Film review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui
Every legend has to be born somewhere, right? Before Sarah Michelle Gellar was Kristy Swanson, in this early 1990s vampire flick which has just about the name in common with the TV series which would follow a few years later. You know, the really good one. Unlike, I dunno, this film. There’s no Willow, no Xander, not even a Mr. Giles, and Buffy’s parents are … well, they’re not exactly the Mr. and Mrs. Summers we’ve come to know.
Buffy (Kristy Swanson) is your average teenager. She’s a cheerleader without a care in the world for anyone but herself, possibly her boyfriend, and her BFFs (a young Hilary Swank is one of them). She’s shallow and arrogant, and one day, she encounters Merrick (Donald Sutherland), a man who says she’s the Chosen One. Not chosen for prom queen, but rather, the life of a vampire slayer. Say what now?
Yup, the city is flooding with fanged garlic-phobes, such as big Dracula-wannabe Lothos (Rutger Hauer) and his sidekick Amilyn (Paul Reubens – possibly the closest thing you get to what you’d recognise as Joss Whedon’s dialogue style), and it seems Buffy is the one who needs to put her pom-poms down and start kicking some butt.
One of the guys she and her friends keep bumping into is Pike (Luke Perry, who was very popular at the time, starring in Beverly Hills 90210 and all), whose best friend (David Arquette) has turned into a vampire. At first, he tried to run, but then he decides it’s a much better idea to stick to the hot blonde with the stakes. Who could blame him, right?
So there’s slayer training, senior dances to arrange and then go to, boyfriends to snog, stakes to sharpen and vampires to take out, while we’re treated to uncredited appearances of the likes of Ben Affleck (basketball player), Seth Green (vampire), and Ricki Lake (waitress).
As a film, it looks painfully dated and low budget. It’s not scary, it’s not even particularly amusing – in fact, it feels like a great big beta test for the TV series. “Let’s see what works and what doesn’t” – well guess what? Most of it doesn’t work, and all I’m left with is a feeling of “blah”. Like the cramps Buffy gets when there’s a vampire nearby. Because getting bouts of what seems to be much like period pain is a good thing to have when you need to fight?
No. And the fake vampire teeth and ears look ridiculous too. I wasn’t expecting this to be very good, but I expected it to be better than this. Sadly, it’s a terrible let-down. If it wasn’t for knowing that this ugly larva would eventually go through a chrysalis and turn into the beautiful butterfly that is Buffy the Vampire Slayer the TV series … it would be a total waste of time. As it is now, it’s an interesting look at a sort of first draft of what would come five years later and totally rock.
So, no. It’s, what, 2 out of 5 prom dates, tops? And that’s being generous. Donald Sutherland isn’t exactly Giles, but he does a nice job.