infinitejest: (buffy: the wind speaks)
[personal profile] infinitejest
I have to admit that I've almost always had a thing for vampires-- ever since I got over being afraid of them, anyway. Funny factoid about me: I generally come to embrace that which I fear as a means of getting over it. This only works for some things, of course: wolves, witches, vampires.

Anyway, it means that I've almost always been attracted to vampire flicks and, given my strange guilty pleasure involving compulsively watching stupid movies, it's guaranteed I'll pick up pretty much any vampire movie I find. It means that movies like My Best Friend's A Vampire, Love at First Bite, Once Bitten, Night Life, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are all definite shoe-ins.

My mom and I definitely couldn't resist a movie called Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was just too cheesy and provocative. The premise behind it tickled our fancy-- you know, the usual Helpless Blonde "Oh, look, help me, I'm monster food in the first five minutes!" archetype is turned all topsy-turvey when said blonde is made the main character and given the power to kick the monsters' asses. Also, I've always appreciated seeing a seemingly shallow heroine deepening.

Buffy has, of course, become a phenomenon since its beginning as a cheesy valley-girl/vampire flick of the early 90's. And I love the show more than I ever liked the movie. Still, I think it's important to analyze the show's inception. In this post and the next one, I'll examine both the movie that was made from a severely modified screenplay and the comic book (Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Origin) that sticks closer to the original screenplay.

Now, I'll mainly be looking at Slayer mythology and how this movie set up themes, Buffy's character, and introduced Joss' particular world of darkness. So, without further ado:

Slayer Mythology

In the movie (and I have no idea if this was in the original screenplay), Buffy was given an "early warning" system to detect vampires: she would experience cramps when there were any of the blood-sucking undead in the area. I always thought this was a poorly conceived element-- it can't be good for the Slayer's survival rate when the warriors are limping and grasping at their abdomens in between fights. It's just distracting more than helpful... at least, I'd think so.

I did, however, like the mole that each girl had: the mark of the Chosen One. It was just such a cute bit of characterization showing how vain Buffy was when she replied (paraphrased), "That hairy old mole?! Eww! I totally had that removed!" However, given the nature of the Potentials (Potential Slayers) as revealed much later in Buffy the series, I can understand why that went out the window.

In the movie, it's introduced early on how the Slayers are (for want of a better term) psychically linked and somewhat precognizant. Precongizant isn't exactly the right term either-- it's not really that the Slayers see the future, but rather that they divine patterns that they can't see in their waking life. Anyway, the thought that all the Slayers have dreams about each other's fates is definitely something I'll want to explore later on in light of Season 7 of Buffy the Series.

I have this theory about Slayers and power and violence. Again, this is bringing in information we aren't privy to until something like Season 4 of Buffy the series... however, I feel it's intimated by Buffy's character from the very beginning: All Slayers have a bit of the Beast inside. From what I've seen of the series, once they get a taste of violence, they can no longer resist their Slayerhood. Buffy didn't want to be a Slayer at first, didn't want to have anything to do with it. But the moment she lashed out in passion, punching Merrick in the nose... she was hooked. She acquiesced to training and then to killing and, though she often lamented wanting to be a normal girl thereafter, I think most would agree that she never really meant it in her heart of hearts. Anyway, more on that later.

Merrick was apparenty living the same life, repeatedly, a single Watcher finding and training a series of Chosen Ones until he found the one who could defeat Lothos. I hated that part of the storyline... get real, make the Watchers multiple and make it a bureacracy. It's much more interesting. Thankfully, Joss did, but I'm not sure if this whole Merrick-as-undying-Watcher thing was originally Joss' ideas or one of the worse changes to the script.

Vampire Lore

Lothos was a serial Slayer killer. Given Buffy's dreams and his looming presence, he'd been at it for a while. (To reference later Buffy episodes again, I bet it pissed him off when Spike got the same idea.) See, so I just never understood why this wasn't milked for Buffy's reputation as the biggest, baddest new Slayer on the block. She took down a major Slayer-killer her first time out and only lost her Watcher and half her highschool doing it. Come on. Where are the props? (No matter how un-scary he is in the movie.)

Oh, and I think it's worth mentioning that Lothos eats a kitten in the movie. That has got to be quintessential Joss, the idea that demons love the taste of a tiny, crunchy kitten. But that leads one to wonder what the hell Joss has against kittens. (Referencing Season 6 of Buffy here.)

The vampires in this movie are even lamer than the bulk of the vampires in the series. Coming at her one at a time, doing stupid mouth-gaping puppet-dances instead of attacking, etc. Also, apparently becoming a vampire means that you get dog-chewed elf-ears, perma-fangs, and preternaturally red lips.

Buffy's Characterization

Although not entirely evident at the start, we are given a Buffy who has brains, courage, loyalty, and I-stand-alone issues. There are numerous hints scattered throughout the dialogue that Buffy does have a brain and just isn't using it due to the shallow social waters in which she wades. Buffy also comes to realize the inherent stupidity of her vacuous existence very quickly once exposed to some of the dark truths of the world. When she denies her position, she never denies her knowledge. She never tries to close her eyes once more, and that reveals inherent wisdom. (This is borne out in the premiere of the series.) She also often tries to work alone and save her friends, taking all the burden onto herself... only to have her friends help her, regardless of her wishes. She inspires loyalty in others, always has.

This leads me to my intial ponderings on the great question, "What's so special about Buffy?" There've been how many generations of Slayers? (I don't think we really find that out until Season 3 or later of the series, so never mind.) I couldn't fathom that this one Vacuous Valley Girl With Promise was not only a Chosen One, but the Chosen One (as gets played up all the damn time). As I rewatched the movie recently, I began to get a handle on a few of my ideas...

What's so special about Buffy is attitude. She's got a big one and she's not afraid to use it. She doesn't see the point of following outmoded conventions and she's got a definite problem with stuffy old people telling her what to do. This gives her an edge as she doesn't play by the established rules of the game... and this means that she has an actual chance to really make a difference. Merrick tells her this in the movie just before he dies: smart man.

It annoys me how different her family is in the movie. How did the completely estranged and inane mother of the movie become the caring, interested Joyce of the series? I can't ever picture Joyce (even rich-pre-crazy-daughter-and-divorce-Joyce) saying "Kiss noise!" as she leaves Buffy alone for a weekend.

Also, her family handled Buffy's strange behavior quite differently in the movie from how it's depicted in (uhm?) Season 2 (or is it Season 3?) of the series. In the movie, they're completely oblivious to it as they are to everything else their daughter is or does. And we'll readdress how the series handled it when I get around to those episodes in my analysis.

Finally, the way they played around with her age in the movie bothered me. She's clearly a senior in high school in the movie, but she's really only supposed to be 15. Still, I suppose we couldn't have a fifteen-year-old girl being party to killing undead things and underage sex. Must make her at least 17, if not 18. That's the only way it's acceptable. (Yes, I'm being sarcastic.)


There are a few other things that I noticed about the movie: some suggestion that vampires might need an invitation to enter semi-public property, a pig was also the mascot of Buffy's old school, vampires seem to lose their sense of style after so many centuries of being alive, the issue of keeping Buffy's identity secret, etc. But I don't feel the need to go over these things in any depth at the moment.

I'll just skip along to a few of my favorite quotes:

Lothos: "Finally you've brought me someone real. But is she ready?"
Merrick: "Well, really, she's quite a pain in the ass."

The Principal, when vampires are at the door: "Hey! I have detention slips here and I'm not afraid to use them!"

Lothos' Main Lackey, the one-armed man: "We're immortal, Buffy. We can do anything!"
Buffy: "Oh yeah? Clap!"

The Principal, walking among all the staked vampire corpses: "Detention! Detention! Detention! Detention! Detentiondetention! I think that's about it. No! Detention-detention!" (This is my mom's favorite part, I think.)

The Principal, being interviewed for the news after the slaughter in the gym: "I do think, uh, the students learned a valuable lesson about safety. Except the dead ones, I mean, of course. Well, they learned it, but they really didn't have time to implement it, y'know...and, uh, are we live?"

The Principal really was one of my favorite characters. He was portrayed by Stephen Root, y'know, who also played Milton in Office Space. I guess we know what made Milton the way he is, eh? ;)

Trivia: Seth Green was actually in the movie, but his part was cut during editing. Apparently you can still see him vamping out on Grueller on the DVD and Video packaging, though. That makes him the only actor to be in both the movie and the series.

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