Movie Review – Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Principal Cast : Kristy Swanson, Luke Perry, Rutger Hauer, Donald Sutherland, Paul Reubens, Hilary Swank, Paris Vaughan, Michele Abrams, Randall Batinkoff, David Arquette, Stephen Root, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Sasha Jenson, Tom Jane, Candy Clark. Uncredited: Ben Affleck, Ricki Lake, Seth Green, Alexis Arquette.
Synopsis: Flighty teenage girl Buffy Summers learns that she is her generation’s destined battler of vampires.

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Most people over a certain age will likely be unaware, but before she became the star of her own ground-breaking TV series, Buffy Summers made her debut on the silver screen. While it might not be hailed as a cinematic masterpiece, this movie certainly left its mark on pop culture. It spawned a long-running television series (led by Sarah Michelle Gellar), which itself spawned a spin-off, and created strong feminine role-models for which Whedon was long associated. Less strong, however, is this Buffy’s feminist approach to life, given the character’s propensity for superficiality and hanging out with her equally scattered circle of friends. That said, it’s fun to revisit this time-capsule of a movie and see just how good or bad things were back then.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer introduces us to Buffy Summers (Kristy Swanson), a seemingly typical high school cheerleader with a not-so-typical destiny. Turns out, she’s the Chosen One, the Slayer, tasked with ridding the world of bloodsucking vampires and other supernatural threats. This is a storyline that takes a delightfully quirky twist when the mysterious stranger Merrick (Donald Sutherland) comes into Buffy’s life to prepare her for the impending vampire apocalypse. She also befriends young mechanic Oliver Pike (Luke Perry, who was appearing in the hottest television show in the world at the time, Beverley Hills 90210). They must team up against the evil main vampire in Lothos (Rutger Hauer) and his associate Amilyn (Paul Reubens), as the school is swarmed with the undead and Buffy must fulfil her destiny as the Chosen One.

As we venture into this charmingly offbeat narrative, penned by none other than a young Joss Whedon (Firefly, Serenity), we’re treated to a snarky script filled with a wealth of teen lingo. It’s like a slice of ’90s nostalgia, sprinkled with catchphrases that defined the era. The dialogue brings to life the high school experience and the transformation of Buffy, our heroine, from a clueless cheerleader into a formidable vampire slayer.

Kristy Swanson brings a lively presence to the character, embodying the teenage angst and newfound superpowers that set the stage for the more mature Buffy we’d come to know and love in the TV series. Her interactions with Luke Perry’s character, Oliver Pike, offer a hint of that ’90s teen romance, and their on-screen chemistry adds a layer of heart to the story. It’s all part of the charm of this era, and it’s worth noting how these two actors played off each other. Rutger Hauer seems to be having a blast playing Lothos, as intimidating as a PG-rated vampire villain will allow, but Paul Reubens and the rest of the bloodsucking ensemble lack menace, or the ability to instil fear. Donald Sutherland makes a great “Wise Man” teaching Buffy her legacy, and had he shared more screen time with her I think the film would have benefited. The likes of David Arquette, Hilary Swank and an uncredited Ben Affleck (as a basketball jock) in before-they-were-famous roles was also fun to see.

In the fashion department, Buffy the Vampire Slayer serves as a delightful time capsule of ’90s style. Neon scrunchies, high-waisted jeans, and crop tops abound, and the film’s costume department fully embraces the spirit of the times. Buffy’s iconic cheerleader uniform and Merrick’s mysterious trench coat are standouts, but the vampires themselves manage to look both menacing and stylish in their ’90s goth attire. Cinematographically speaking, the film opts for a fairly straightforward approach. It doesn’t aim to be overly stylized or artsy, which suits its lighthearted tone. When it comes to action sequences, they are framed and choreographed in a way that’s clear and easy to follow. No shaky-cam or excessive close-ups here, thank goodness!

Fran Rubel Kuzui took the reins as director, bringing a quirky energy to the film. However, there were moments when the pacing faltered, missing opportunities to build suspense and tension. The action sequences, which could have been a highlight, often felt underwhelming due to lacklustre choreography and editing choices. The script certainly bubbles along, and has enough energy within it to satisfy teen audiences of the day (perhaps less so, now, considering just how poorly the teen-speak has aged our of the vernacular these days) but there’s no real engagement between camera and viewer, with the film having an almost television-drama feel to movement and editing.

Let’s not shy away from the less glamorous aspects of the film. The makeup, especially when it comes to vampire prosthetics, leaves much to be desired. It’s a product of its time, to be sure, but the rubbery, exaggerated fangs and pale faces can be a bit distracting. These are cheesy, comic-book vampires and not one iota scary, which does a lot to inhibit the enjoyment of this slice of 90’s pie.¬†While Buffy the Vampire Slayer dishes out a generous helping of nostalgia for those of us who remember it, one can’t escape the fact that the script feels somewhat bland when viewed through a modern lens. The film lacks the depth and complexity that we’ve come to expect from contemporary genre movies. This is no fault of the era in which it was made but rather a reflection of how storytelling standards in the genre have evolved.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer may not be a cinematic masterpiece, but it’s a must-see for those who revel in ’90s nostalgia. The screenplay, filled with highly of-the-time dialogue and quirky characters, set the stage for the beloved TV series that would follow. The costuming and cinematography capture the essence of the era perfectly, making it a time capsule for ’90s style. While the film does suffer from uneven direction, editing, and performances, Rutger Hauer’s Lothos shines brightly as the film’s most memorable character. If you’re a fan of ’90s teen comedies with a supernatural twist or a devoted Buffy aficionado, this film is worth a watch. Just don’t go in expecting a work of genre genius, and you’ll be in for a fang-tastic time! For now, though, stay vigilant, and keep those crosses handy!

 

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