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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Review (Text)

Dear Fanboys

I had a brilliant idea for a review in mind. The plan was to pretend I was reviewing Twilight, and start off by saying how great I thought it was. This would generate shock amongst my readers, who would be disgusted to hear that I enjoyed Twilight. I would then start to explain what I liked about the movie, walking us through the plot and pointing out the good bits, at which point it would rapidly become clear that I had, in fact, been watching ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, but was apparently under the impression that I had been watching Twilight. I thought this would be funny, and that people would enjoy reading it. However, as always, there was a problem. I hated Buffy the Vampire Slayer.




I watched the first episode of the Buffy TV series when it was first shown on regular television in the UK, years and years ago (I was probably about 8 or something, but was told afterwards that I couldn’t watch the rest of the series as it aired because it would be “too scary”). I then watched a number of odd episodes from the show at various points over the next few years, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The show was funny, and yet also had some scary moments, to frighten you just enough that you would jump, but not so much it would give you nightmares. At a time in my life where I would have been watching Doctor Who religiously for my scares were I born 10 years later (or even 10 years earlier, I suppose – not that I don’t watch Doctor Who, you understand, but unfortunately I’m beyond the age where you can truly appreciate it. Like the Master Blaster series. MAN, they were awesome.), I watched “Buffy”. And this is probably why I was so disappointed by the film.

The movie was made several years before the show, and stars a completely different cast. However, it was still written by Joss Whedon, the guy who produced the TV show, and still had some fairly big names in. I therefore had high expectations for the film, despite not having seen the show in years.

The thing is, Joss Whedon has a rather rabid fanbase. He has an army of fanboys, who watch everything he has ever come out with, and who can’t help but sing his praises. He’s like the George Lucas of Television, if George Lucas had only made the original 3 Star Wars and Indiana Jones films. I’m told constantly that “Firefly” and “Angel” and “Serenity” and all manner of Whedon projects are fantastic, and should be watched, and although I never did get round to watching these, figured that the Buffy movie would be a great place to start. After all, it came before everything else he’s done, and my childhood memories insisted that Buffy the Vampire slayer would be worth a watch. Hell, that kind of character is timeless. She was the most kick-ass, awesome female character on TV at that time. Aside from Sabrina the Teenage Witch, of course.


Man, that talking cat sure was funny... Also, MILF!

But I think this is one of the main reasons I hated the film. It starts off focusing on a group of annoying, bitchy teenage girls. Obsessed with fashion, with a clear sense of self-entitlement, self-righteousness, and feelings of superiority over everyone else. They were a bunch of airhead bimbos, and were all cheerleaders. Perfect vampire prey. We follow these girls around, as they act like bitches, and speak using a vocabulary more annoying than those people who think adding the word “much” to the end of an adjective constitutes a legitimate question (Fuck you, muchophiles!). Hell, one of the girls even used this phrase at one point, and since it seems to have mainly arisen on the internet, this movie is probably where it comes from (being spread by Whedon-fanboys), so on those grounds alone, the creators of this film should be summarily executed.



But it wasn’t at this point that I was concerned. I’ve seen enough horror movies to know what was going on. We were following this group of bitchy, slutty, air-head teenage bimbos around, because they were about to get eaten by vampires. We see the girls in the cinema, gossiping, and pissing everyone else off, and then pan to the row of seats behind them, where we see two classic layabouts, played by David Arquette and Luke Perry, getting pissed off at the girls. Great, I thought to myself as I saw this; things couldn’t be more perfect.

On the one hand, you have David Arquette in the film, whose performance in Scream alone means his name appearing in the credits of a horror comedy movie is the equivalent to seeing Sam Rockwell’s at the start of an action-comedy sequel. And on top of this, the two of them were obviously going to be vampires, and kill the annoying girls when they wouldn’t shut up during the movie.

However, we see the girls leaving the cinema, with a disappointing lack of bite marks on their necks, and not even a trace of blood spewing, and one of them meeting her boyfriend; again, a stereotypical high school douchebag jock, like the kind of guy who is always the bad guy in coming-of-age films and Wheatus videos.


Strange they got the actors from 'Loser' back to make a video which had nothing to do with 'Loser' whatsoever...

Ok, I thought to myself, I bet we’re going to see the vampires try to kill off the blonde and her boyfriend, and then Buffy will appear, and show these bimbos how it’s done. But again, this didn’t happen. And soon after, the moment when I realised how truly terrible this movie was going to be arrived. We see David Arquette and Luke Perry stagger into a bar drunk, which the same girls from earlier are in. They start talking, and when asked for her name, the annoying Blonde teenager states “Buffy”. That’s Buffy. The annoying, bitchy bimbo cheerleader who I wanted to see eaten by vampires the second she opened her mouth. Our hero was the least sympathetic and most annoying lead character since ‘The Hot Chick’.



Now, I could live with that in an all-out comedy like ‘The Hot Chick’, where the plot is basically “bitchy cheerleader type starts off as a bitch. Shit happens, she realizes how awful she was before, and turns into a good person; with the help of turning into Rob Schneider for most of the movie”. But here, they didn’t manage to pull it off. You see, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a major problem in that it doesn’t seem to know what direction the movie should go in.

I honestly couldn’t tell if the writers were taking the movie seriously or not. Was it a parody of bad horror movies? Was it a camp acknowledgement of itself, a poorly scripted movie sitting in a bad genre with awful characters? Or were the writers actually taking it seriously? I don’t even think they know themselves. And here’s why:

Yes, the premise is ridiculous, and the characters unbelievable – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that its existence is ironic. Much like a Hipster’s haircut (as opposed to “Hipster’s haircut much?” you fucking retards).


This, but on a dude wearing Kanye-style sunglasses.

I was honestly reminded whilst watching this of the segment in ‘The Day Today’ where we see a clip of ‘American Rapper Fur Q’, with his new hit single “Uzi Lover”, in which Chris Morris, as Fur Q, discusses how he kills people on stage during the live performance of his show, before we cut to Morris in a different disguise, as a journalist for Rolling Stone, who says “The controversy is preposterous. These killings are clearly ironic”. Was I supposed to be viewing Buffy the Vampire Slayer as one of Fur Q’s killings? Was it intentionally bad, in order to highlight how ridiculous the horror genre has become, or was it actually just awful, with some poor comedy moments thrown in so that, when questioned why their movie was so terrible, the writers could just say “well, it was ironic”. I have no idea, but I honestly feel that the writers were under the impression they had written a good movie, and it has just become the next ‘Flash Gordon’.

Did you know ‘Flash Gordon’ wasn’t supposed to be a camp comedy? The writer honestly wanted to make it into an epic art-house space-opera, somewhere between ‘Star Wars’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, and was outraged when he discovered how many people were viewing it as an outright comedy, under the impression it was, to quote Derrick Zikks of Rolling Stone; “clearly ironic”. I feel like Buffy has suffered the same fate, simply because I cannot see what it is parodying if it is meant to be ironic.

Scream was very clever, because it highlighted all the stupid clich├ęs in slasher movies, and played off them. The Blonde with the Football player boyfriend who’s flirting with a stranger on the phone dies first, the virgin survives, one of the characters sits there whilst the killer walks up behind him, despite the fact he is watching Halloween at the time, and screaming “Look behind you, Jamie!” at the screen. Everything in that movie was flawless. And that’s how you do a part-serious, part-comedy parody. Buffy does not do this, however. Buffy takes what would ordinarily be a terrible vampire movie, and throws in a couple of stupid jokes. THAT’S IT!

Ok, some of the jokes were quite funny; almost Kevin Smith-esque at a couple of points, but the overall tone of the film made these impossible to enjoy. And there were only about four of them in the film, so it definitely wasn’t worth sitting through an hour and a half just to hear them. Watch Clerks and you’ll get at least one every 2 minutes, and the dialogue outside the straight humour is also funny as hell. Here, it was shit.


On top of this, even if the movie WAS a comedy (which I’m not sure it was meant to be), it doesn’t know what type of comedy it is supposed to be. Here are 3 examples of the comedy in this film:


1. David Arquette, having been turned into a vampire, is standing by Luke Perry’s bedroom window, asking Luke Perry to invite him in. Luke Perry is drunk, and does not yet know Arquette is a vampire, so asks him why he’s acting so strange (to use the Americanism). After about a minute’s worth of discussion, Luke Perry looks down, and realizes his room is on the second floor, and Arquette is floating in the air. This is probably the cleverest joke in the whole film.

2. One of the vampire leaders has his arm torn off in a fight with Luke Perry. He turns to his henchman and says “Kill him A LOT!”. It’s a funny line, but in the context of the rest of the movie, I’m not even sure it was intentionally silly. I mean, have you ever read the script for Natural Born Killers? When Mickey’s making his ‘Hostage train’, he points his shotgun at Wayne and says “put this to your solar plexus”. ‘Solar Plexus’, seriously? That’s some bad writing, right there. Ruins the pace of the scene, goes against Mickey’s character (intelligent, but still just a farmboy at heart; says it as it is), and is completely unrealistic. “Hold this under your chin” would be far better because it not only sounds like something he might say, but it also has the more gruesome connotations of blowing the top of Wayne’s head off if he shoots him. Even if you did want the gun in the abdomen area, the character should say “point this into your stomach”, or something similar. ‘Solar Plexus’ has only ever been used effectively ONCE in a film, and that was the scene in Miss Congeniality where she explains the “S.I.N.G” defence technique. But that movie had Shatner in, so could get away with bad dialogue. So, thanks Oliver Stone, good job re-writing that script. Natural Born Killers, that is, not Miss Congeniality.

3. Buffy stabs one of the vampires, and he takes about a minute to die, falling down groaning in pain, apparently dead, then getting up again, and doing it all over again, more dramatically each time. This felt like one of those gags they do in Family Guy where they take a bad joke, and keep it running until people decide that it’s actually funny, because it’s “clearly ironic”. They’ve done this in a few Family Guy episodes, and it pisses me off every time they do it, because it just feels like they couldn’t come up with anything intelligent to fill the time slot the show’s supposed to fit. Still, I guess if I wanted an intelligent and well-made cartoon, I would be watching King of the Hill or something instead. The scene felt way more appropriate for something like “Scary Movie 2”, and that’s actually what this movie reminded me of somewhat. Whilst the original Scary movie took a pardoy of the slasher genre, and parodied THAT (to Paraphrase Michael Swaim: “So it’s a parody of a parody? Does that make it funny again?”) reasonably well (I would say the original Scary movie was worth a watch if you’ve seen the Scream movies, ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’, and ‘The Usual Suspects’, but didn’t know that you needed to have watched ‘The Usual Suspects’ to find it funny, because if you did it would ruin the joke, so had watched it incidentally to watching Scary Movie, and were unaware of the reference until you saw it, as I was), the second one took a series of poor jokes which were badly executed, and threw them into some bullshit haunted house story which didn’t really parody anything, given no-one’s made a haunted house film since about 1958. Except that animated kids one which came out after Scary Movie 2…


And that’s what Buffy felt like – essentially, it was Scary Movie 2 all over again. I went in with high expectations, expecting to see an enjoyable, if not great, Horror-comedy movie, and left severely disappointed. In fact, I almost switched Buffy off after the first half hour, because it was so bad. The only thing which stopped me from doing so was the fact that I realised just before turning it off that I had a duty to the people, to you, to watch the whole movie, and let you know how bad it was, lest you be tempted to watch it yourself the next time it is on.

Now, that said, there were a couple of good bits in the film which saved it from total disaster. The end scenes are all set at Buffy’s High School’s senior dance, and the vampires turn up to cause trouble, as you would expect in any horror movie involving a prom or a dance. What’s brilliant about this scene is the way that we see the vampires in the doorway, ready to attack, and Buffy (or possibly Luke Perry) says “they can’t come in. We have to invite them in.”, and Hillary Swank, who was organizing the dance, realizes that she sent them all invitations because they were all students. It’s a simple pleasure, but it really was an enjoyable line. Stephen Root also has a great role in the movie as the incompetent principle of Buffy’s School, and his recollections of the “Doobie Brothers” concert where he tried acid is one of the funniest parts of the film, as well as his interview over the end credits. However, he is criminally under-used, and has 3 minutes of screen time at the very most, including his end credits scene. Other than him, however, the acting is pretty awful.

Buffy is terrible, with no emotional range (not that she needs it for the character, I suppose), and you wonder if they only hired her for her looks, or her ability to do the basic gymnastics required for cheerleading (which she probably didn’t do anyway, given how many stunt performers were involved). Luke Perry seems to be playing Mathew Lillard, though I suppose to be fair to him, this movie probably came out before Lillard ever did a film (anyone seen him in a movie made prior to ‘Scream’?). All the other girls (Buffy’s friends) are completely identical, as are the boys. Hell, they all look the same, too (except the guy who went to the prom in an outfit which clearly influenced Matt Smith’s style choices for The Doctor very heavily – mad props to him). Even Donald Sutherland was bland, uninteresting.

Now, in defence of the actors, I think this is more the script’s fault than anything else. All the characters are stereotypes; caricatures. There is nothing special about any of them. The girls are all typical bimbos, the boys are either stereotypical jocks, or else stereotypical ‘rebels’. Donald Sutherland is the stereotypical old guy who has to pass on advice, but whose student is unwilling, and the bad guys have been done a billion times before. Now, a truly great actor would take a role like that, and make it his own. They would add to the character themselves, build on them, invent a personality and a back story, make them fascinating. But in this, no-one did. And I can honestly see their point; why put in all that effort if the writer couldn’t be bothered to? Sure, the iconic scene in Taxi Driver where DeNiro tough-talks his reflection was just written as ‘Travis looks in the mirror’ in the script, but if Scorsese (and writing partner?) hadn’t put so much effort into creating the other aspects of the character, DeNiro would have had nothing to play off of. “so, should I do this as a paranoid psychotic practicing intimidating victims, or should I do it as a Guido who’s trying to show off his rip to the ladys? The Situation is in the House, yo!” (DeNiro is half Italian, and is therefore half Guido).


How it went from 'Goodfellas' to THIS, I'll never know...


On top of the poor acting and scripting, this movie contains nothing else of interest, either. The direction is poor, the cinematography is dull, but fairly conventional for the most part, and the editing is sloppy and occasionally confusing (It doesn’t help that everyone looks the fucking same in this film – it’s like watching The OC or Jersey Shore, or something…).


It's hard deciding which I'd rather watch for an hour...


Basically, there is nothing good about this movie in technical or actual terms, it just has a couple of semi-decent jokes in, and a few actors you will recognize from infinitely better films.




And now for the hard part. This movie wasn’t absolutely terrible, and did have a few redeeming moments. Hell, I even laughed a couple of times at things I was supposed to be laughing at, rather than just how bad it was! But I have to try and fit it into a scale.


Was this movie better than Iron Man 2?

No, it wasn’t.


Was it better than The Dark Knight?

Closer, but I would still say “no”. The scripting on both was equally poor, with some equally bad acting and effects, but the Dark Knight at least had a memorable score, and Heath Ledger was great in it (better than either Stephen Root or David Arquette, I would say). So, whilst this is probably better in terms of cost of film vs quality of film, I still think it was worse overall.


Now the big one – Was it better or worse than 2012?

The characters were as bland in each, the jokes were as poor in each, and the script was as awful in each. And yet, in 2012, I see some good. I can see why normal people would enjoy it; it’s just not for me. People want to see what the end of the world would look like without having to think about the depressing realities of everyone around them dying, and 2012 certainly achieved that. But can we really judge a movie on whether it achieves what it set out to or not? This movie spawned a series, and was undoubtedly popular, so does this make it better? The answer is no, I have to go on what I felt. And since I didn’t want to turn 2012 off after the first half hour, I would have to say that was better, even if I did mainly keep watching it for comedic value (which is why I SHOULD have been watching this, it just wasn’t funny enough!)

So, this has to be the poorest movie I feel I have reviewed so far. But then, it is infinitely better than, say, ‘Halloween Part 6’, ‘28 Weeks later’ or ‘Attack Force’ (the worst Seagal film I’ve watched! Hell, they didn’t even get him back for the voiceovers – it’s just some random guy!), and I would rate it way above Scary Movie 2, even with that “Christmas records for black people” joke. But there are so many better films out there, even in this genre. The Lost Boys was a far superior vampire comedy, and as I said, Scream was a much better horror parody.


Rating:

*


1 Star


I feel really mean not giving this 2 stars, because it was clearly shot on such a low budget, and therefore is undoubtedly better than most of the movies I gave 2 stars on a proportionate scale. However, if that was how ratings worked, ‘Colin’ would be regarded as the best movie ever made, and they wouldn’t make these summer blockbusters any more. But, in the end, I had to follow my heart. Plus, you know, totally diss the fanboys, and make a statement.

To be honest, if I had never watched the show, and therefore had no fond memories of it, and if nobody went on about how great Joss Whedon is, I probably would have given this movie 2 stars – but my crushing sense of disappointment forced me to deduct one (and before anyone shouts Hypocrite, yes I did still give The Dark Knight 2 stars despite being severely disappointed with it, but at least The Dark Knight has spawned countless amusing parodies, rather than people saying “angry much?”, “The Dark Knight much?”, and other such phrases). This movie isn’t absolutely awful (hence it wasn’t given 0 stars), and I reckon on the re-watch I might actually enjoy it (I hated Hot Fuzz when I first saw it, but actually decided it wasn’t that bad after seeing it again – I think you enjoy this sort of movie more if you know what to expect), but it really didn’t do it for me, and much in the same manner as I rated the Jonas Brothers’ movie 1 star on IMDB without seeing it, I must counter the constant praises thrown on Whedon by his fanboys. Take THAT, bitch!



I am now seriously considering watching Twilight, just to see if I actually enjoy it more than this film (hard to imagine, but possible). I mean, it’s meant to be quite good. I saw a clip from it which looked really impressive, where the bully’s older brother comes into the sports centre with a knife, and holds the main character’s head under the water, then the vampire arrives and kills the bullies. Made me really want to watch the rest of it.




Voice


Seriously, though; watch The Lost Boys instead.

3 comments:

  1. Whilst your comment on Facebook was correct, i am a Whedon fanboy, i have kept away from the movie as i know people who have seen it who had much the same opinion as yours (though less effectively worded)

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  2. Ah, so you would still recommend watching all his other shows - and feel the movie is nothing more than an anomaly? Hell, I suppose even if they are bad, I could still review them...

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  3. come to think of it, i think i have seen all his other shows, and whilst i have no problem with them, i would still recommend Firefly as his best work

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