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.
The vampire Amilyn, now having only one hand, makes a similar declaration...
Amilyn: We're immortal, Buffy. We can do anything!
Buffy: Oh yeah? Clap.
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.
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.
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."
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 this is known in statistics as destructive sampling. (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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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)
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?
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.