Film: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
It's not the series and certainly never will be. But everything's gotta start somewhere.
"You're not like other girls."
Before the series,
there was this.
In 1992, Joss Whedon
wrote a script for a movie called Buffy The Vampire Slayer
. The plot should be very familiar to a lot of us: a Valley Girl
named Buffy finds out that she is The Chosen One
. An old British guy named Merrick trains her to become "the Slayer." Her job is to fight a bunch of vampires. Like the series it would later spawn, the Buffy
movie was intended as a subversion of the usual "Damsel in Distress
" roles that young women usually fill in horror movies. 20th Century Fox picked it up and turned it into a movie.
The end results... weren't really what Joss planned. The original script intended the film to be a serious metaphor of female empowerment with a comedic bent, but the director turned the film into an outright comedy. The movie had some success in the big screen, but Joss was dissatisfied by the changes.
Five years later, we got the well-known series Buffy the Vampire Slayer
, and the rest is history. The film itself occurred in Broad Strokes
in the regular Buffyverse, but more specifically the original screenplay, not the released movie. Early on, the series made mention of Buffy being expelled from her old high school because she set the gym on fire (to kill the vampires inside), which was the original intended ending of the movie, but was vetoed by Executive Meddling
However, it is an interesting look at what the show could have been like. Not to say it didn't help its TV show incarnation as many who first watched the show, did so due to familiarity with the movie.
This film provides examples of:
- '80s Hair: Buffy has this at the beginning of the movie, when she's out shopping with her friends.
- Accidental Misnaming: Buffy's mother refers to her as "Bobby" sometimes. And Pike is mistakenly called "Polk" at one point.
- A God I Am: Grueller, one of Buffy's friend turned vampire, proclaims himself as this before he's immediately staked from behind by Pike of all people.
Pike: Now you're a coatrack.
- Accidental Athlete: Buffy discovers her untapped fighting prowess when she punches Merrick in the nose during a tantrum.
- Acting for Two: In the flashback, the medieval Slayer and her Watcher are played by the same actors as Buffy and Merrick. On the other hand, the Slayer and the Watcher continually reincarnate looking identical to her past lives, so they are theoretically still the same characters.
- Action Dress Rip: Actually starts out with overtones of Comedic Underwear Exposure. Pike tries to keep Buffy from pursuing the vampires at the dance but tears her ball gown in the process, exposing her legs and petticoats. But Pike promptly makes up for his mistake by lending Buffy his large black leather jacket to cover herself. Voila, back to Badass mode!
- Action Girl: The original intent of the film was to take a typical horror film's 'Dumb Blonde' who either dies first or only survives because she's the hero's love interest, and make her the Chosen One of Destiny, while the Loveable Loser that she 'surprisingly' falls in love with, who would ordinarily become the Bad Ass Chosen One, takes her place as the film's Damsel in Distress.
- Actually Pretty Funny: Buffy boasts that she is going to succeed where all of her predecessors failed because she has something none of them ever had. When Merrick demands to know what this mysterious power is, Buffy replies: "My keen fashion sense." This causes Merrick to remark that, yeah, that's really going to frighten vampires. But instead of getting angry, Buffy laughs - not so much because the line itself was funny as because of the surprise of someone as supposedly humorless as Merrick actually cracking a joke.
- Allergic to Evil: A Slayer gets pains similar to menstrual cramps when a vampire is near.
- All of the Other Reindeer: Buffy's gal-pals gradually turn into this once it becomes clear that something's up with Buffy.
- Almost Dead Guy: Merrick, mortally wounded by Lothos, lasts just long enough to reassure Buffy that he approves of her and to dispense a piece of cryptic advice that will come in handy later.
- Amusement Park of Doom: Amilyn (the "Pee-Wee Herman" vampire) attacks one of his victims from atop a merry-go-round horse.
- Arrow Catch: Buffy catches a dagger that's thrown at her — by Merrick, to prove to her that she has Slayer reflexes.
- Ballroom Blitz: Lothos's teenaged hordes crash the school dance in the climax. The deejay at the event must have somehow known they were coming, because just before they arrive he puts on Ozzy Osbourne's "Party With the Animals."
- Berserk Button: You would be wise not to throw anything sharp at a Slayer's face (or grab her butt). Or to tear the jacket of a well-dressed vampire henchman.
- Big Damn Heroes: Buffy appears out of seemingly nowhere to rescue Pike in the park, just as he is about to be beaten to a pulp by a vampire thug.
- The Cavalry: And in the climax, Pike returns the favor by breaking Buffy out of a spell she has fallen under just before she is to be "turned" by Lothos.
- Bittersweet Ending: As a result of the decision to (reluctantly) embrace her destiny, Buffy has by the end of the film lost her mentor, her boyfriend, the respect of her peers, and the carefree teenage life she had once enjoyed. This doesn't stop her from triumphing over the vampires, of course, but we still have a Bittersweet Ending because all that's left is good ol' Pike and his motorcycle.
- Black Like Me: Merrick prompts Buffy to remember the time she dreamed she was a slave on a plantation in the South during the slavery days - the implication being that she'd have to have been black or part black, or have been suspected of being so.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Not quite, but we do have the quartet of Buffy (blonde), Jennifer (light brunette or strawberry blonde, so effectively redheaded), Kimberly (medium brunette), and Nicki (dark brunette).
- Brainless Beauty: Buffy begins the film as one but she matures out of it. Her vapid friends on the other hand remain airheads throughout. (One of them ends up getting killed by the vampires.)
- Looking at the whole film in context, it's not hard to surmise that Buffy was never that stupid to begin with, and was play-acting in order to be accepted by her dumb but "cool" friends.
- Broad Strokes: A series-canonical comic book was later written to work the essentials of the movie's storyline into the Buffyverse's backstory and mythology.
- Buffy Speak: Ironically, mostly averted here (which, yes, technically makes it an Unbuilt Trope). Joss Whedon took pains to make the dialogue for the original script quite witty, and you can still hear a lot of this in the film.
- Then again, Buffy does describe a Virginia plantation (one of her Past-Life Memories) as a "big farm."
- But Not Too Black: Nicki, a minor member of Buffy's Girl Posse.
- Camp Gay: Amilyn has touches of this. (Is it any wonder he's got a feminine-sounding name?)
- Captain Crash:
- Captain Obvious:
- "One vampire is easier to kill than many vampires." (lampshaded)
- "That is definitely not a student." (said of Lothos)
- "How can you not tread on the earth? You kind of have to."
- Casting Gag: Anne Rice had originally envisioned Rutger Hauer (Lothos) as Lestat when she wrote The Vampire Chronicles, but by the time Interview With A Vampire was filmed in the early 90s, she said he was too old to play a vampire.
- Cessation of Existence: Buffy might have believed this to be her ultimate fate before meeting Merrick, who believes in Heaven, since she tells him that "all I wanna do is graduate from high school, go to Europe, marry Christian Slater, and die" - with no implication that anything lies in store for her after that. Ironically, it could be argued that Merrick himself suffers this, since after being stabbed by Lothos, he simply passes away and becomes a corpse; even though the fantasy setting could conceivably allow him to reappear to Buffy as a ghost or a disembodied voice after his death, he's just...gone, and after Buffy and Pike bury him the film more or less forgets he ever existed.
- Chain Link Fence: When Buffy is on a motorbike chasing a vampire, he goes over a chain link fence in the traditional manner. She goes back around the building and picks up the trail, and the chase continues.
- Chekhov's Gun - Buffy's "Keen Fashion Sense" does indeed let her succeed where other Slayers have failed.
- Child Hater: With the exception of Merrick, Lothos and his minions are never shown attacking anyone over the age of 18.
- The Chosen One: In true Arthurian fashion, a Slayer can be identified by hurling at her face a knife, which she alone can catchnote . (She also characteristically sports a hairy growth - but Buffy, embarrassed, had hers removed.)
- Cloudcuckoolander: The basketball coach. Even he probably couldn't explain those weird symbols on his writing board.
- The Comically Serious: Merrick. Although even he manages to get in a few zingers.
- Confused Bystander Interview: The closing credits include a montage of confused bystander interviews. Taken Up to Eleven at the very end, where it's revealed that the news reporter herself can't even guess what happened.
- Conspicuous Trenchcoat: Merrick wears one when he goes looking for Buffy at the beginning. Between that and his fancy hat, "devil" beard, and spookily whispering voice, you really can't blame Buffy for being suspicious at first.
- Cool Old Guy: Merrick, who is played by Donald Sutherland. You know, Kiefer's dad.
- The Cover Changes The Gender: The Divinyls covered the Young Rascals' "Aint Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" for this movie, and it plays during Buffy's Training Montage (and again over the closing credits). In the context of the film, then, "Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" becomes an "I Am Becoming" Song.
- Creative Closing Credits: We get a montage of various minor characters appearing on the TV news, giving their own....idiosyncratic interpretations of the chaos at the school dance.
- Dare to Be Badass: Merrick gives this ultimatum to Buffy, albeit with the admission that it's pretty much his fault she's been put on the spot. (He had a hard time finding her.)
- Dark Is Not Evil: Merrick.
- Dawson Casting: 22-year-old Kristy Swanson playing high school senior Buffy.
- Decoy Damsel: A rare heroic example, with Buffy pretending to be frightened in order to lure a vampire into a blind alley so she can kill it.
- Delusions of Eloquence: "Are you addressing I?"
- Developing Doomed Characters: In order to more sharply contrast the essential frivolity of these kids' existences with the Gothic adventure soon to come.
- Dirty Coward: Granted, Buffy's "friends" were not very admirable people to begin with. But it becomes clear how thoroughly rotten they are when the vampires storm the gym at the climax and one of them throws another girl out the window so she'll get eaten instead. Dick move, lady, dick move.
- Disproportionate Retribution: "You ruined my new jacket!....KILL HIM A LOT!" (Of course, Amilyn has also lost his arm, but he doesn't seem to care about that.)
- Dull Surprise: Kristy Swanson (at least in 1992) is one of those performers who can make Keanu Reeves seem like a Large Ham.
- Lampshaded subtly in the scene of Buffy making her first kill, where she (unenthusiastically) feigns fear in order to lure in the vampire she's been tracking: "Boy, I'm feeling really helpless." She fools no one but the vampire.
- Dumb Blonde: Perhaps not dumb as such but this version of Buffy is rather more ditzy than the one you're used to ... in fact the character she resembles the most (from the show) is probably Cordelia.
- Buffy in the series does once remark that she used to be very much like Cordelia, and a flashback from Angel's perspective also seems to show her as popular and shallow prior to the whole Slayer business.
- The Dung Ages: The medieval European setting that figures in Buffy's Flashback Nightmare looks appropriately filthy and barbaric, even to the point that the usually refined Lothos shows up as a grimy, bearded derelict. A notable exception is Buffy's counterpart, who looks exactly the same as Buffy does in the twentieth century; she isn't even Hollywood Homely!
- Fake Nationality: The medieval maiden played by the California-born Swanson in the flashback sequences would obviously have to be non-American. She comes off as English (not that Swanson tries very hard), but a brief line by Merrick suggests that she was Hungarian. (In the original script, she's an Italian.) And with Merrick himself, of course, we have a British character being played by a Canadian.
- Final Girl: This movie is based on this subverted. The character who would normally be the final girl in any other horror is the first victim, While the ditsy blonde who is normally dead before the title survives the whole movie.
- Flashback Nightmare: Buffy repeatedly dreams about her previous unsuccessful incarnations, though she doesn't know what the dreams mean until Merrick shows up.
- Foreshadowing: In the school counselor's office, Buffy kills a fly by spitting a dart at it while bored.
- Four Bad Band
- Girl Posse: Buffy and her fellow mall rats.
- Good Is Not Nice: Merrick. He mocks Buffy, gives her condescending little lectures, and comes close to killing her in trying to prove a point.
- Come to think of it, the title character herself. Because, let's face it, you wouldn't be too thrilled about hiring someone nicknamed "The Slayer" to babysit your kids.
- Groin Attack: Implied with the weiner scene (see Something Else Also Rises) and Buffy showing her annoyance at Merrick chucking a knife at her head by jamming it into the bench he's sitting on right in front of his groin. The usually stoic Merrick visibly flinches.
- Hands-Off Parenting: Buffy's parents, summed up in an exchange between Buffy, her boyfriend, and her mother:
Buffy's mother: [leaving the house] Bye-bye, Bobby!
Jeffrey: Bye! [to Buffy] She thinks my name is Bobby?
Buffy: It's possible she thinks my name is Bobby.
- Heroic BSOD: Buffy is at first so afraid of Lothos that she experiences one of these the first time she meets him face to face (outside of her nightmares, that is). It costs Merrick his life.
- Hero Stole My Bike: When Buffy is chasing a vampire to stop it telling Lothos who she is, she passes a group of bikers:
Biker: Hey babe, you want to get some real power between your legs?
Buffy: Yeah, I do. [beats the guy up and steals his motorbike]
- Hey, Wait!: When Buffy comes home late after her first slaying, her mother latches onto her and asks "Do you know what time it is?" — but it's not a guilt-trip question, she genuinely wants to know, and hasn't even noticed that Buffy's just got home.
- Hippie Teacher: Mr. Murray, the school guidance counselor.
- The Hyena: Benny (Pike's friend) becomes this after he is turned into a vampire. (Okay, so he was sort of like that even as a human. But after the vampires got to him, he got worse.)
- I Am Not Left-Handed: Literal in this case! Pike accidentally rips off the (apparent) southpaw vampire Amilyn's left arm by suddenly crashing a fast-moving van while Amilyn's arm is stick through the roof, and later taunts him about it. Amilyn responds simply by grabbing Pike with his right arm, easily hauling him off the ground, and throwing him several yards through the air.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Merrick's justification for throwing a knife at Buffy to reveal her as The Chosen One. (Buffy easily catches the weapon, but she's still mad.)
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Not only Buffy but Merrick as well, who'd love to be a bootmaker.
- Improvised Weapon: Buffy's "keen fashion sense" serves her well as she manages to blast a fireball in Lothos's face with can of hairspray by spraying some of the stuff on a flaming cross.
- Insult Backfire: In a moment of frustration, Buffy launches into a whiny rant that culminates with her referring to Pike as "a strange man." Pike, looking surprised, asks her, "You think I'm a man?"
- Katanas Are Just Better
- Large and in Charge: Lothos is a tall man, especially for the era when he originally lived (the early medieval period). He's a giant compared to Buffy and all of his vampire henchmen - the latter of which isn't too impressive, since the gang is composed almost entirely of scrawny teenagers.
- Large Ham: All the vampires. All of them. (Though Amilyn takes the cake with his prolonged death scene.)
- Last Name Basis: "Pike."
- Let's Get Dangerous: After spending nearly half the movie whining, cracking jokes, and generally not taking anything seriously, Buffy finally gets down to brass tacks and starts punching, kicking, judo-flipping, stabbing, etc.
- Look Behind You: "Look! Air!" (And he does!)
- Lovable Alpha Bitch: Buffy is definitely one of Hemery High's elite, but for the most part she is a genuinely nice person who presides over the school with a benevolent hand. The true Alpha Bitch of this film would be Buffy's treacherous second-in-command, Jennifer, who woos away Buffy's Jerk Jock boyfriend when she's not looking.
- Mentor Archetype: Merrick.
- Metaphorgotten: This chant, apparently written by Buffy or one of the other cheerleaders: "How funky is your chicken?..../How loose is your goose?..../So come on, all you Hog fans..../And shake your caboose!" (So, is the chant about chickens, geese, pigs, or trains?)
- Moral Dissonance / What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Buffy and Pike seem pretty comfortable with remorselessly slaughtering their classmates — some of whom they know on a first-name basis — after the classmates are turned into vampires. This is softened somewhat when Buffy admits late in the film that if she had the choice she wouldn't want to kill anyone, even a vampire.
- Well that and the fact that said classmates become instantly evil after becoming vampires. The film even addresses this when Buffy has to chase down childhood friend Gruell when he nearly attacks the other players during a basketball game. Even pleading with him to remember the times they shared when he was human. But it's clear that, while he still a bit a goof, he's too Drunk on the Dark Side of his vamprisim to listen to reason and a threat to everyone around him.
- Mugging the Monster: A boy at school learns about this the hard way when he tries to grab Buffy's rear end.
- Muscles Are Meaningless: Buffy doesn't look very physically formidable. But she is.
- My Car Hates Me: Pike's van, when the vampires are after him.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: "Hey, you got teenybopper bubblegum all over my Gothic horror!" "Well, you got Gothic horror all over my teenybopper bubblegum!"
- Noblewoman's Laugh: Grueller laughs quite haughtily after successfully springing a trap on Buffy at the float yard.
- Non-Action Guy: Somewhat averted with Pike (Luke Perry). He does possess rudimentary fighting skills and even gets to kill a couple of vampires himself. For the most part, though, he's a Reckless Sidekick. Buffy even informs him at one point that he shouldn't keep following her around.
- Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Almost literally invoked by Buffy: "Do you know what it's like when everything's suddenly different?" (Fortunately, she turns out to be wrong; see Take a Third Option below.)
- Not in This for Your Revolution: Buffy initially agrees to become a Slayer not for the good of her community but for deeply personal reasons (i.e., she has terrifying nightmares about vampires and hopes to gain enough courage to cause the nightmares to stop). Pike, too, at first plans on skipping town after learning that there are vampires about - but after they attack him, it becomes personal.
- Not Quite Dead: Amilyn (yet).
- The Obi-Wan: Merrick
- Oh, Crap: Amilyn flashes one just before he gets hit in the face by a tree branch.
- His wide-eyed shock when Lothos reveals he won't save him qualifies as well.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: We hear a bit of this in scenes set in Lothos's lair, and again at the climax.
- Our Vampires Are Different: With the obvious exception of Lothos, the bloodsuckers in this flick look a lot more like stereotypical 1980s delinquents (black leather, "punk" hairstyles, etc.) than the caped continentals of old.
- Was kind of the point, they were vampires of the modern era and a majority of them are teenagers (ironically this was before leather became a common association with vampires). Clothing aside they do have more monstrous features then usual. (Pale skin, mutated bat-like ears, etc)
- Parental Neglect: Buffy's parents come off as self-absorbed yuppie types who always seem to be running off to yet another social event. They're almost never at home, take little notice of Buffy when they are home, and don't seem to care when their daughter has been staying out all night in a town where vampires are hardly the only unsavory characters roaming the streets after dark.
- Past-Life Memories: It is said that each new Slayer is the same Slayer, reincarnated as long as there are vampires to fight, and Buffy has dreams of her past lives. Merrick gets all his knowledge from his previous incarnations, making him effectively immortal and not liking it.
- The Pete Best: Swanson. Then again this was 1992 and it wouldn't be five years till the TV series long after Swanson grew out of the role.
- Ping Pong Na´vetÚ: If Buffy knows how to start up a motorcycle, how come she doesn't know how to brake?
- Pointy Ears: The vampires here sport bat-like ones.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: A biker can be heard shouting "Dyke!" at Buffy after she knocks him down and steals his ride. Granted, Buffy isn't gay, but it fits the trope just the same.
- Positive Discrimination:
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "You threw a knife at my head!"....You threw a knife - at my head!"
- "Rashomon"-Style: During the credits, everyone at the dance give off their own accounts on what happened.
- The Reason We Suck Speech: Late in the film, Buffy tries to explain to her three friends what is going on. When they don't listen, she reveals how disgusted she has become with the pointless, shallow lifestyle they've all been leading. Although Buffy implicates herself in the accusation, the other girls just think that she's attacking them and become angry.
- Refused The Call: Buffy, distressed after Merrick's death.
- Reincarnation: Buffy and Merrick have both had hundreds of previous lives, always as Slayer and Watcher.
- Rich Idiot with No Day Job: Merrick instructs Buffy not to let anyone know what she is doing at night, so for much of the movie she is essentially this.
- Screaming Warrior:
- The normally demure Buffy occasionally punctuates her fighting maneuvers with a well-timed howl or grunt.
- Amilyn, too, growls and snarls maniacally as he is attacking Pike.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Deconstructed. As a Watcher, Merrick is not supposed to intervene on any Slayer's behalf, even if the Slayer's life is in danger. However, he eventually breaks this rule in order to save Buffy and Pike after Buffy loses it during a confrontation with Lothos (see Heroic BSOD above).... and, not being a trained vampire-hunter himself, gets killed almost immediately, sending Buffy into a funk and eventually into a 10-Minute Retirement.
- Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: Usually comfortably on the "comedy" end of the scale, though the scenes set in the vampires' lair are genuinely chilling.
- Something Else Also Rises: In a restaurant, Pike's friend Benny harasses Buffy by holding a frankfurter between his legs in front of her. She takes a knife and slices the wiener in two.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The soundtrack for Buffy (which, typical of a 1990s Hollywood feature film, is crammed to bursting with a mix of standards and disposable pop hits) contains a great many songs that are decidedly out of place in a horror film, even a spoof one. Good examples are C+C Music Factory's rousing "Keep It Coming", which officially kicks off the film, and a calypso-like cover of "Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore", which, as sung by Christina Amphlett of the Divinyls, is reimagined as a feminist anthem, as noted above. At one point, Buffy herself briefly sings a Suspiciously Similar Song version of "Feelings"!
- Stab the Sky: Parodied. First you see a slayer in the past hold up a stake, then Buffy is holding up a pom-pom.
- Stepford Snarker: Buffy, at least during the first quarter of the film.
- The Stinger: After the credits Amilyn is still dying.
- Suggestive Collision: Buffy falling on Pike after killing vamps in the float yard.
- Super Breath: Buffy can spit a push-pin clear across the room so that it spears a fly and kills it.
- Take a Third Option: Merrick wants Buffy to act the part of a serious-minded warrior. Everyone else expects her to be just a fun-loving teenage girl. Buffy doesn't see any reason why she can't be both.
- Take That: "They had this look in their eyes - totally cold, animal. I think they were young Republicans."
- That Makes Me Feel Angry:
- "Now I'm really pissed off."
- Throw It In: Amilyn's ludicrously protracted and over-the-top death, ad-libbed by Paul Reubens.
- Took a Level in Badass: After spending the majority of the film as a bumbling Non-Action Guy, Pike imitates one of Buffy's jump-kick moves while fighting a vampire at the dance - and pulls it off.
- Training Montage: For Buffy.
- Unintentional Period Piece: Averted much of the time, although the first 10 minutes now come off as something of a "Mister Sandman" Sequence.
- Upper-Class Twit: Buffy's parents aren't quite this, but they act like it. (One throwaway line of dialogue suggests that Buffy's family will be coming into some serious money in the near future.)
- Vampires Are Sex Gods: Lothos, who tries to woo Buffy like this, if not for Merrick and his training, he likely would've suceeded. A brief throwawy scene (after Buffy fights the vampires outside of prom) show's Alpha Bitch Jennifer likewise making out with one in the back of a car. Course considering we don't see her for the rest of the movie, pretty likely she wound up undead.
- Wag the Director: According to Whedon, Donald Sutherland was under the impression that he was the star of the film. And rewrote all of his dialogue.
- Wall Slump: Amilyn, after he is skewered by Buffy.
- Well, Excuse Me, Princess!: Pike's dynamic with Buffy upon first meeting her.
- While Rome Burns: Thinking that no one - not even herself - can stop the vampires now that Merrick is dead and unable to give her confidence, Buffy temporarily abandons her mission and goes on a defiant shopping spree.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Merrick cannot die a natural death until all the vampires in the world have been destroyed. In an Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene, he poignantly tells Buffy that he looks forward to the day when he will finally be allowed to enter Heaven.
- Wicked Cultured: Lothos.
- "World of Cardboard" Speech: "When the music stops....the rest is silence."
- World of Snark: This is set in early 1990s suburban L.A., after all.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Lothos to Amilyn, without a word. Lothos plays a violin, then gives Amilyn a very unsympathetic smile, with a slight shake of the head "no". Then Amilyn gets killed.
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Kind of. We know that Lothos survives having his head engulfed by fire, but Buffy doesn't.
"Yes, I am."