A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

June 16, 2011

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I own the box set that contains the complete television series that was inspired by this movie. I bought it for almost nothing from the Suncoast Video store I used to manage when it was going out of business. I haven’t watched all of the series (I pretty much stipped watching it when Tara was killed) but I did love it – especially in the earlier years. When it first came out though I was skeptical because although I had seen this movie in the theaters and enjoyed it I couldn’t really conceive why anybody would want to re-make this. It’s a somewhat uneven movie, after all, and so light hearted as to appear vapid as its protagonist at times. I didn’t really think there was enough material there for a television series.

Over time, of course, I have learned not to underestimate Joss Whedon, but tonight’s review is about this movie, which came out long before that name meant anything to me. What it is is a fun sort of teen vampire movie in the vein of Lost Boys (though not quite as good.) Buffy is a brainless cheerleader who cares about nothing but shopping with her tight group of Heathers. Her biggest challenge is picking a theme for the high school senior dance (they chose the environment – because she’s concerned about the ozone layer. That’s got to go.) She has a secret though which she’s never told anybody. She has reoccurring dreams of past lives where she used to fight vampires. A strange old man shows up one day and tells her that this is because she is the chosen slayer – a girl destined to fight the never ending tide of vampires that plagues the world.

So Buffy has a training montage and discovers that she has a purpose in the world, which makes it much harder for her to hold on to her childhood dreams of marrying Christian Slater and moving to Europe. There are vampires in her home town, led by a sinister elderly master named Lothos who has been hunting the slayers down through the years, waiting for one to be a worthy opponent. As Buffy begins to realize how shallow her old life was she befriends a local townie named Pike who is the sort of person she used to ridicule in the old days. Naturally everything comes to a head when Lothos encourages his vampire horde to invade the senior dance to draw Buffy out of hiding so he can confront her and destroy her.

There’s a lot of silly fun in this movie. Paul Reubens steals every scene as the vampire second in command Amilyn (going so far as to get a stinger near the end of the closing credits.) Stephen Root is the clueless principal who drones on about his drug experiences in an attempt to seem hip. (I prefer Armin Shimerman as a principal foil for Buffy, but Root provides a number of good laughs.) Luke Perry as Pike sort of plays with his 90210 heart-throb status and is somewhat of a goof, which I enjoyed. I even enjoy Kristy Swanson as Buffy, with her valley girl attitude.

It is not a movie without its flaws though. Donald Sutherland (better known for his role as the clumsy waiter) sleep walks through his performance as Buffy’s mentor and watcher Merrick. I suppose it must have been trying to be playing a humorless fogey and exposition machine in an action comedy, but he almost looks like he doesn’t want to be there at all. Then there’s the utterly bizarre performance of Rutger Hauer as the vampire Lothos. He looks ridiculous with that silly mustache and he seems to be having a lot of trouble enunciating around his fangs, resulting in a very mealy-mouthed delivery to many of his lines. (Did he have something against re-recording in ADR?) I don’t know, maybe the fault lies with director Fran Rubel Kuzui, who might have felt that since this is a comedy the main villain should be laughable. In my opinion it leaves the movie feeling flat and lifeless right when it should be rousing and adventure filled.

Still. It is a movie with a lot of great quotable bits and some very funny performances. It stumbles a bit in its never-ending and desperate attempts to keep us laughing, but I enjoy it nonetheless. I am very glad, however, that Joss got a chance to re-boot the idea and do it his own way, because the television series is a thing of beauty filled with humor, surprising emotional depth and some strong messages about how hard growing up can be.

June 16, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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