Monday, May 16, 2011

Movie Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

Alright, y'all, it's time to get down to brass tacks about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I am one of the biggest fans of the Buffy TV show EVER. Seen every episode so many GD times it's hard to count. I love Joss Whedon and his other TV shows (well except Dollhouse, I could never really get into that even though I have a mad girl-crush on Eliza Dushku). I also know that he and most of his fans have perhaps never been too pleased with the original film that the show is based on. Me... I've actually always loved the movie for what it turned out to be and see it as separate from the show.

Vamp plot: Buffy (Kristy Swanson) is a vapid L.A. girl whose life revolves around cheerleading and shopping. Her priorities are almost nil until she's visited one day by a strange man named Merrick (Donald Sutherland) who tells her that she is the next in a long line of girls chosen to hunt and kill vampires - the slayer. But she better be ready to accept her fate, because the vampire king Lothos (Rutger Hauer) is in town and he's coming after her.

Buffy was different from other vampire movies. No longer was the girl the victim, helpless against the blood-suckers. She was the fighter, the one protecting the men, the one person in the world who had the strength and skill to kill vampires. This slayer in particular, Buffy, has her own life and her own way of doing things. She has the confidence and the cajones to be herself and live up to her birthright which in a weird way makes her a good role model. Van Helsing this girl is NOT.

This movie has an amazing cast, if only because of the careers these people would have or had, with maybe the exception of Kristy Swanson, whose other roles I can't immediately recall. I mean here we have Donald Sutherland, Rutger Hauer, Luke Perry, David Arquette, Hilary Swank, Paul Ruebens, Natasha Gregson Wagner, and even Ricki Lake and Ben Affleck in two small and uncredited roles.

As a teen comedy (maybe with a little romance thrown in there) the movie is successful. Quirky one-liners and pop culture references abound, all very quotable, of course. The comedy is perhaps dated - okay, it's A LOT dated ("Get out of my facial!" "What's the sitch?") but fans of Joss Whedon can probably still immediately recognize his signature wit and other crazy use of the English language.

There is nothing particularly genius or well done about the camera work or effects or anything. It's all what you would expect from a campy teen comedy with vampires, including the super-cheesy smoke/fog effect which I absolutely HATE. It doesn't look real, people, so please retire that ridiculous fog machine, it's really unnecessary.

The look of the vamps is straightforward: mostly human-looking save for the pointy teeth (which on some of them looks way too big for their mouths) and pointy ears. Rutger Hauer as Lothos perhaps acts a bit overly - I think Joss even called his performance ridiculous and goofy - but I found the fight sequences one of the biggest disappointments. Buffy is not nearly as strong as she should be and the choreography is sloppy.

Kristy Swanson pulls off the title role well, both as a vacuous Valley girl and as a young woman with new, enormous responsibilities. She has spunk and vulnerability at the same time. Luke Perry is okay, nothing different than what you remember from 90210, probably. Donald Sutherland is, well... he's Donald Sutherland. And he's got some great moments of comedy and suave in this movie. The best part is when he's talking to Buffy in the locker room right before he throws the knife at her and he does this weird move where he flicks up the ends of his mustache with his fingertips. I kinda loved that. Paul Ruebens as Lothos's sidekick Amilyn is the next biggest highlight, for while he's quite creepy looking as a vampire, he is also amazingly hilarious.

So I'm sorry, Joss Whedon, I love you and all but you can be a real prick when you talk about how much you hate this movie. From the ideas that were eventually explored on the TV show, I can see what you really had in mind for this movie to mean and it just didn't get there. I see that, I really do. But hindsight is 20-20, darling, and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer actually turned out to be a great jumping off point for the art you really wanted to make so why can't you accept the film for what it is and how it represents the time? It started a great tradition and a fantastic TV show, so seriously, quit your bitching. The movie is hilarious and PeeWee Herman is a one-armed vampire with hair like the dudes from Poison. I like it, and gosh darn it, I'm going to keep liking it for the rest of my life probably.


  1. I, too, love Buffy the TV series....
    The movie was...errrm.

    I remember when it came out -- the whole reason anyone cared was because it featured Luke Wilson, who was like the Robert Pattinson of the early 90s.

    It was OK, I guess...but I prefer the show.

  2. Drew darling, that would be Luke PERRY not Wilson :). And yeah, I prefer the TV show about 1,000 more than the movie, I'm just saying that it wasn't that bad and without it, we wouldn't have the magic of the Buffy show. Or Angel, or Firefly, for that matter.

  3. I'm actually reviewing this film this week. Definitely prefer the TV version. To be honest, it's my favorite TV show ever [love Angel too]. I used to really hate this film but now, I don't mind it all that much. It's not great or anything, but it's a decent time waster for what it is. And Paul Ruebens is the highlight of the film - definitely agree. His death scene is hilarious. Great review!

  4. I didn't mind the film--though I do prefer the TV series (is there an echo in here?) I also enjoyed Angel, Firefly, Dr. Horrible...pretty much everything that Joss Whedon has done (though I haven't seen Dollhouse yet).

    The movie was a good starting point, but it lacked many essential elements--like Alyson Hannigan, Amber Benson, Tony Head, and the whole ensemble cast of the show.

    Hey, you gotta start somewhere.

  5. I liked the movie better, partly because I saw it in the theater so it formed my initial impression of the character, but I still liked the satirical tone of the movie better. I mean, I realize people love the show with a love bordering on obsession, and that the movie doesn't deserve that kind of love, but Whedon of all people should be able to look at the two as separate entities. He lost creative control of the movie, but he won in the end with the show being the megahit it is.