Watching this movie was such a strange experience.
Now, of course, I say that as someone who grew up watching and loving the television version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Back when Buffy was on TV, I was always aware that the character had first been introduced in a movie but every thing I read about Buffy said that the movie wasn’t worth watching. It was a part of the official Buffy mythology that Joss Whedon was so unhappy with what was done to his original script that he pretty much ignored the film when he created the show.
So, yes, the 1992 movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer showed how Buffy first learned that she was a slayer, how she fought a bunch of vampires in Los Angeles, and how her first watcher met his end. But still, Joss Whedon was always quick to say that the film should not be considered canonical. Whenever anyone on the TV show mentioned anything from Buffy’s past, they were referencing Joss Whedon’s original script as opposed to the film that was eventually adapted from that script. (For instance, on the tv series, everyone knew that Buffy’s previous school burned down. That was from Whedon’s script. However, 20th Century Fox balked at making a film about a cheerleader who burns down her school so, at the end of the film version, the school is still standing and romance is in the air.) In short, the film existed but it really didn’t matter. In fact, to be honest, it almost felt like watching the movie would somehow be a betrayal of everything that made the televisions series special.
Myself, I didn’t bother to watch the film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer until several years after the television series was canceled and, as I said at the start of the review, it was a strange experience. The movie is full of hints of what would make the television series so memorable but none of them are really explored. Yes, Buffy (played here by Kristy Swanson) has to balance being a teenager with being a vampire slayer but, in the film, it turns out to be surprisingly easy to do. Buffy is just as happy to be a vampire slayer as she is to be a cheerleader. In fact, one of the strange things about the film is just how quickly and easily Buffy accepts the idea that there are vampires feeding on her classmates and that it’s her duty to destroy them. Buffy’s watcher is played by Donald Sutherland and the main vampire is played by Rutger Hauer, two veteran actors who could have played these roles in their sleep and who appear to do so for much of the film. As for Buffy’s love interest, he’s a sensitive rebel named Oliver Pike (Luke Perry). On the one hand, it’s fun to see the reversal of traditional gender roles, with Oliver frequently helpless and needing to be saved by Buffy. On the other hand, Perry and Swanson have next to no chemistry so it’s a bit difficult to really get wrapped up in their relationship.
I know I keep coming back to this but watching the movie version of Buffy is a strange experience. It’s not bad but it’s just not Buffy. It’s like some sort of weird, mirror universe version of Buffy, where Buffy starts her slaying career as a senior in high school and she never really has to deal with being an outcast or anything like that. (One gets the feeling that the movie’s Buffy wouldn’t have much to do with the Scooby Gang. Nor would she have ever have fallen for Angel.) Kristy Swanson gives a good performance as the film version of Buffy, though the character is not allowed to display any of the nuance or the quick wit that made the television version a role model for us all. Again it’s not that Buffy the movie is terrible or anything like that. It’s just not our Buffy!