Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Watching Buffy with Buffering the Vampire Slayer

1992. PG13. 86 minutes.

Quote “Listen, I think there’s been a big mistake, all right? I appreciate there are real vampires and you’re on this big holy mission, but obviously somebody read their tea leaves wrong because I’m not your girl”

The podcast Buffering the Vampire Slayer can be found via a podcast app or by visiting the website www.bufferingthevampireslayer.com. The show is co-hosted by writer/activist Kristin Russo and Jenny Owen Youngs, a musician who grew up a Buffy fan. Each episode covers one episode of the tv show Buffy the Vampire Slayer and includes discussion, awarding of the “Sexual Tension Award,” and an original song about that show. Buffering covered Seasons One through Three one episode a week, but has switched to every two weeks to alternate with the podcast Angel on Top, which does similar analysis of the spinoff Angel. Having the two podcasts in tandem allows them to cover crossover episodes and development of characters that appear on both shows. An amazing, supportive community has grown up among fans of the podcast. People of all identifications come together to talk about Buffy and live by the motto “Smash the Demon Lizard Patriarchy!”

So why am I telling you about this podcast in a blog post about the 1992 movie? Because on September 8, 2018, I participated in a “Buffywatch” with other Patreon supporters of Buffering the Vampire Slayer. Internationally, people gathered around their computers to stream the movie at the same time as Kristin and Jenny. The two hosts in California created a Facebook Live post as several of us “hop[ped] into a rabbit room” (Kristin’s choice of words) so that one person could play the movie on a shared screen. Other people rented the movie online or met up in person to watch; there were many reports of what snacks had been provisioned. After 15 to 20 minutes of chatting, Kristin and Jenny counted down, everyone pressed play, and we were off!

The hosts of Buffering the Vampire Slayer have different reactions to a big moment in the film

If you’ve made it this far and are unaware, Buffy Summers (Kristy Swanson) is a teenager living in California. She’s head cheerleader, is dating one of the basketball team’s stars (Randall Batinkoff), but is also having strange dreams… about fighting vampires. A stranger named Merrick (Donald Sutherland) approaches her and informs her that she is this generation’s vampire slayer. They’re real, they’re dangerous, and Buffy must take them out by staking all the undead she can. As Buffy accepts her new responsibilities, she drifts away from her old friends and ends up relying on the local burnout, Pike (Luke Perry), to help her evade Lothos (Rutger Hauer), the head vampire who’s hunting HER.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer / Twentieth Century Fox / 1992

The movie itself is incredibly dated–in the best way. It isn’t JUST the fun of a training montage set to the Divinyls “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore”; multiple people commented on how the clothing fit right in with the ’90s revival happening in fashion. While most of us found at least one item we would love to add to our closets, there were plenty of things that made us cringe. Costuming is important to this film not only because it grounds the movie in the early 1990s, but because it features the best use of a yellow leather jacket, aka Chekhov’s Jacket, ever seen. Meanwhile Luke Perry sports a soul patch and you could hear people cheering when he *spoiler alert* shaves it off before the big dance. (Speaking of the dance, if you don’t think Buffy in her white dress, custom white boxing boots, and Pike’s leather jacket isn’t one of the best Halloween costume ideas of all time, then we can’t be friends.)

Buffy, played by Kristy Swanson, isn’t given a lot of depth in this movie. You either buy her transformation from ditzy Valley Girl to protector of mankind or you don’t. By contrast, Sarah Michelle Gellar, who played Buffy in the television series, had seven seasons to develop her character. Meanwhile, Donald Sutherland shares a couple sweet scenes with Swanson that made me believe the grumpy, lovable Merrick was fantastic, but his performance veers back and forth; certainly he has better roles. I can’t help comparing him to Rutger Hauer, who seems to fully embrace the campiness of his character. The work is over the top–even ridiculous–but you can’t take your eyes off of him. The fan favorite was Paul Reubens as Amilyn, the main vampire toady. One viewer even asked “Is this his best role ever?” before the movie was over.
Someone else called out the crazy zooms used throughout the film, and the special effects aren’t up the standards of the television show. Less than a decade later, even the small screen would use “dusting” when the vampires get staked and all agreed the vampire makeup improved for the show (although they still use Jenny and Kristin’s hated “fruit punch mouth” effect). The movie has a very Teen Wolf vibe and that’s not just because of all the basketball scenes. I really wish I could credit the person who summed it up with “This is a very silly movie.”
The thing is, it IS a silly movie. That’s why Joss Whedon hated it so much that he made a whole television series to redeem the character he had created. He never intended Buffy to be silly, but  undeniably, this movie with Paul Reubens chasing Luke Perry around is silly. The difference (ok, one difference among many) between Joss Whedon and me is that I can sit back, acknowledge that this movie is silly, and then ENJOY watching it. The soundtrack. The clothes. The one-liners. All classics.
My favorite part of the “Buffywatch” was the conversation among Kristin, Jenny, and the podcast fans. It wasn’t the same as being able to watch closely; there were whole chunks where I couldn’t hear the movie. But from singing the 20th Century Fox fanfare to make sure all the streaming videos were lined up to the final “Sam Report” on their cat (who’d spent the entire evening sleeping under the bed), it was definitely one of the best watches of this movie that I’ve experienced.

Author: Tierney Steele

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