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'Scream Factory Presents TV Terrors' gives viewers a mixed bag of thrills

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'Scream Factory Presents TV Terrors' DVD

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Before the Lifetime Network and other cable channels began producing original features, the big three (CBS, ABC, and NBC for those born in 1990 or later) had their "Movies of the Week" events. Once a week or so, hot actors from the popular shows of the time and semi-retired big-screen stars would appear in a special TV-movie that mirrored the pop culture interests or social issues of the moment. There would be ones about natural disasters, true crimes, and inspirational tales just to name a few subjects.

Shout! Factory's horror imprint takes us back to those glory days with "Scream Factory Presents TV Terrors." This DVD double feature includes two movies from 1978 guaranteed to both make you nostalgic for the era and glad it's over all at the same time. The movies highlighted in this collection include "The Initiation of Sarah" and "Are You in the House Alone?!"

"The Initiation of Sarah" tells the tale of a college freshman (Kay Lenz) with telekinetic powers. She is pressured to join a sorority after her sister (Morgan Brittany) is recruited to a rival chapter run by a group of popular bullies. It just so happens that the house Sarah pledges is run by a witch (Shelley Winters). She wants to use the girl to exact revenge on the daughter (Morgan Fairchild) of the sorority girl that spurned her when she was a student 20 years earlier. Will Sarah give into the temptation to put her and the house mother's tormenting rivals in their place or resist the unrelenting anger brewing within her?

Although it's a bit slow, "The Initiation of Sarah" serves up some fun TV-safe scares. I can see this airing the week of Halloween in 1978 and doing quite well in the Nielsen ratings. No one can deny the influence "Carrie" had on this movie. Shelley Winters ("The Poseidon Adventure") effectively plays the creepy old house mother with diabolical plans for the naïve Sarah. Morgan Fairchild ("The Seduction") is perfect as the venomous leader of the mean sorority girls who pick on poor Sarah. Morgan Brittany ("Dallas") and Kay Lenz ("Moving Violation") are wonderful as the two sisters torn apart by their rival houses.

In "Are You in the House Alone?!," teenager Gail (Kathleen Beller) begins receiving threatening phone calls and notes. At first, she and her friends believe them to be just cruel pranks. As the calls and letters become more aggressive, she starts fearing for her life. Who is stalking her and why?

I can't begin to tell you how tedious and slow "Are You in the House Alone?!" gets towards the end. The last 30 minutes are unbearable. The final six minutes trudged along at a snail's pace that has to be experienced to be believed. It's evident this was meant to be a social statement about rape and encouraging victims to speak out against their attackers. I'm not knocking it and think that's important. However, it would help if the movie didn't cause you to fall asleep before the message is fully delivered. Early appearances by Blythe Danner ("Meet the Parents") and Dennis Quaid ("Frequency") makes this a little easier to sit through.

The "Scream Factory Presents TV Terrors" Double Feature contains no bonus material. Both movies are presented with Dolby Digital Mono in a Full Frame (1.33:1) aspect ratio. You really can't expect much more since both of these films were made for TV with no expectations of ever being re-broadcast or released several decades later on DVD.

For fans of 1970s and 1980s fright flicks, the "Scream Factory Presents TV Terrors" Double Feature will provide some mild and uneven entertainment. You get one relatively decent supernatural film paired with a virtual snore fest that will have you flipping through your Facebook and checking your watch every three minutes or so. Anyone born after 1990 need not apply. Just move along… there's nothing to see here.

The "Scream Factory Presents TV Terrors" Double Feature is available on DVD.

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