The Daily Stream: Can We Finally Admit Buffy The Vampire Slayer The Movie Is Good, Actually?

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

Where to Watch It: Amazon Prime / Tubi TV

The Pitch: High school senior Buffy (Kristy Swanson) is a sharp-tongued cheerleader whose main priorities are shopping, choreographing routines, preparing for the next school dance, and hanging out with her equally superficial and rich friends. One day at school, she's approached by a man named Merrick (Donald Sutherland) who tells her that he is a Watcher and she is The Chosen One, a slayer destined from birth to kill vampires, and it is his responsibility to train her. Buffy understandably thinks he's full of it and dismisses his claims, but when she begins to demonstrate otherworldly abilities and her SoCal hometown finds itself overrun with vampires, it's up to Buffy to trade in her shopping bags for stakes in the heart, and save the world.

Why It's Essential Viewing

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" gets a bad rap, mostly because the series of the same name is so beloved. Many people feel as if they're supposed to hate this movie in order to love the show. Series creator and the film's screenwriter Joss Whedon also famously hates the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" movie, frequently citing his dislike of the changes director Fran Rubel Kuzui made during production. Odd, considering between Kuzui and Whedon, only one of the two has ever actually experienced life as a teen girl, but I digress. The reality is that "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is an fantastic teen movie with great jokes, hilarious performances from cult icons, costume designs to die for, and arguably the best non-Pee Wee Herman role of Paul Reubens' career.

While the show was given multiple seasons to explore the lore and tackle the complexities that come with being a teenage girl fated to protect the world from supernatural creatures, the film version of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" manages to tackle the same concept in a quick and entertaining way. Inspired by Kelli Maroney's character in "Night of the Comet," Buffy perfected the Valley Girl-style character and paved the way for other similar roles like Cher Horowitz in "Clueless." The building blocks for both the renaissance of great teen comedies in the late '90s and the "strong female character" genre archetype in films of the '00s all exist in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Buffy walked so many of our faves could run.

'All I Wanna Do is Graduate From High School, Go to Europe, Marry Christian Slater, and Die'

What makes "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" such a magical film is how unabashedly fun the movie insists on being while simultaneously allowing genuine growth for our titular performer. When you're a teenager, your high school existence feels like the biggest and most important thing in the world, because at the time, it genuinely is. On the surface, Buffy is just another pretty, popular, shallow teen, but throughout the film comes to realize that there's so much more than peaking in high school. Buffy's destiny allows her to realize something that so many people never do: that there's a great big world out there filled with interesting people and experiences beyond anything you'd be able to experience if you chose to stay in your hometown for the rest of your life. 

There's a great moment when Buffy realizes that the vampires have invaded the end of the year dance and looks to her friend Kimberly (Hilary Swank), who admits she let them in because "they're seniors." It's super funny because Swank's delivery is top-notch, but it also paints the picture of how Buffy's maturation and decision to see beyond their Sunnydale/Pasadena neighborhoods allows her to have a better understanding on what's really going on. Kimberly isn't there yet. In her mind, these red Kool-Aid stained mouthed vampires are seniors, and no matter what harm they may cause by showing up at the dance, this is an "important" moment for those students, and she's not going to deny them.

That growth is not easy, and sometimes it's messy and half-baked. The execution of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" mimics that clunkiness, and that's not a bad thing.

'Kill Him A Lot'

God, this movie is so funny. From start to finish, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is littered with great lines, with my favorite being a news anchor describing the vampire scene at the dance by saying, "They had fangs. They were biting people. They had this look in their eyes — totally cold. Animal. I think they were Young Republicans." The socio-political commentary is biting and everyone is firing on all cylinders. Donald Sutherland's Merrick serves as the film's de-facto "straight man," to the point that when he finally does crack a joke, Buffy replies with, "Oh, you made a joke. Do you wanna lie down? I know it hurts the first time." The comedy is the beating heart of the film and if you allow yourself to suspend your disbelief and fall into the world they've created, it's such a delightful movie-watching experience.

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" boasts a great protagonist, but it also provides wonderful villains. Paul Reubens' character Amilyn is the role of a lifetime. He has great hair, hysterical quips, and is the vampiric living embodiment of the phrase "am I the drama?" Vampires tend to fall into the camps of either mind-blowingly hot and dripping with sex appeal, or monstrous creatures. The vampires of "Buffy" instead feel like the precursor to characters we'd later see in films and shows like "What We Do in the Shadows," especially in reference to Rutger Hauer's "Lothos." Hauer serves a queen-esque gothic vampire Daddy performance that is so underappreciated, both in the canon of vampires and in the legacy of his career. He chews the scenery and hams up every scene, and it works perfectly. Everyone in this film knows exactly what kind of movie this is, except for maybe Joss Whedon.

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is a camp masterpiece, and in the early '90s, we just weren't appreciative of what the film had to offer. Now that we're in a time that actually understands and celebrates camp, we can finally admit what has always been true: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is like, totally rad.