I like Sissy. I liked all of Megan’s group. Cort, especially, got some laughs out of me. Oh, and Nikki … there may not be any noodz in Jason Lives, not even during the sex scene, but a quick google titty search of Darcy DeMoss will be very rewarding. Sadly there’s nothing out there for Jennifer Cooke or Renée Jones. And I liked Farthead Martin, too, even if he isn’t quite as cool as Crazy Ralph.

I didn’t mind the smiley face kill. So the guy’s face just happened to land on a smiley face. So what? At least it didn’t leave a face-shaped impression in the tree. Stupid RV death, ugh. Besides, while there are a few silly kills, you do get some good ones, like the back-crack and a full-on, Zito-style window smash. (Two windows broken and two people defenestrated in Jason Lives, and one exploded door. Perhaps it should be titled Zito Lives?) And Lizabeth’s death (that’s the girl with the VW) is, I think, one of the most upsetting in the franchise. The way she futilely offers Jason her money and credit cards to spare her just makes me really sad. I did miss Jason’s creative body arrangements from the previous films. He did have the presence of mind to stick one head in a parked car, but that’s nothing compared to his old pop-up corpse shenanigans. Though, I suppose, in this movie, no body he left behind could be as gross and gnarly as his own. Ugh, there’s a scene in this sequel that might be, to me, the grossest thing in the franchise. Jason himself gets hit with a boat propeller and the result is that the water looks like bloody, chunky, rotten Jason stew and it always skeeves me out. I’m getting sick just thinking about it and I don’t get sick easily. Maybe I’m weird. Fisty, is that as gross to you? Anyway, I guess that makes up for the lack of gouged eyes and stacked bodies.

have a nice day

don’t leave home without it

does she or doesn’t she?

Fisty: All lakes are gross to me; I just don’t trust water that doesn’t flow. It’s the island girl in me, I guess.

I can’t believe you didn’t mention “The Man Behind the Mask,” though! For what, the first time ever a Friday the 13th movie has a decent soundtrack!? And it’s ALICE COOPER!? Hells to the yeah!

Jason Lives is one of the last hurrahs of the slasher genre before its final, inevitable decline. Though the peak was past, films like Jason Lives  and the same year’s April Fool’s Day played with the audience’s familiarity with the genre. Though its parodic elements may turn off some fans, its reputation as a fan favorite stems from the humor just as much as it does the slick direction and photography, and a talented cast, things that also made it one of the slashers most accessible to non-fans. The climax of an ailing franchise, Jason Lives effectively (though briefly) rejuvenated a dying genre. And it’s just plain fun. 

The Initiation of Sarah

the morgan the merrier

 The Initiation of Sarah
aka En lo más profundo de la mente
Director: Robert Day
Released: 1978
Starring:
Kay Lenz, Shelley Winters, Morgan Fairchild, Morgan Brittany, Tisa Farrow
Running time: 96 minutes
Genre: horror, thriller

Whenever you see the word “tact,” replace it with “bitchery.” Two lovely girls–sorry, one mousy girl and one stunning girl–kick it at the beach during what appears to be an eclipse (I have no idea how else to explain the simultaneous brightness and darkness in this scene [Bill: Day for night shooting and a blue filter on the camera? Fisty: All I know is it’s even worse than the opening scene of Dirty Harry.]), listening to some groovy tunes. It’s the last party of the summer, and the mousy blonde frets over going off to college on the morrow. A faceless dude comes up and offers to help our stunning brunette with her breaststroke, and they traipse off into the water, where he proceeds to grope and gnaw her, presumably leading to eventual rape in the ocean in full view of the party. Mousy girl watches in mingled fear and fury, before shrieking “Stop!” as Faceless Rapist falls on his ass into the water. While our stunner gets away, he can barely crawl out of the water. Wait, what just happened?

No matter. It’s the next day now, and our two girls are preparing to drive off to college on a beautiful day that glows in a way only days in the Seventies can. Mom dispenses some advice to the brunette beauty about impressing sorority bitches, gushing over what a wonderful time she wants her to have. “Oh, and you too, Sarah,” she adds. It’s now that we learn that the pair are the Goodwin sisters, half-sisters that is, somehow of the same age. They share a dad, so it’s a safe bet there were some shenanigans about eighteen years ago. The blonde is Sarah, a shy introvert, and the brunette is Patty, who has the world by its tail. That tail starts wagging as soon as the pair arrive at the picturesque liberal arts college campus of Waltham College, where Patty instantly enchants beautiful Bobbie Adams and OH MY GOD, IT’S MORGAN “TURKEY’S DONE” FAIRCHILD. Oh yes, there will be blood.

the turkey is done!

Bobbie reappears in the “freshman dorm” (apparently a quad inhabited by a dozen girls) to explain that tonight’s the big night: All the freshman girls get to go around and introduce themselves at the sorority houses. Once the girls are invited to join a house, they’ll make their choice of one, move in and go through a probationary period before a final Hell Week and initiation. It seems awfully early for that sort of thing–and why even have freshman dorms if practically everyone just moves right into sorority houses?–but I’m not complaining.

Outside the Alpha Nu Sigma house Patty hesitates, wondering whether maybe they shouldn’t forget the whole thing. Is it a sense of foreboding? Whatever, Sarah points out that they’ll just end up living in a dorm if they don’t check it out–oh, so they DO get lived in!–and they enter the Temple of Doom. Morgan Fairchild immediately introduces herself as “Jennifer Lawrence” (nice try!), and though Patty makes an effort to include Sarah, it’s clear that Jennifer is admiring only Patty’s good looks and antecedents. She bears Patty off to meet some actives while minion Kathy shepherds Sarah over to the refreshment table no-man’s-land and abandons her. Seeing Patty surrounded by the Chosen Ones, Sarah makes her way through the crowded room, a goldfish in a school of neon tetras, and awkwardly insinuates herself into the group. As Patty and Sarah excuse themselves, an ANS tactfully suggests they check out PED–Phi Epsilon Delta–a house Jennifer tactfully calls both very old and “intellectual,” then demonstrates yet more tact by “forgetting” Sarah’s name. Once the sisters leave, the ANS girls declare that they’ve got themselves a winner AND a loser. Ouch.

patty - 1, sarah - 0

Outside the PED house, the girls are suddenly menaced by a barking Doberman. While Patty cringes in abject terror, Sarah gives it a meaningful glare, accompanied by intense close ups of her eyes, and the confused canine runs off. The music reaches a crescendo, and we understand that Something has Happened. Inside PED, we find a much different scenario from that of ANS. Though the house is massive, there only seem to be three girls living there: twitchy Mouse, sardonic Allison, and orally-fixated Barbara. When Patty mentions this, Barbara declares that “rushing’s not [their] thing,” and that the others are all out … or busy … or something. Patty demonstrates some ANS-worthy tact by declaring the visit “interesting,” and drags Sarah out, but only after Mouse makes a meaningful connexion with Sarah.

As you might guess, Patty is invited to pledge three sororities, and chooses ANS, while Sarah’s lone invitation is to PED. Though until now Patty has made a determined effort to boost Sarah’s ego, the girls are on their own at this point, with everyone from Mrs Goodwin to ANS promoting the divide. Though Sarah finds real friends in PED, and makes nice with her Psych 101 TA, she’s also hurt by the way ANS forces Patty to disown her, even to announcing, “I will not associate with pigs, elephants, or dogs” right to Sarah’s face. Matters are complicated by Sarah’s growing awareness of her own powers and the involvement of crazy housemother Mrs Hunter, who encourages Sarah to strengthen them, but Sarah has her doubts. Tensions mount, with Sarah and Jennifer facing off publicly. When Sarah comes off the winner, she is motivated to encourage her PED sisters to really become a sorority again. But Jennifer plots to humiliate Sarah, and Patty is torn by her loyalty to her sister and her desire to remain pretty and popular. Mrs Hunter’s machinations, which may have killed a girl once twenty years before, bring this soup to a roiling boil of Mean Girl tact and downtrodden dork uprising with Satanism and witchcraft for some extra goodness.

the watcher on the stairs

An Imitation of Carrie? In the Seventies, you hardly had to see a movie in the theater, because sooner or later one of the networks would release a copycat right onto the airwaves for free. The Initiation of Sarah was ABC’s answer to Carrie, and remains a memorable example of that Seventies boom. Populated by pretty faces of the day (the dueling Morgans and Kay Lenz), featuring the late, great Shelley Winters, and helmed by capable director Robert Day, TIoS is a nifty little knock off that reminds you just how cool made for TV movies could be before Lifetime and Syfy cornered the market on them.

Bill: The Bermuda Depths, Don’t Go to Sleep, The Day After, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Satan’s School for Girls, The Initiation of Sarah… Man, the ’70s and ’80s kicked some made-for-TV ass. They used to pop out some fun little thrillers. The closest we get to quality TV flicks like those now are shitty TV remakes, whatever “mega reptile versus giant amphibian” movie Syfy can find a desperate enough has been to star in, and, of course, Lifetime movies starring Markie Post. I mean, I love the shitty Syfy originals and there’s occasionally something good that comes out around Halloween on, say, ABC Fam (who premiered the “reimagined” TIoS) but they are never quite as great as they used to be in pre-cable TV days.  It’s a shame, because I love the format. There’s just something so dramatically perfect about the music-cued fade to black followed by a fade in, book-ending the commercial breaks. Even without the commercials, they’re just perfect, like reaching the end of a chapter in a book and turning the page.

this is my scanner face

Fisty: And speaking of books, you left out Stranger in Our House, aka Summer of Fear, by the queen of Seventies/Eighties YA girl horror, Lois Duncan. (Note that Stranger was directed by Wes Craven and starred Linda Blair!) That’s a big fat FUCK YEAH because no one does scary for pre-teen girls like Duncan: Summer of Fear, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Stranger with My Face, Daughters of Eve, Killing Mr Griffin, Down a Dark Hall, the list just goes on and on. Seriously, you ought to check them out. Maybe it’s the adaptation of several of her suspense novels into tv movies, or maybe it’s just that overall spooky Seventies vibe, but TIoS has a distinctly Lois Duncan feel to me, which helps it to stand out as not just another piece of Carriesploitation.

Also great about made for TV movies are the familiar faces, from television stalwarts to new up and comers. In TIoS you’ll find Shelley Winters reprising her blowzy dame role as the creepy Mrs Hunter, the antithesis of cheerful tippler Mrs Mac in Black Christmas, blithely planning ritual sacrifices to SATAN. We’ve also got two of the most beautiful and famous faces of the Seventies, Morgan Fairchild and Brittany Morgan, the former demonstrating her usual porcelain bitch-goddess character, while the latter is just luminous as the has-it-all-yet-is-sensitive-too Patty. Also familiar are TV movie and show staples Talia Balsam and Nora Heflin, Airplane!‘s Robert Hays–oh! And did we mention TISA FUCKING FARROW? You know, Anne from Zombie?!

you got me on my knees, sarah

Farrow, by the way, is nearly unrecognizable as Mouse, whom she plays very twitchy and high-strung. And lest we forget, Sarah herself is played by Kay Lenz, who somehow buries her own usual radiant, if Gelfling-like beauty behind Sarah’s diffident loner mannerisms. Kay Lenz was absolutely a star in the television firmament, bringing home two Emmys and marrying the likes of David Cassidy (when he was all that and a bag of chips), not to mention her appearance in House. What does this all mean? In a nutshell, we’ve got an experienced cast who really sell their roles, every one of them, from the most silent ANS minion to the frat boy girl raters. It also means we’ve got some of the prettiest faces ever all collected in one neat package. I’d kill for Morgan Brittany’s hair. IT’S SO BOUNCY.

Bill: Robert Hays! He’s so great. It was nice that his character actually had a conscience, too. He totally faced that bitch Jennifer, and walked away rather than let her lead him around by the johnson.

"pinch hitting for pedro barbon..."

All I know about frats and sororities, I learned from watching movies. They can’t really be like that, can they? No one short of Joan Collins can bitch it up like Fairchild and she makes this Jennifer Lawrence person so cunty as to be near inhuman. Why would anyone want to be “sisters” with her?! Ugh. I’d much rather hang with the Omega Mu Phi Epsilon Delta girls, especially Barbara. Hellooooo, Barbara! Are TV movies supposed to be so obviously erotic? But, yes… Why would anyone want to be an ANS? Blah. Though, as we saw in the opening near-rape, Patty can be pretty naive. I mean, she all but climbed onto a pinball machine and did a Jodie Foster impersonation. If Sarah hadn’t been there … So, I suppose I can see her buying into Jennifer’s “charm.” It’s kind of funny that Sarah, who is supposed to be the socially awkward of the two, seems to have a much better idea of the nature of the people she meets than Patty. She even seems to try to shield Patty from the reality of how  snooty the ANS girls are, knowing that that sorority means a lot to her.

Fisty: See, what’s so great about La Fairchild as Jennifer Lawrence is that she actually DOES fake being human sometimes, like when she offers a pseudo-heartfelt apology to Sarah. Most movie sorority bitch stock characters wouldn’t bother, but she can and does. She knows that the only way to maintain a high level of bitchdom is to fake humanity. It’s easy to imagine her being super nice–as long as you’re not ugly and don’t cross her. That’s one of the nice things about what the writers for TIoS did with it, they really created solid characters from classic examplars of high school and college movies, from our beautiful mean girl Jennifer to rejected introvert Sarah. Day and Ingalls et alia focus on these strong characters and the atmosphere and story–without relying on clunky exposition, we never do quite get how the Goodwin family dynamic formed, and it’s only implied that Mrs Hunter is *ahem* more than she seems with respect to Sarah–rather than effects-driven scares, a strength that makes TIoS still a damn effective little movie thirty-odd years later.

solid character

Now, speaking of Carrie … though Brian de Palma’s film really laid out the foundations of the downtrodden-nerd-rises-up-and-has-revenge-with-possibly-tragic-consequences genre, none of the imitators have ever really come close. And not because it’s a perfect film (it’s not), but in part because of the intensity of the awfulness, the real tragedy of the story, they pale in comparison. That doesn’t mean they’re terrible (they’re not), and sometimes they’re much more, well, real in a weird way. In TIoS, Sarah isn’t really an outcast. Yes, she’s a shy loner, and her mother doesn’t really like her, but she isn’t the victim of unceasing torment and humiliations like little Carrie White. (Which, incidentally, cheapens the rip-off Carrie moment when Sarah is pelted with mud and garbage.) She’s not popular, but she does have friends in the PED girls, especially Mouse, but most importantly in Patti. Where TIoS is strongest is in the relationship between Patti and Sarah, a story as old as any in the Judeo-Christian world–after all, are not siblings born to squabble? With sisters, too, you always have the hot versus the not, the smart versus the dumb’; we love to dichotomize sisters (or brothers), to separate and pigeonhole into neat little categories. And it sometimes damages both individuals. Yet these two are close; Patti does her best to look out for Sarah and care for her, and if her love is tinged by pity, it is still love. And that Carrie White never, ever had.

sisters

TIoS is at its best when it’s about their relationship, which is tested by their entry into a foreign, adult world of college. And if Patti does something shameful, well, she isn’t alone in that. Who doesn’t have something for which they are ashamed? It’s an understandable mistake on her part, she wants to be accepted by her new ‘family,’ and by strangers, to prove her worth in the outside world, and Sarah is a vestige of her childhood. But in the end it comes back to the love between them. Sisterhood in general is central to TIoS, though. Sarah’s acceptance in PED, the way she ultimately strengthens their ties to one another, and the juxtaposition of their sorority to the toxic relations of ANS, the pretty hate machine all serve as the central motifs of Sarah’s story. And lest we forget, the longing glances shared between Mouse and Sarah speak of yet ANOTHER sisterhood.

Bill:Yes, it’s a damn effective little flick, but not perfect. I agree about the great way they handle the less-is-more style, like with the Goodwin-Hunter backstory you mentioned, and the is-Mouse-gay? subtext. (She is REALLY into Sarah, and that might explain her suicidal history. And there are a lot of longing glances getting thrown around between these girls.)

did somebody say, "subtext?"

But then there are a few silly moments of irrational behavior and general WTFness that could have an excitable person yelling at their screen. I refuse to believe anyone would actually let that creepy Mrs Hunter teach any class, let alone a class on Ritualistic Magic Among Primitive Peoples. Sometimes it seems like none of these people ever even go to classes. Or do any school work. I also doubt the guys hoisting a piano up on a string are going to be stupid enough to let people just wander around under it, much less loiter under there, looking like fucking Tanooki Mario pulling his statue routine. How retarded is Patty?! She just stands there with Damocles’ Piano hanging over her head, waiting on her sister to psychic that shit down on her. Everyone does that! They just stand still and wait as Sarah psycho-stares them in the face.  She’s not scanning them. No heads are going to explode. She’s not exactly Carrie, who didn’t have to stare at something for 5 minutes to get an effect, so anyone that knows about her power, like, say, HER SISTER, could just step out of the way when she’s aiming her psycho-glare. And why does no one except Mrs Hunter react to this girl’s power? You’d think Jennifer, having been forcefully knocked through the air by an invisible force after pissing Sarah off, would then cut her some slack rather than seek revenge and humiliate the girl that has deadly super mind powers.

what could possibly go wrong?

Fisty: Yeah, there’s definitely too much standing and waiting for those powers to get going. I love that piano gag, though, because it’s right up there with guys carrying an giant glass pane across a street: SOMEONE is going through that glass, just like SOMEONE’S gonna be under that piano. So dumb, but so funny. It’s not just people affected by Sarah, though, it’s Sarah too. Like when she’s getting humiliated outside the PED house–why doesn’t she just run back in? No, she just stands there screaming like a banshee. Nobody does that.

And the fresh meat playing backgammon in the first dorm scene? I have never in my life seen ANYONE play a game of fucking backgammon, nevermind any eighteen-year old girls on their first night at college. The whole college thing is pretty unrealistic–these writers were going on some aging Fifties memories, I’m guessing. I’m not sure how much of that is clumsiness, and how much is perhaps deliberate anachronism, with that peculiar love for the Fifties they had in the Seventies. But I won’t argue with with Mrs Hunter’s class, which I have totally seen in course catalogs. I’m just not sure why she’d be teaching it since she doesn’t even have a doctorate, unless it were Waltham Community College. Those are some pretty minor quibbles, though, and they even lend to a certain enjoyment of the film. (Bill: Amen. I only “quibbled” at all so that no humorless, stick-in-the-mud  can say we misrepresented the movie in our review.) I can revel in that sort of silliness, while also enjoying its good qualities. (Bill: “We,” Fisty, “We can revel in it!”) TIoS is really kind of a perfect nostalgia flick–even for a time I never experienced.

nostalgic ... for SATAN?!?

Unfortunately, due to the ephemeral nature of television commercials (trailers  for made for TV movies falling straight into that category), we’ve been unable to locate a trailer for The Initiation of Sarah. Rather than head into questionable territory by linking to scenes up on YouTube (they’re there if you look, or you can catch the whole thing on Netflix Watch Instantly), here are some authentic commercials from January 1978, just before TIoS premiered, to get you in the mood. You never saw cotton-reinforced crotches looking so good.