Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992 film)

I saw the film version of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” years ago, before I watched the series. I just rewatched the film.

Ye gods.

The “Buffy” TV series had some campy moments. The difference between the BtVS film and the TV series is that they added to the TV series–this was a group of high school kids who kept staving off the Apocalypse every week. They deserve a little camp every now and then. Also, we get a chance to get to know Buffy in the series. Granted, the series was seven seasons long, so of course we know the character better.

Anyway…back to the movie.

High school senior/bratty cheerleader Buffy (Kristy Swanson) hangs around with her fellow senior/bratty cheerleader friends, going to the mall, being complete bitches, mocking geeks, etc.  One day, an oddly dressed older man named Merrick (Donald Sutherland) shows up, and tells her that her destiny is to be the vampire slayer. He convinces her to accompany him to the graveyard, after identifying some dreams Buffy had been having.

(If my grammar is bad, it’s because I’ve lost 40 i.q. points in the past 100 minutes, so please bear with me)

Buffy, one of the shallowest people in the world, actually GOES with the guy. In a beat-up Ford she wouldn’t be caught dead in otherwise.

They go the the graveyard and–gasp–vampires arise. Merrick and Buffy slay them.

On the other side of town, a boy is waiting. With fiery eyes, and dreams no-one can see. She drives on through the night, anticipating. ‘Cause he makes her feel the way she used to–

CRAP! Sorry. I got distracted from the story.

Which happens alot in this film. Paul Reubens is a vampire named “Amilyn,” the sort of chief minion to the all-world evil vampire, Lothos (Rutger Hauer). The dynamic between these two is one thing that bugs me. In the beginning, Amilyn goes off and kills some people, working toward the time when Lothos will rise. We see an elegantly gloved hand rise slowly out of a luxurious coffin, and Amilyn kisses it as a penitent would kiss the Papal ring. Fifteen minutes later, it’s like The Three Stooges. All slapstick and idiocy.

There are some funny parts to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and some good dialogue here and there, where Joss Whedon’s brilliance shines through the crap.The problem is that the filmmakers kept rewriting his work. And rewriting. And changing things. Then rewriting. Joss Whedon became so frustrated with the entire cluster…um, “debacle” that he walked off the set and never returned (per IMDB). I don’t blame him. Imagine being Stephen King and having Snooki and Paris Hilton rework your vision and change most of your words.

Thank God, Joss Whedon was able to get BtVS made as a TV series, because this film is a hot mess. Kristy Swanson isn’t bad, and Donald Sutherland is pretty good (not his best role by a longshot). Rutger Hauer’s character vacillates between scary and funny, and misses them both. Paul Reubens and Luke Perry fare best in “BtVS”, simply because their characters are second-tier, and seemed to escape being ruined by the filmmakers’ “improvements.”

I’ll tell you what: this film’s direction is so unfocused, that I’ll give all the actors a pass. Seriously, the  worst actor in the world could have given the worst performance in history, but it would not go on his or her permanent record. The mitigating circumstances are too great.  There’s some talent on the screen, God help them, but they don’t get any help. This is Hilary Swank’s first film–she’s an okay actress, right??–and that Affleck kid is also in it. There are three Oscars right there.

Fran Rubel Kuzui directed “BtVS,” which was coproduced by her husband, Kaz Kuzui. You may know them for their great contribution to entertainment: somehow owning a piece of “Buffy,” so they get an Executive Producer credit at the end of each “BtVS” tv episode. That means that when you see an especially good  “BtVS” episode–“Once More With Feeling,” eg, or “Hush”–Mr and Mrs Kuzui bleed off a little credit and a little money. It’s almost like they’re…vampires?

I’m glad I rewatched “BtVS” after having seen the series. Two final observations: first, this movie was a helluva lot more entertaining when I saw it eight years ago, completely out-of-my-skull shitfaced. Second, you’d have to stake my fat ass to get me to watch it again.

Grade: D

 

 

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2 Responses to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992 film)”

  1. Great review, Tom! I remember seeing this movie and sort of liking it in the 90s — and I saw it was on again a couple of months ago, and it was nearly unwatchable. I thought — what happened??

    At the time, I think “sophisticated” vampire stories was something like “The Lost Boys” — which has also aged poorly. But after the brilliance of the TV series, it’s a shame for this movie to have to be compared to it.

    C-minus solely on the strength of Kiristy Swanson in a cheerleader outfit.

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