Guilty Pleasures that we enjoyed â€“ even though we donâ€™t quite know why.
Movie Title : Buffy, the Vampire Slayer
Starring Kristy Swanson, Luke Perry, Donald Sutherland, Rutger Hauer, Paul Reubens, Hilary Swank, David Arquette, Randall Batinkoff
Directed By Fran Zukui
What is it? : The film Joss Whedon longs to forget. Before it was a TV series â€“ a fabbo TV series! â€“ â€œBuffy, the Vampire Slayerâ€ was an economically-budgeted camp-first character-second big-screen comedy from director Fran Rubel Kuzui (â€œTokyo Popâ€) which Whedon penned the screenplay for. Kristy Swanson (replacing Allysa Milano at the 11th hour) played the ditzy blonde Slayer-in-training, Donald Sutherland was her accommodating â€˜Watcherâ€™ Merrick, Rutger Hauer was Buffyâ€™s arch-rival lothos, Paul Reubenâ€™s was Lobosâ€™s gothic rocker-looking sidekick, and â€œ90210â€ heartthrob Luke Perry was the love interest, Pike â€“ a shoddily-dressed damsel-in-distress for Buffy to save every time someone with a pair of plastic fangs approaches. The film was an enormous failure upon release â€“ for numerous reasons – but has developed sort of a ‘cult’ following over the years, and not necessarily from those who adore the TV series.
Whatâ€™s wrong with it? Should we ask Joss Whedon that question? Nah, IGN have already done that â€“ why bother wasting the phone call. The famed fantasy favourite told the site that Fran Kuzui, the filmâ€™s director, just didnâ€™t share the same vision he had (which was clearly something a little darker â€“something more akin to what we saw in the series) but sheâ€™s not entirely to blame either. â€˜â€™She was into the comedy of it â€“ she didn’t want to make a B horror movie, that’s not her style. That’s her decision. That’s her right.â€
Whedon also thinks Donald Sutherland, playing Buffyâ€™s Slayer-trainer Merrick, contributed to the mess. â€œI believe that part of the problem was that the director was unable to control the big, fat, wannabe movie star who came â€“ you know, the old guy… They were changing their lines and running roughshod over her and everybody else, and I’m sorry. You can’t have that. You have to have faith in the leader, and in that situation the leader has to be the directorâ€
On the other hand, Whedonâ€™s gone on record to say Kristy Swanson was an absolute trooper and would always ask him how she should play the character, or deliver a line (not that he felt it was his place to offer suggestions â€“ so he didnâ€™t) – even if she wasn’t his first choice for the role.
Personally, I think mainly the film suffers from having a terribly low budget – FOX just didn’t seem to give two shits about this film. The vampires donâ€™t look at all vampy, when theyâ€™re staked they donâ€™t turn to dust like in the series â€“ they simply drop out of frame, and the big dance sequence at the end â€“ for example â€“ seems to have been shot with whatever money was left in the kitty after everyone chipped in for that nightâ€™s pizza; thereâ€™s like 10 extras in that scene! Isnâ€™t it supposed to be a highschool dance!? As for the stunts and wire-work? Laughable! So badâ€¦ theyâ€™re good. Oh, but the most noticeable gaffe arising from the low-to-no budget? They couldnâ€™t even afford to buy Kristy Swanson a bra! Her cherries are poking out from her top in near every single scene! No wonder Donald Sutherland had a smile in his face throughout most of the movie.
Whatâ€™s right about it? Itâ€™s fun. Itâ€™s a great concept. And itâ€™s terrifically cast (I actually really like Swanson in the part of Buffy, bra or no bra, and Reubens is actually very funny at times! – his death scene is priceless, and reportedly totally improvised). Itâ€™s also got a great soundtrack â€“featuring 90s numbers by the likes of CC Music Factory and The Divinyls.
Mostly, its â€˜cheapâ€™ look is part of its charm â€“ itâ€™s almost like one of Ed Woodâ€™s movies, you canâ€™t but laugh at whatâ€™s on screen because itâ€™s so tackyâ€¦ and cheap.
And even though Whedonâ€™s general execution of the story has been tweaked, his lines are still there â€“ and theyâ€™re priceless. Remember “What’s your sitch? You’re acting like the thing from another tax bracket”. Or, “Does Elvis talk to you? Does he tell you to do things? Do you see spots?” and “Merrick, you made a Joke. Are you okay? Do You want to lie down? I know it hurts the first time”.
It might also be of interest to star-spotters : Ben Affleck appears in one scene as a basketball player, Hilary Swank has a sizeable role as one of Buffyâ€™s girl buds, and Seth Green appears on, er, the video sleeve (his scene was cut).
Bottom line : The â€œBuffyâ€ movie is crap â€“ but itâ€™s amusing crapâ€¦ and itâ€™s crap that led the way for one of the best TV seriesâ€™ of the last ten years. It deserves a little more cred.
Why is it so bad itâ€™s good? : Because if you look at it as a cheesy C-grade â€˜Ed Woodâ€™-esque vampire movie itâ€™s hard not to enjoy. If you look at it is a star-driven blockbuster â€“ the intention originally â€“ with killer effects and gripping storytelling, then youâ€™ll be gravely disappointed. A shocking 80s movie for a 90s audience – and we, mostly, love it.
- CLINT MORRIS