Before she stormed the small screen for seven years, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was a theatrical film that didn’t quite get what Joss Whedon was trying to do with the genre. Instead, playing more for comedy, this vampire film is the next stop in DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies.
The cast is led by Kristy Swanson as the titular Buffy, and includes Rutger Hauer, Donald Sutherland, Hillary Swank, Luke Perry, Stephen Root, Paul Reubens and David Arquette. And while there are similarities between the film (which Whedon has said should not be seen as canon), and the series the vampires are different (they can fly, and they don’t dust), the comedy is a little more blatant, and it plays more silly than the genre-changing concept the show would become.
It’s a light-hearted take on the vampire tale, and while not what the series would become, it still has a pretty girl at the heart of the story that in most vampire movies would be the victim, but in this version is able to kick some ass. With a little help from Merrick (Sutherland), her Watcher.
Buffy’s challenge in the film is to best Lothos (Hauer) who very much embraces the traditional cinematic vampire appearance. Aiding Lothos is the scene-stealing Reubens as Amilyn.
There are hints in the film of what the series would become, of the themes and stories that would be explored, but the film, barely running 86 minutes isn’t as strong as it could be, and instead of being the game-changing film it could have been with an empowered female lead, it simply ends up being a silly escapade that never quite realizes its potential.
That’s not to say that there aren’t things to enjoy about the film, it just isn’t what it could have been. Sutherland is enjoyable as Buffy’s watcher (though the idea of reincarnation is something I was glad to see dropped from the series and going with the idea of the Council instead), and I very much crushed on Swanson in this film.
And when the series came along four years later, it changed everything. From small, and silly beginnings.
It’s definitely an example of how scripts can be changed during production and lose the original intent, sometimes for better, but in this case it definitely came out worse. Some fun moments, and glib dialogue couldn’t save it.
But in every generation a slayer is born…
Finally, watch for brief appearances by Seth Green, and Ben Affleck!
DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies continues to have some vampire tales for me to sink my teeth into I’d invite you to pick up a copy for yourself and find something fun and macabre to watch tonight!