Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Suck It, Day 20 - Buffy the Vampire Slayer (movie and series)

Since the dawn of man, the vampires have walked among us, killing, feeding... The only one with the strength or skill to stop their heinous evil is the slayer -- she who bears the birthmark, the mark of the coven. Trained by the watcher, one slayer dies, and the next is chosen.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (movie and television show)

You can't talk vampires without mentioning the name of Joss Whedon, the guy who wrote a pretty good script that became a not-so-great movie but inspired him to do a stake-TASTIC television show. I pride myself on the fact that, before it became cool to quote Joss, my college roommates and I used to quote this movie all the time. "Nice ensemble; what a homeless." ... "Excuse much, rude or anything?" ... and just imagine two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank saying "Ugh, get out of my facial."

There had been tons of vampire movies about teenagers, but none quite like this. There have been vampire slayers and hunters, most notably Van Helsing, but none who were destined from birth to do it, given special powers to help them do it. Not to mention forced to do it alone. The quote at the top of the post is from the opening narration at the movie, but it very closely resembles the voice-over that opened each Buffy episode of the first season. In fact, for all its high-school-movie cheese, the movie remarkably resembles the first season of Whedon's show. Aside from the regular vampires, there was an ominous Master Vampire who Buffy has dreams about, is psychically connected to, and is not immediately ready to fight. There are other echoes of the movie in the television show as well. From the superficial (Buffy as a cheerleader) to the stylistic (martial arts fighting style) to the relationships between certain characters (Buffy's watcher being annoyed with her, but recognizing her as special, more special perhaps than any of the others before her).

I do have an immense fondness for the movie, but you won't get any argument from me that the television show was leaps and bounds more satisfying and richly conceived. The "high school is hell" theme was a brilliant one, and the idea that the Hellmouth attracted not just vampires but all sorts of hellish creatures gave the show a wealth of sources for villainy - a witchy mom, praying mantis lady, hyena-students, zombies, the fishy swim team, the coma kid who makes everyone's nightmares come true, the Inca mummy girl, the evil robot stepfather, eggs that hatch arachnoid babies, Faith, the Mayor, the alternate universe where vampires rule Sunnydale, the Initiative, Adam, the creepy voice-stealing Gentlemen, Glory the god from hell, the demon who makes everyone sing and dance, the super-geek trio, a very mean and nasty preacher named Caleb, and the First Evil. Among LOTS of others. And the way evil intersected with these characters' lives and their relationships was (mostly) extremely well done. Never more so than when the supernatural took a complete back seat to reality after a tragic event in season five.

I'm one of the rare fans who pretty much likes all the seasons, even later ones. (I was least enamored of S4.) And there are several standout episodes.

"Nightmares" - Everyone's nightmares start coming true, and while some of them are scary and some rather funny, a few are rather poignant, such as Giles's fear of Buffy's death due to his failure, plus Buffy's fear that her parents' divorce is all her fault.

"Passion" - Great use of narration with Angelus here, and his revenge against a certain character is truly cruel on a lot of levels.

"I Only Have Eyes For You" - The ghost of a former student forces various people to reenact his murder-suicide, including Buffy and Angel. The role reversal at the end is especially interesting.

"Helpless" - (I thought this was called "Eighteen," but apparently not.) My favorite episode ever and one that tests and ultimately strengthens Buffy's relationship with Giles. Last scene ("father's love") kills me.

"The Zeppo" - Xander gets very few opportunities to really shine, but this episode belongs to him, while everyone else prepares for the apocalypse in the background and, for his protection, relegates him to a non-participant, allowing him to have his own deadly adventure.

"Hush" - Stupid Whedon tricks are rarely stupid, and this mostly silent episode is a real slice of genius.

"The Body" - Yeah. Just ... yeah.

"The Gift" - Nearly as emotional as "The Body," for different reasons. And oh man, Giles's scene with Ben is a thing of beauty.

"Once More, With Feeling" - Duh. It's on everyone's faves list. Everyone does a great job here with the song and dance thing, but standouts are Tony Head, James Marsters, and Amber Benson. And of course the Spuffy-lover in me digs the end. :P

"Normal Again" - The supergeeks send a demon to make Buffy believe that everything she knows is pretend. This was pretty clever, I thought, especially given Buffy's revelation that she had been taken to a mental institution when she first started seeing vampires. And the ambiguous ending is just brilliant.

"Grave" - Oh, Xander.

"Dirty Girls" - First appearance of Caleb (Nathan Fillion) and the point where "shit just got real," as they say. A lot of S7 blends together with all the Potentials and training and research and whatnot, but this was a rare standout.


Here's a fairly epic compilation of all seven seasons of the show, but be warned - 'TIS SPOILERY!

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