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Monday, June 10, 2013

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

There's one thing about the movie industry that I have noticed over the years.

It seems as though there are certain time periods within the silver screen that can be linked to a particular genre of film, or it seems as though there are some eras that focus on a particular fad that motion pictures will exploit to the point in which audience goers are completely bombarded with similar movies on the same topic.

I suppose if you want the most recent example, everything is all about zombies. We have “The Walking Dead” on television, “World War Z” which is set to hit theatres any day now...and even Archie comics is reportedly coming up with its own zombie comic book known as “Afterlife with Archie”!

I know, I can't believe it either.

Of course, zombies are just the latest craze. With the release of 2012 a few years back, apocalyptic films were all the rage, and still are apparently. Back in the 1970s, epic disaster movies such as “The Poseidon Adventure”, “Earthquake”, and “The Towering Inferno” were all over movie theatres. And, I'm pretty sure that the majority of major action movies that I actually liked came from their golden heyday in the 1980s.

And, then there's the subject of vampires, and how they have been a huge part of motion pictures for several decades.

I suppose that the vampire obsession began with the many film adaptations of Bram Stoker's “Dracula”, but in recent history the vampire craze was amplified with the constant exploits of Bella, Edward, and Jacob in the “Twilight” series of books, which were later turned into movies.

But this blog entry is not about Twilight. I myself have never seen any of the “Twilight” films or have read any of the books, as they never really interested me.

But, I have seen the parody films, “Vampires Suck” and “Dracula: Dead and Loving It”. Both films I found hysterical and funny, but then again, I always have loved the idea of parody. Alas, this blog entry is not about either film.

(Though, I am almost positive that I will be writing a blog entry about those films in the near future.)

However, this edition of the Monday Matinee will be focusing on a movie that did have to do with vampires. It even inspired a television series of the same name, which ran from March 1997 until May 2003. Of course, the cast of the film and the cast of the television show were completely different, but minor details.

Anyway, this film had many vampires making appearances at key plot points. The only difference was that instead of the vampires taking on the appearance of the celebrity hunk du jour, they were hardcore vampires who only wanted to cause death and destruction in order to quench their thirst for human blood.

These were vampires that had to be stopped at all costs. If they weren't, they would take over the world, and we would all become blood sucking vampires...

...and then when all seven billion people in the world became vampires, we would all die out, because there would be no more fresh blood.

So naturally if you're plotting a war against the vampire population, you're going to need someone who can stand up to them. You'll need someone who has the courage to fight back. You'll need a hero who can take several of them out with one shot.

But who would that be? A Green Beret? A war veteran who has had several years of combat training? A martial arts master who could make quick work of them? A man who stocks garlic cloves in the produce section of a supermarket?

Well, what if I told you that the hero of this film was a blonde, teenage high school student who loves cheerleading, chasing after boys, and charging her purchases at the local shopping mall? You probably wouldn't believe me, right?

I imagine that the closest friends of Buffy Summers would have thought the same about her. But as we all well know, an ancient prophecy would take Buffy to new heights of popularity as she traded in her pom-poms for a flamethrower and a wooden stake to become...

...Buffy the Vampire Slayer!

It's hard to believe that twenty-one summers ago, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was released in movie theatres. And upon its July 31, 1992 release, the reviews for the Joss Whedon penned, Fran Rubel Kuzui directed film were not great, but not terrible either. They were rather mediocre. Still, it was enough for the film to make sixteen million dollars at the box office.

And for a film that didn't do as well as it had hoped, it did boast some major star power. The film was the breakout performance of Kristy Swanson, who played the role of Buffy Summers. Other big named stars that appeared in the film were Rutger Hauer, Donald Sutherland, Luke Perry, and Paul Reubens.

NOTE: This film was released just one year after Reubens' 1991 arrest. I suppose you could say that this film was kind of his “comeback”, so to speak.

The film also boasted some actors who would later become huge stars themselves. For instance, Hilary Swank had a minor role as Buffy's friend, Kimberly. She would later go on to win two Academy Awards for “Boys Don't Cry” and “Million Dollar Baby”. David Arquette also appeared in the film as a high school student who meets a rather...interesting fate during the film (I don't want to spoil EVERYTHING).

And, if you're watching this film, see if you can spot Ben Affleck, Seth Green, and Ricki Lake in the movie. They all have bit parts in the movie, but you might not be aware of it, as their roles were uncredited.

Anyway, just to give all of you a brief plot of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, Buffy Summers is a cheerleader at Los Angeles' Hemery High School, and to say that she has very little ambition in life other than buying dresses at expensive boutiques and socializing with all of the cool kids would be like saying that the sky is blue with white clouds. It's pretty much a given. And, I'm sure that had she not crossed paths with a mysterious old man named Merrick Jameson-Smythe (Sutherland), she would have blissfully continued living the life of a stereotypical Valley Girl...even though by 1992, Valley Girls were becoming, like, totally outdated, like, gag me with a spoon, 'kay?

You see, Merrick only appears in the film to give Buffy a message. She is the “chosen one”.

Apparently, of all the people in the world that could have been selected, Buffy Summers has been picked to be named “The Slayer”. Merrick happens to be a “Watcher”, and it is his duty to get her ready for battle against the hoards of vampires that she could face. Naturally, Buffy completely rebukes his claims, thinking that he is nothing more than a crackpot looking for attention...but has a change of heart after Merrick can describe a recurring dream that Buffy has had for months in full detail.

To complicate things, Buffy begins to develop feelings towards classmate Oliver Pike (Perry), himself narrowly escaping a vampire attack. He is saved by Merrick, who in turn introduces him to Buffy. At first, it's awkward for both of them, as Oliver and Buffy were dissing each others social circles to their faces. But as the battles increased, so did their relationship.

Of course, Buffy, Oliver, and Merrick had their hands full when it came to battling against the vampires. The king of the vampires, Lothos (Hauer) is not the kind of vampire you want against you. He is not above killing anyone in order to stay alive...even if the victims are other Slayers. As if Buffy was not already stressed enough, she also had to deal with Lothos' head flunky, Amilyn (Reubens).

The climax of the film takes place inside of an amusement park after Buffy and Oliver discover that Lothos has snuck in one of his followers inside of a school basketball game in order to turn more innocent students into vampires. But when things go terribly wrong, and Buffy is forced to say goodbye to someone that she holds dear to her heart, she almost considers giving up the vampire slaying and decides to go back to her old, non-fulfilling, unambitious life. But she doesn't necessarily stay there for long...

...and that's all that I'm going to say.

At any rate, I already told you that the movie inspired a television series that ran for six years on both The WB and UPN networks – only instead of Kristy Swanson, the role of Buffy was portrayed by Sarah Michelle Gellar. Joss Whedon created the television series as a response to having very limited creative control on the movie version. He didn't quite get everything he wanted in the movie, but he managed to incorporate more of his vision in the television series.

Here's some more trivia...

  • Did you know that Alyssa Milano was originally considered for the role of Buffy? Considering that I had a childhood crush on Alyssa Milano, I probably would have gone and seen this movie a lot sooner than I actually did (I think I was like, 15, when I saw this movie for the first time.)
  • Did you know that Joss Whedon actually left the set and never returned because of his intense frustration over his original script being rewritten? Honestly if I were in Whedon's position, I might be tempted to do the same myself!
  • Of course, when you have actors rewriting entire lines in the script, such as Donald Sutherland reportedly did, I suppose Whedon's disdain could have been explained even further.
  • I wonder how interesting the film would have been had Cary Elwes, Mick Jagger, and David Bowie been allowed to make cameos as vampires? Reportedly, all three were lined up to do exactly that, but due to budgetary concerns, their scenes were dropped.

  • Ever wonder why Paul Reubens' character had a feminine sounding name? It's because Amilyn was meant to be a female character. Joan Chen was even cast as the part, but before filming was set to begin, she left the project.
  • And, speaking of Paul Reubens...his final scene in the film was one hundred per cent improvised!  

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