About a week ago, I decided to watch the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie for my Buffyverse Project. I didn’t necessarily need to as the series and the movie are actually pretty different, however there was one thing that convinced me to throw it in there: one of the books features the return of Pike, Luke Perry’s character from the original movie. As I couldn’t really remember the movie, I wanted to have it relatively fresh in mind.
This isn’t necessarily a review of the Buffy movie, though I have included some thoughts at the end of the post, but I found it fascinating while watching to note the lore differences between the movie and the later TV series.
Notable Differences in the Lore:
The main piece of lore in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is, well… what is a “slayer”? In the series, she is the one girl in the world chosen to fight against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. Each girl is assigned a Watcher from the Watcher’s Council over in Britain who is sent to train and watch over her, until the day she dies and the next Slayer is called up to take her place.
It’s a little different in the Buffy movie. Kristy Swanson’s Buffy is being reborn as the Slayer, over and over. She isn’t just “the new Slayer”, she IS the Slayer. It is her soul’s destiny. And the same goes for Donald Sutherland’s Merrick. He trains her, again, and again, in every new life, to fight vampires, specifically Lothas. There are no “potential” slayers, no “Watcher’s Council”, and she experiences stomach cramps when a vampire is nearby (thankfully they dropped this little tell, it was a touch uncomfortable). The Slayer is found through a birthmark (Buffy had surgically removed), and she is caught in this life cycle with an old, powerful vampire called Lothas who has this hypnotic hold over Buffy, killing her again and again in each life.
Her parents were rich and hardly ever around, caring very little for who Buffy hung around with or where she was, what she was doing. A far-cry from TV Buffy’s Joyce Summers, for sure.
Then we have the vampires. In the Buffy movie, vampires can fly, they don’t get all lumpy in the face and become super strong, instead they gain a pallor, weird pointy mermanesque ears, pointy teeth, and go “raaaargh!” They also seem to wait their turn before piling on Buffy when she’s trying to kill them, which is nice of them. And they do not turn to dust when staked, their corpses remain.
Look I just… this death scene has lived rent free in my brain for the past week, enjoy:
Buffy is THE vampire slayer, the chosen one. Supernaturally gifted with quick reflexes. Although super strength is questionable.
The high school gymnasium was ruined because it was full of vampires (I believe Buffy didn’t burn it down in the movie? But vampires attacking the Senior Dance is close enough for me, to be honest)… okay perhaps this was more of a difference than I like to think, but we don’t actually know what happens to Buffy after she kills Lothas, as it ends with her riding off into the sunset with Pike, her love interest. We don’t know what happens to the gym, though surviving students and the principal are featured on TV talking about the incident, and we don’t know if Buffy gets expelled or not. I like to think that she was for canon’s sake, but we just don’t.
Buffy was a typical airhead teenager back in Los Angeles, and a cheerleader. A fashion-obsessed mean girl dating a football player. We see this change as she trains with Merrick and learns more about the world of vampires, she grows as a person, which actually leads us quite nicely into the character we meet in Welcome to the Hellmouth who so badly wants to leave Slayer life behind her and be a normal teenager again. But she knows she can’t be. This is intentional, Joss often talked about how he wanted to subvert the usual horror movie tropes and have the “dumb blonde” stereotype instead be the lead, the badass
She was different from the other Slayers that came before her because she didn’t do things “the right way”, she did them her way and that gave her strength and unpredictability.
Vampires rise from the grave. A simple fact, but there are moments in the move and the series with Buffy waiting by a grave for a newly made vampire to rise.
How does it hold up?
Look, the Buffy movie is not a good movie. It’s just not. However it is fun and campy in areas. Paul Reubens as Amilyn was really funny, and the main cast did fine in their roles (Kristy Swanson, Luke Perry, Donald Sutherland), and completely forgetting where I even first heard them I have lived my life with: “Oh, pur-lease, that is SO 5 minutes ago!” and “How Funky Is Your Chicken” in my head for the past 20 years. But the story of the film is weak, the stereotypical early 90’s teenage attitudes are – I’m sure intentionally cliché – but poorly done, and the vampires are truly pathetic. They’re slow, stupid, and easily killed.
I would only recommend this movie to Buffy fans who are curious about where the franchise originated. The lore and story are changed so much that you really do not miss anything having not seen this, but if you’re the kind of weirdo who needs a bit of completion in your franchise consumption then you may have some fun, just know that it really drags in areas.
Perhaps my thoughts on the differences will changes when I rewatch the show. It has been years since I watched it at this point, but some things never leave your memory!