“Into every generation a slayer is born: one girl in all the world, a chosen one. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer.”
And it all started with one movie.
Part Clueless (before Clueless) with a touch of Heathers, and an undead element, BtVS is a fun, if not fantastic, 90s teen movie. Then again, it was never meant to be great cinema– the idea behind it was ‘let’s make a monster movie where the monster-hunter is a teenage girl, and let’s give her a silly name’ (I’m paraphrasing, if you couldn’t tell). Who would have thought that this movie would (or could) morph into an awesome TV series, with a female action hero (groundbreaking at the time), and some of the best vampires this side of Santa Carla.
Watching the movie, you can’t help but compare it to the (far superior) series it inspired. The movie even gives us glimpses of future characters on the show (Principal Flutie, Cordy, Giles, Spike). While I’m grateful the movie kicked things off, I’m also really glad that some things never made it to the series. There’s nothing quite so cringy as watching Kristy Swanson demonstrate Buffy’s vampire-sensing skills by moaning and clutching her stomach in faux menstrual-cramp agony every time she’s in the vicinity of the undead. I think that was supposed to represent some kind of primordial woman power. Gold star for effort, I guess, but big miss on the execution.
I’m also glad they changed the vampires significantly in the series. The vamps in the movie mostly skulk around making guttural noises, laughing maniacally, and showing off their new goth makeovers. They also have floppy elf ears. I get that the movie was supposed to be campy and goofy, but those ears are an…interesting…choice (mind you– this was well before vampires all looked like models). Aside from those issues, Benny (David Arquette) and Amilyn (Paul Reubens) are entertaining, getting a lot of the best lines in the film. Lothos (Rutger Hauer) makes a decent Master Vampire, although he would’ve been more menacing without the Halloween-costume cape.
As for the non-vampires, while Buffy does kick ass, more or less, Kristy Swanson is pretty lacklustre, especially when you see what Sarah Michelle Geller did in the role. Swanson doesn’t really seem to get the character, and she plays a teenager as though she’s only ever read a description of one.
Luke Perry as “Pike” is actually pretty good. Both his character and his portrayal are enjoyable– I could have done with more of him.
I have nothing bad to say about Donald Sutherland as Merrick, Buffy’s original watcher. The man is a treasure. In fact, if the movie ever gets remade, I vote Sutherland’s son Kiefer as the new Merrick.
Despite my complaints, I do like this movie. It’s fun, there are vampires– what’s not to like? I think the best way to view BtVS is not as a movie unto itself, but rather as the early draft for the awesomeness that is to come. Watch it, laugh with it (or at it, as the case may be), and appreciate Buffy the series all the more.
After Amilyn has lost an arm:
Amilyn: We’re immortal, Buffy; we can do anything.
Buffy: Oh yeah? Clap!
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Aspasía S. Bissas
[Note: this review was originally posted on one of my older blogs. I’m re-posting it here with major revisions and new photos. If it seems familiar, you might have read the original version way back :)]