Movie Novelizations #3: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Everyone has heard of the tv show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, the show is a darkly humorous take on horror movies and teen dramas that has captured a very specific and loyal audience. The mythology of the show is very intricate and the rules very strict. In fact, the tv show Buffy the Vampire Slayer bears little resemblance to the 1992 movie that birthed it.

Back in 1992, 20th Century Fox decided to release Joss Whedon’s creation about a cheerleading vampire killer. Unfortunately, they also thought his vision was too dark. They decided to re-write it and make it more humorous and remove some of the darker aspects of the slayer myths and much of the killing. They continued to re-write throughout filming. So much so, that Joss walked off the set never to return. 20th Century Fox went ahead without him and we all saw the result. The movie tanked. I saw it in the theater because I thought it had a very interesting premise. While the underlying ideas were very cool, the execution was a complete disaster. If you are familiar with the tv shows Buffy and Angel, then you can hear parts of the movie that shadow what may have been. Donald Sutherland is great as the watcher, Merrick. Kristy Swanson is a pretty good, Buffy, too. The movie falls apart with the performances of two people. Rutger Hauer as Lothos, and Luke Perry as Pike. These two are bad, laughably bad. Not laugh ha-ha, but laugh “oh my god this is awkward” bad. I expected this from Luke Perry, as I was never a fan of him, even when I was watching 90210 religiously. But Rutger Hauer has had some really good roles. I have no idea what happened, but it wasn’t good whatever it was.

Buffy DVD Angel DVD
Since the movie was so bad, it took Joss another 5 years before he could begin to get the ball rolling on the Buffy storyline again. Figuring the damage done by the movie had long been forgotten, he wrote a somewhat “sequel” to his original Buffy script that became the pilot to a new show about the same character. To further distance the show from the movie, he moved the setting from LA to the fictional Sunnydale, CA and recast the lead actress. The show became a hit and spawned a very successful spinoff, Angel. I didn’t jump on the Buffy bandwagon right away. It was one of the first shows on the new WB in 1997 and I was just not convinced. After hearing about it for several years I checked it out but was a little lost because the storyline was so involved. Although I didn’t like it, I watched Angel which aired right after it. This show, while also confusing, had several characters I very much enjoyed and a darker premise. I really enjoyed Angel and watched it off and on until it was cancelled in 2004. I joined Netflix while consulting so I could watch the entire 5 season DVD collection of Angel. I finished it in Spring 2005 and the show stands as one of my favorite shows of all time. Buffy has been harder to finish. I am currently working through the season 3 DVDs as I have time (I bought the seven season Chosen Collection cheap during a sale last november). The show definately improves each season.

Anywho, that brings me to the 1992 movie novelization. What I was really hoping for was that the book would reflect the original Joss Whedon script and not the shooting script. I was wrong. There are several differences between the book and movie, though. Don Sutherland’s Merrick kills himself in the book to save Buffy, but he gets killed in the movie (like a bitch). The prologue in the book gives more information on the history of the slayers as opposed to the movie. Also, in the end, you see Buffy and Pike ride off into the sunset on a motorcycle. In the book, you see them ascending a long staircase at an old stone building, I guess alluding to their further adventures. The rest is pretty much the same. I enjoyed the book and there was definately more evidence of Joss’ writing in the book than in the movie. It’s an interesting proposition to think what would have been the result of the movie and tv show if they had used his original, and darker script. Would the movie have been successful? Would that have led to more movies and no tv show? Who knows.

A final note on the 1992 movie. I was suprised how many famous faces show up in this movie. One of Buffy’s group of girlfriends is Hilary Swank. Luke Perry’s buddy is David Arquette. If you watch closely at the end during the final basketball game, you’ll see Ben Affleck in a quick scene. The school’s counselor is Stephen Root who played Milton in Office Space and Jimmy James on the TV show NewsRadio. Several suprises I didn’t expect. Doesn’t really help the watchabilty of the movie, though.

Other Movie Novelization Reviews:
Clue: The Movie
Back to the Future Trilogy

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3 Responses to “Movie Novelizations #3: Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

  1. […] written as a sequel to Whedon’s original script, not this movie. I’ve actually reviewed this movie and the book novelization on my blog. SPOILER ALERT: It’s terrible. I saw it in the theater and have watched it a few times since. […]

  2. smurfwreck Says:

    As far as the flick goes, I keep going hot and cold on this one. Sometimes I like it, even after watching it, and sometimes I think about it and wonder if I was crazy for watching it so much in high school. I think I liked it a lot more before the tv series came out, and after that I just didn’t know what to think.

    It so strange to think that Hillary Swank came from this and the Next Karate Kid…

  3. […] read and reviewed a few of the more obscure movie novelizations like Clue: The Movie, the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie as well as a bunch of old rare horror novelizations like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th […]

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