Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui. Starring Kristy Swanson, Luke Perry, Candy Clark, David Arquette, Hilary Swank, Paul Reubens, Donald Sutherland, Rutger Hauer. (1992, PG-13, 86 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Aug. 7, 1992
Yup, Buffy's The Chosen One alright. Only problem is, Buffy's chosen to shop. Valley girl Buffy (Swanson) is a high school cheerleader whose biggest concerns, until Donald Sutherland comes into her life, are thinking up a theme for the senior dance (it's “hug the world,” by the way) and shopping. An example of Buffy-think: “Excuse me for not knowing about El Salvador -- like I'm ever going to Spain anyway.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a fun movie; so much better than it has to be and so much better than you expect it to be. Buffy is to vampire movies what Valley Girl is to Romeo and Juliet stories: a fresh reworking of an old formula staged by up-to-the-second California teens. Generically, though, Buffy's really more of a comedy than a vampire story, more in the tradition of something like Polanski's Fearless Vampire Killers or the campier Hammer or Corman horror films. And, more than any of those things, Buffy's actually more of a girl's empowerment story along the lines of a She-Ra or Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman. At the start, Buffy's a vacuous Beverly Hills teen whose only ambition in life is “to marry Christian Slater and die” until she discovers her true historic destiny as a vampire slayer. And, honestly, goofy as all this is, it's rather nice to see a young woman in the movies discovering her true calling and identity. Logically, the problem with the story is that Buffy goes from empty-headed cheerleader to fearless ninja warrior practically overnight and you suspect that her fashion sense still outweighs her common sense. Other nifty plot elements are introduced, only to be abandoned. Still, this script (by newcomer Joss Whedon) and direction (by Fran Rubel Kuzui -- her first feature following her Tokyo Pop debut) have enough wit and verve that these lapses don't ever impede your enjoyment. Also in the same vein as Valley Girl, Buffy is buoyed by a swell soundtrack (featuring artists like Matthew Sweet, Susanna Hoffs, The DiVinyls, Toad the Wet Sprocket, C&C Music Factory, Ozzy Osbourne and others) and a core of good acting. As the mentor and trainer of all slayers throughout time, Sutherland is appropriately gothic, seeming as if he's wandered in from another century... which he has. Rubens (Pee-wee Herman) is humorously ghoulish as a one-man minion to the head vampire (Hauer). Rubens, as Buffy puts it, is having a “bad hair day” but still manages to milk the most out of a meager part. (For further proof, make sure to stay seated until the end credits finish rolling. That way you won't miss Liz Smith's cameo either.) And the wonderful and too-little-seen Candy Clark (The Man Who Fell to Earth, American Graffiti) is once again too-little-seen in two brief walk-ons as Buffy's mom (though she scores two of the movie's most potent one-liners in those brief scenes). Swanson has a great line delivery (even if she is a tad too old to be a believable high schooler). Only teen heartthrob Perry disappoints as he strikes his one-note rebel poses. With Buffy, the rash of vampire movies set for release over the next few months are off to a way cool start. Oh yeah, and don't forget to hug the world.