Cult Caravan: Buffy The Vampire Slayer
A high school comedy about vampires, many years before Twilight made them uncool? Check. David Arquette rockin’ fangs? Check. A totally hot, blonde cheerleader who kicks ass and defends her boyfriend against the (slightly endearing) bloodsuckers? Check.
Who didn’t love Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it emerged in 1992? Before the TV series gave it a whole new interpretation, it was just another simple, high school comedy – like Clueless with vamps, and this was before Clueless was there to tell us what the term ‘Valley Girls’ truly meant.
Buffy Summers (played by Kristy Swanson) is a typically ditzy, middle-class cheerleader who dates the captain of the football team and loves shopping and uttering phrases like ‘That was, like, so five minutes ago’. Y’know, the usual stereotypes. However, all that turns around when she finds out she’s the ‘Chosen One’ and must spend the remainder of her existence hunting vampires – whether she likes it or not. She gets on board with the idea a lot quicker than you’d expect. Cue the Rocky-esque training sequence followed by lots of hanging around graveyards and dark alleys waiting for her ‘PMS alert system’ to signal the approach of a fanger. Sure how would a woman be able to kick vampire ass unless she was PMS-ing?
Despite the clichés and cheesy lines, and maybe because of them, the comic book-style story of a vampire-slashing heroine has definitely earned its cult status. Even more so since it became a popular series five years later. However, the film has been met with a fair share of controversy since early in the production stage. Writer Joss Whedon was so frustrated by how much his vision was being mishandled that he eventually walked off set and never came back. He had hoped for something darker, less of a comedy – which is what the movie essentially became. He also believed the character of Buffy wasn’t right, she wasn’t what he envisioned. He went on to write the TV series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a sequel to his original script, the one the film drifted away from. For that reason, there’s a lack of continuity between the film and the series.
But in the film alone, there’s a lot to love. How about those super-shallow quotes? The real Cher Horowitz moment comes just after Buffy finds out that she’s the Chosen One, and in her despair, tells Merrick ‘I just want to graduate from high school, move to Europe, marry Christian Slater and die’. Some of this ‘wish list’ is achieved later on in the Buffy/Angel series’, but which part? You’ll have to figure that out for yourself.
Another famous line is ‘Get out of my facial’, uttered by Hilary Swank. This was her first film role, as Buffy’s shallower-than-a-puddle best friend, Kimberly.
The exaggerated death scenes are a big part of what makes the film so wonderfully ridiculous, particularly Amilyn’s slow squealing death that runs into the credits. They took the piss out of this genre well before it really gained momentum, and it it would probably do a lot better in the box office today than it did in the early nineties – there’s even been talk of a remake in the pipeline.
As well as Luke Perry and Donald Sutherland, there are a lot of other recognisable faces among the cast – some who were virtually unknown at the time. Ben Affleck makes a very brief appearance as a basketball player, and Seth Green appears in the film for three seconds. Blink and you’ll miss it, but just after the vampires descend on the school dance, Buffy runs outside to the car park, where Green is the first vamp she stakes. Ricki Lake has a cameo role, as a waitress in the café where Buffy first introduces herself to Pike. David Arquette’s comical take on becoming a vampire is brilliant, particularly when he attempts to turn Pike so that they can ‘start a band’.
The only downside is it’s just not gory enough for a vamp movie. Nowadays we expect to see staked vampires explode into a mass of blood and intestines, True Blood style, but here they just yelp and fall over. YOU’VE BEEN STAKED, NOT HAD YOUR TOE TROD ON! Come on. The vampires aren’t scary or menacing, they’re predominantly high-school students. They’re not powerful or strong or intimidating, not even King Lothos who has set his sights on Buffy. You never believe that he’s going to get her. She’s the all-powerful, untouchable one throughout… and that’s the way we like it.