If you ask a hundred TV show fans to name their favorite TV show of all time, I would bet that many of them would say Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s one of the most beloved TV shows around the globe. Many even consider it one of the greatest TV shows of all time. People love the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show. However, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie doesn’t receive the same glowing endorsements.
Over my lifetime, I have had many different reactions to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie. As a child, it terrified me. The vampires were just too weird. As a teen, I felt neutral about it. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. Later, because I loved the show so much, the movie felt like a disappointment. Then I went back to having no opinions on it.
Feeling nostalgic, I decided to rewatch the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, and once again I formed a new opinion on it. Rewatching the film made me realize it’s far from perfect, but definitely has a charisma and charm of its own. I also had a few other thoughts. Let me share.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead About Buffy The Vampire Slayer Movie And Minor TV Show Spoilers.
Buffy The Vampire The Slayer Movie Has Elements That Work Better For The Show That Followed
Joss Whedon wrote the script for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie. Whedon has a distinct writing tone to most of his work, and you can see some of that signature tone come across in this film. The wit that often comes across in the TV show is present here, but some of the execution just doesn’t land.
In a clip from an interview at the Sydney Opera House, Whedon shared that the goal of the movie was to give a spin on the horror movie genre and empower young women. However, that was a limited concept that couldn’t really sustain a weekly episode format. He then tapped into the idea of high school, in general, being a nightmare for some.
This allowed him to tell “stories that meant something to me about my life.” Channeling a personal touch helped elevate the show beyond the scope of what was possible in a 90-minute movie. However, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie provides a blueprint for some of the things that made the show so great.
The movie has a strong message about female empowerment. This is something that the show also did very well. Most of the badass characters on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer show are women or girls. Then other things such as the surrogate father figure, the outcasts becoming the heroes, and sacrificing for the greater good are present in both versions of Buffy.
The ideas are there in the movie, but the Buffy the Vampire TV show takes these concepts and elevates them. It’s these things that helped the show gain its voice and legacy.
Paul Reubens As A Vampire Is Camp High Art
Camp is a hard film style to get right. It’s even harder to not just be one of the great cheesy movies, but actively try to make a movie over-the-top, ridiculous, or outrageous just for the art of camp. I wouldn’t exactly call Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie intentionally campy, but it definitely has elements that fall into that category.
Paul Reubens’ performance as Amilyn is definitely one of those parts. He’s also one of the very best things about the movie. Reubens is not afraid to give his everything to a wacky character.
In fact, one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s biggest missteps is not using Reubens more. He could really heighten the comedic elements of this film by just going bigger and bolder with the strangeness of this character -- and his eventual one arm. Amilyn’s death scene is one of the movie’s most memorable moments.
It was great to see Paul Reubens reprise this role for a What We Do In The Shadows vampire cameo. It was truly a work of art.
Kristy Swanson Laid The Groundwork For Sarah Michelle Gellar's Buffy
Kristy Swanson is a great Buffy. She’s totally the ultimate valley girl with a heart of gold. Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy is the same valley girl, but after she’s seen some things, like terrible things. Swanson originating the role presumably provided a blue print for Gellar (whether she took notes or not) to find her own balance for the character.
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1, you can see traces of the movie Buffy. She’s still fighting her destiny and is a little shallow, but she’s evolved enough to know what she must do for the world. You also start to see Swanson transform into the TV Buffy towards the end of the movie. As she gives up her perfect high school life, you see the movie Buffy start to become one of the greatest TV characters.
Pike Is The Perfect Male Damsel In Distress
One of the really fun things about Buffy as a character is that she looks like the quintessential damsel in distress. You expect her to be screaming for someone to save her. However, that’s not who Buffy is. She’s the hero and the one who does the saving. Because Buffy is such a badass, she needs a love interest that may not match her strength but matches her bravery and heart.
Pike (Luke Perry) isn’t shown as a completely weak character, but the film does play with the idea of a damsel in distress with him. Buffy and Merrick (Donald Sutherland) have to save him several times. He also passes out quite a few times -- something often associated with damsels in distress.
This is a fun element that highlights the film's cleverness, even if it doesn’t always come across clearly in execution.
Future Stars, Future Stars Everywhere
I love when I watch a film not made in the last five years and can point with glee every time I see a now recognizable face. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie is full of them. It may even compete with the TV show in terms of having many future well-known actors.
A few of the famous faces you can see in Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie supporting roles are Hilary Swank, David Arquette, and Stephen Root. The film also has plenty of random appearances, including Ricki Lake, Seth Green, Ben Affleck, and Thomas Jane.
The Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie didn’t make any of their careers, but it’s nice to see that it may have played a part in their future fame.
Buffy, Causing Trouble For Watchers Since 1992
Let’s be honest, Merrick is no Rupert Giles (Anthony Head). For many reasons, but mainly because Giles is an extremely charming nerd with a dark past (you know, everyone’s favorite kind of nerd). However, Merrick and Giles are more alike than I initially remembered.
They both find themselves extremely dazzled by Buffy, despite her lack of discipline. This affection ultimately causes them some distress. For Giles, he loses his job. For Merrick, he loses his life. It’s not Buffy’s fault that she’s so darn lovable to Watchers.
The Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie has so much to talk about, and not every thought can fit in a nice little box, so here are some of my other thoughts about this movie.
- I would love to know more about Lothos (Rutger Hauer) and Amilyn’s history. They have such a strange and fascinating relationship.
- Lothos is a really good main vampire that now I wonder where he ranks on the list of best Buffy the Vampire Slayer villains.
- I am quite obsessed with the fashion in this movie. It’s not too late to bring back tights and shorts.
- I kept waiting for the vampires to turn to dust.
- I wonder if Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie influenced Clueless, because I strongly believe Cher (Alicia Silverstone) and Buffy would be besties in another world.
- The film really has some clever lines that would have killed it in the series.
- I firmly believe Benny (David Arquette) was the origin of what would eventually become Xander (Nicholas Brendon).
- Pike and Spike (James Marsters) rhyme too much for me to not wonder what’s that all about.
- My favorite line from the movie is when Pike tells Buffy that she’s not like other girls and she says yes I am. I think this is a powerful line because it shows that you don’t have to seem superior to other girls to still be a great, badass. You can love fashion and still be an iconic heroine.
The Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie is available to rent or buy on Amazon (opens in new tab).
Spent most of my life in various parts of Illinois, including attending college in Evanston. I have been a life long lover of pop culture, especially television, turned that passion into writing about all things entertainment related. When I'm not writing about pop culture, I can be found channeling Gordon Ramsay by kicking people out the kitchen.