So this was where it all started.
In 1992 the original movie of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was released. It was written by Joss Whedon, a TV writer who’d worked on Roseanne and would later go on to work on Toy Story.
It wasn’t very good.
But before we get to that, I’ve actually been here before. In 2001, at the height of my fandom, I bought the movie when it was released on DVD. I then wrote this review. It’s interesting how positive I was. To explain/excuse that I should say that it was written for/to the fan community, the received wisdom of whom was that the movie was rubbish and should not be considered as connected to the TV show, which we all loved of course.
Although some of my thoughts on the movie have changed, I don’t intend to write a full re-review as it were. In this blog, I’m largely interested in how things fit in with my own history as a fan.
I can remember hearing about the movie around the time it was released on what was probably Film ’93. Barry Norman thought it was an interesting concept but poorly executed I think. On the strength of that, as was my usual custom at the time, I didn’t make any effort to go see it. When I finally did see it, I was already a fan and happy to find good in it. Now having watched it again with a little of that distance I spoke of yesterday, what do I think?
The thing I think is best about it is still Kristy Swanson. If there’s a moment I liked or a joke I laughed at, she was usually responsible for it. Actually there were other funny moments from Stephen Root as the Principal, but that comedy seemed a little divorced from the film itself.
Two things really stand out on watching it again. One is how static it is, especially in the action scenes. It’s more than needing to “do flippy things and kick each other a bit.” it’s the fact that the reality of any stake (pun unavoidable) or any threat is undermined. Not seeming to either run toward or away from the fight, or expend much effort in it, leaves a feeling that that character doesn’t care much about the outcome. And if they don’t why should I?
The second is the blase way in which everyone reacts to the discovery that vampires are real. Apart from Hilary Swank, whose screaming whilst scenery chewing was way over the top, everyone seems to treat the discovery as mildly annoying or irritating. Even where they say things as if they’re scared for their lives, the acting and delivery of the lines betrays that. Again they don’t really care, so I don’t. I think this comes from a misunderstanding of how to do comedy (he says as if he’s an expert!) – no matter how broad the joke, the actor should play the character’s reactions as real, because to them, within that fictional world it’s real – even if it’s ridiculous and funny to us. As the TV show later proved, you can have great emotional reality and humour side by side.
Anyway, the big question – for me at least – is if, in 1992/3, I’d seen this movie, would I have seen enough in it to want to check out the TV show 5 years later? I think the honest answer is no. I might still have watched but it would have been despite not because. I don’t think I would have thought “here’s a good concept done poorly” I think I would have just dismissed it as a bad movie. Not a bad movie with good parts, just bad.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the movie: 3/10.