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Halloween time for oldies and remakes

The new ‘Initiation of Sarah’ a Faustian view of sorority rituals

ABOVE: Morgan Fairchild appeared in the 1978 version of the TV movie "The Initiation of Sarah" and returns to play a pushy mom. </p>
<p>LEFT: Mika Boorem (left) and  Amber Brooke Wallace appear in the ABC Family remake of "Sarah," which is set in college.

ABOVE: Morgan Fairchild appeared in the 1978 version of the TV movie "The Initiation of Sarah" and returns to play a pushy mom.

LEFT: Mika Boorem (left) and Amber Brooke Wallace appear in the ABC Family remake of "Sarah," which is set in college.

Each October, cable and satellite channels turn retro.

It’s time for “Monsterfest” on AMC, for “Fear Fest” on Starz, for “13 Nights of Halloween” on ABC Family. It’s time to dust off old movies and make a few new ones.

Or remake them. A new “The Initiation of Sarah” arrives Sunday on ABC Family.

This was a TV film that debuted in 1978, with an old Oscar-winner (Shelley Winters) and young stars.

“I thought no one would see it,” Morgan Fairchild recalls. “Then it became the highest-rated movie of the year.”

Now it’s back. The new version starts with Fairchild as a pushy mom, taking her twin daughters, Sarah (Mika Boorem) and Lindsey (Summer Glau), to college.

They’re nudged toward the fashionable Alpha Nu sorority, which has a gorgeous leader (Joanna Garcia). They should avoid its dour competitor, Pi Epsilon Delta.

The latter is led by the solemn Dr. Hunter. “I get to play a glamorous witch,” Jennifer Tilly says.

And she gets to step into a classic tugofwar. “It’s the traditional thing of good versus evil and people having to choose,” Fairchild says. “It’s very Faustian.”

Some viewers will see a sorority as an ideal setting. “People might think of it as very hedonistic,” Tilly says. “There are all these rituals.”

Besides, most movies tell us to distrust people who have looks, money and privilege. “Sarah” takes that to a Satanic extreme.

The original movie had Kay Lenz as Sarah, with lots of newcomers in support. There was Morgan Fairchild, Morgan Brittany, Robert Hays and Tony Bill. And there was Robert Stack’s daughter, Elizabeth; Martin Balsam’s daughter, Talia; and Mia Farrow’s sister, Tisa.

Some might have seemed interchangeable. Morgan Fairchild says she wanted to play Sarah’s sister; that went to Morgan Brittany.

Chuck Fries, the producer, explained the move, Fairchild says:

“He said, ‘Honey, I can find a good ingenue anywhere. But a good bitch is hard to find.’”

That propelled her career. Fairchild had already played a semibad woman on a soap; she would push that much further in “Sarah,” “Flamingo Road,” “Falcon Crest” and the current “Fashion House.”

This remake was filmed in Shreveport, La., on and near a college campus. “It’s so beautiful,” Tilly says. “The movie does have a Southern feel to it.”

Tilly, 48, knows all about beauty. She spent her teen years on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, as a fun-loving kid whose quieter sister (Meg) also became an actress.

That fun has continued into Tilly’s adult years. She lives in Las Vegas with her boyfriend, Phil Laak, a poker professional dubbed The Unabomber. Tilly has also won poker championships and is sometimes called The Unabombshell.

Her distracting, bombshell body goes with a distinctive voice

“I didn’t mind,” Tilly says of growing up with her voice. “People said, ‘I can tell when Jennifer answers the phone, because she sounds like a 2-year-old.”‘

That has been a career blessing for Tilly, giving her frequent voice jobs. Horror fans can hear her in “Bride of Chucky,” “Seed of Chucky” and “Monsters, Inc.”

Those films are part of the dual nature of the Halloween season.

Some channels go for the scary side. Starz has designated all of October as its “Fear Fest.” AMC launches its 10-day “Monsterfest” at 8 p.m. Sunday with John Carpenter’s classic “Halloween.”

Others prefer the light side. The Disney Channel debuts “Return to Halloweentown” (the fourth in its movie series) at 8 p.m. today-Sunday.

ABC Family, a sister channel to Disney, stays fairly light, with Scooby and Sabrina and more. But it has a “Scariest Places on Earth” marathon Oct. 29 and “The Sixth Sense” Oct. 31.

In between the extremes, there’s “The Initiation of Sarah.” It has moments of youthful humor, zest and beauty. Then – in the retro tradition – good and evil collide.

“The Initiation of Sarah”

8 p.m. Sunday

ABC Family

Other networks off the scares as well. AMC's


Also on ABC Family:

> Tim Burton’s animated “Corpse Bride,” 6 p.m. Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. Oct. 30

> “The Sixth Sense,” 8 tonight, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Oct. 28, 8 p.m. Oct. 31

> “Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Leashed,” 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. Thursday.

> A “Scariest Places on Earth” marathon is Oct. 29, noon-midnight, with new episodes at 8 and 9 p.m.

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