Welcome to the eighth week of Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten, or unknown film and TV credits. This week’s actor…
Whether you liked Jackie Cook in the beginning of her run on Veronica Mars (and she set Veronica up on that psychic show, so it wasn’t friends at first sight) Tessa Thompson made Jackie difficult. She wasn’t the kind of character you could draw conclusions on after one scene or a whole season of scenes. No matter how inconvenient, she refused to be pinned down but given an episode like “Ain’t No Magic Mountain High Enough” and she could break you with her strength entering a dunk tank.
Tessa Thompson continues to play difficult characters but with more and more recognition, on TV shows like HBO’s Westworld and in movies like Dear White People, Creed and the upcoming Thor (first pictures of her in costume were released yesterday). My hope is that this will cause some of her earlier work to get re-released. There are buried credits, in the sense that people haven’t seen them, and there are buried credits, in the sense that they can’t be found, and there are unfortunately too many gems like the latter on Thompson’s IMDB, including 2011’s Red & Blue Marbles, which if anyone’s located please share in the comments below. But since it’s Halloween, lets start with sisterhood, cults, and telekinesis.
The Initiation of Sarah (2006)
Directed by Stuart Gillard
Teleplay by Dan Berendsen
Story by Tom Holland and Carol Saraceno
I don’t think I’ve ever watched a TV movie that called for a remake but here you have it: The Initiation of Sarah, a TV movie remake of the 1978 TV movie of the same name. Made for AMC Family’s (now Freeform’s) ’13 Nights of Halloween,’ its main draw seems to be talented actresses going camp as sorority sister stereotypes.
Joanna Garcia Swisher and Tessa Thompson don’t hold back as the heads of the ‘we want to sacrifice you so we can stay young and beautiful’ sorority, Alpha Nu. They’re exactly the kind of superior look-throwing, barely restrained hate with smiles leaders that pledges like Summer Glau’s Lindsey eat up in these movies, but with some added bite for flair. In a very pathetic spin through the air that lands Swisher’s Corrine in a pile of mud, her hair fluffing afterwards is gangster and makes her the worthy successor to the original’s Morgan Fairchild (Fairchild gets to reappear here in the typical remake mom role).
The main scrape is between sisters, Lindsey (Glau) and Sarah (Mika Boorem). Lindsey wants college to be her fresh start at being popular but Sarah keeps spoiling it with magical outbursts she can’t control. Enter the wonderfully raspy voiced Jennifer Tilly to tell Sarah she’s “the One” Alpha Nu has been looking to kill, join my sorority, PED, if you want to live (best line: Lindsey being corrected for calling her sister “the It” instead of “the One”).
The film tries to complicate its good versus evil foundation by having the final manipulation for Sarah joining PED be Jennifer Tilly in disguise. This could’ve been something if Sarah ever actually found out the truth but she doesn’t, so PED gets to stay the unadulterated good team in her eyes.
You know who else gets too much slack? Sarah’s boyfriend, or as I like to call him, “immature comment making guy who calls after you with an aggrieved expression but doesn’t actually follow or make any attempt to help.” It’s like they want him to be Xander on Buffy but forgot that Xander is loyal and brave. Or like when it’s your turn to take out the trash so you feign standing up, but are really waiting for the other person to say they’ll do it so you can sit back down. Empty name calling happens more than once in this movie. so be on the lookout.
Sarah’s boyfriend is a virgin, which means Alpha Nu could use him against Sarah, until she “protects” him. Yeah, where was that trick when the sweet guy from Hocus Pocus was in danger? Oh, that’s right, he was too busy saving his SISTER. Because if we’re going to treat sex as the answer (which is problematic in the least), what about virgin sister, Lindsey, the other person Alpha Nu could (and actively are) using against Sarah? Shouldn’t we be looking for someone to “protect” her—and no, I am not advocating this but what is this movie saying?
Verdict: Buried Treasure
So The Initiation of Sarah has some problems, like not being sure how much they want Lindsey to be an Alpha Nu zombie or rebel. Or not even pretending this is a school so girls in capes can march across campus to “Children of the Revolution.” For a camp movie it also has the capacity for awfulness, in its the explanation for Sarah’s suicide attempts.
Thompson’s Esme gets stuck with most of the dirty work threatening, like setting a college dorm room on fire. Amber Wallace’s Vita gets her own storyline, if off screen, of coming into her mind reading powers but that’s the exception. Divulging character motivations isn’t what these movies are about. If Esme and Corrine are mostly action, little substance, that’s how it is, but the actions are big, and b*tchy enough to work. Plus Esme steals the movie at the end, with a very “I’ve had enough of these white girls,” power exit, so there’s some nice, rewarding moments.
Check back tomorrow for Tessa Thompson’s performance in a short film about international surrogacy.