Retro Film Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)


Those who happen to admire both good books and good films probably know that the good literature almost always leads to bad films, while the truly great films often have inspiration in less than stellar books. This rule should be applied to movies and television, at least if we draw our conclusion on the way Hollywood tried to make television shows out of great movies and vice versa. One of the good illustration of this phenomena is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, immensely popular television show that it had its first incarnation as 1992 film directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui.

The heroine of the film is Buffy (played by Kristy Swanson), high school student from Los Angeles whose life revolves around cheerleading, shopping, gossiping and all other activities you could expect from South Californian airhead bimbo. But the destiny has chosen another path for Buffy, since she happens to be the Slayer, next in the long generation of women dedicated to rid the world of vampires. At least this is the explanation given by Merrick (played by Donald Sutherland), mysterious stranger who wants to teach her the skills of vampire slaying. Buffy is sceptical at first, but when she meets the vampire for the first time, she grudgingly accepts her fate and starts changing her life. Her airhead friends can't fail noticing changes in her behavior, including her relationship with young car mechanic Pike (played by Luke Perry), but this surprise is nothing compared with Lothos (played by Rutger Hauer), vampire leader whose followers are going to attack party goers at the school dance.

Joss Whedon based his screenplay for Buffy the Vampire Slayer on a very simple concept - nubile blonde that used to be knife fodder in any serious horror film fights back. This concept can be effective, and Whedon proved it in his TV show, but this wasn't the case in the feature film. Main reason for that lies in the bad direction by Fran Rubel Kuzui and even worse editing, which left many scenes unfinished and many interesting characters and situations unexplored. Humour in the film is of a very low quality and it would provide few laughs for the audience. The casting is very impressive, with many future big names in small roles (Ben Affleck, David Arquette, Hilary Swank), although the acting happens to be mostly disappointing (especially in the case of Rutger Hauer, who plays one of the least impressive villains in the history of cinema). Kristy Swanson in the lead role does a good job, but the most effective is Donald Sutherland as her mentor. Unfortunately, their efforts can't save this film from turning into barely watchable mess, and after seeing 1992 feature film many viewers would probably find the new appreciation of the TV show.

RATING: 3/10 (+)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on February 28th 2002)


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