Starring: Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland, Rutger Hauer, Luke Perry, Paul Reubens
“I’m the chosen one. And I choose to be shopping.” (Buffy, Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
Long before Buffy The Vampire Slayer became one of the most popular television shows of recent times, there was the Buffy movie. With a different tone, different storyline and different characters, the only real connection was that both were about a teenager who discovers she’s been chosen to fight vampires who are trying to destroy the world. While the TV series is undeniably better than the movie, there’s still some fun to be had here.
Buffy (Swanson) is your typical popular high school kid. She’s head of the cheerleading squad, all the lads fancy her and she spends her weekends at the mall with her clique of Clueless-a-like friends. Buffy’s perfectly content in her little bubble until it’s burst by Merrick, a well-spoken gent played by the legendary Donald Sutherland. Merrick reckons Buffy is the chosen one, the one to save the world from the impending attack of Lothos, master of the vampires. At first she’s not having it, but after getting in a few scraps she ultimately accepts her destiny and sets about kicking some vampire arses in the hope of sorting things out in time for prom.
The most interesting thing about Buffy these days is the number of big names in its cast (many of whom weren’t big at the time, of course). Look! It’s a young Hilary Swank (pre-Oscar) in Buffy’s group of chums! Look really quickly! It’s an even younger Ben Affleck (pre-Oscar) in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo. Look once more! It’s David Arquette (pre-WCW Championship belt) getting bitten and turning into a shit vampire.
And that’s just the good guys. Among the vampires are cult legend Rutger Hauer who appears as Lothos, the head of the vampires, and proceeds to chew as much of the scenery as he can find in a fantastically over-the-top performance. Meanwhile, the ‘bizarre casting decision’ award goes to Paul “Pee Wee Herman” Reubens as Lothos’ right-hand man. Seeing Pee Wee try to play it serious as a long-haired vampire is a very odd experience though he ultimately fails to play it straight right through to the end of the movie, leading to one of the most memorable death scenes in cinematic history. Sort of.
While it has a different feel, different cast and different plot to the TV series that followed it, Buffy does at least share one crucial element with its serialised sibling – Joss Whedon. As his first major writing credit before going on to do Firefly, Serenity and of course the Buffy TV series, Buffy’s dialogue is a little shaky at times these days but certainly fits the era it’s from, showcasing Whedon’s knack for capturing teenage sarcasm perfectly. In any other movie Buffy would be an irritating character but here it seems to work, primarily because of the entertaining words Whedon puts in her mouth.
Even if you’ve never seen the TV series, Buffy is an interesting little curio that’s worth a watch. It’s very much trapped in the early ’90s (except for Luke Perry, whose fashion sense was probably odd at the time but seems strangely stylish now 20 years later), but it’s a quirky film that deserves to stand on its own without the shadow of its far more successful offspring looming over it.