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review added: 8/17/01



Buffy the Vampire Slayer
1992 (2001) - 20th Century Fox

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C+/B/D+

Specs and Features

86 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 52:46, at the start of chapter 20), Amaray keep case packaging, featurette, theatrical trailer, 2 TV spots, promo trailers (for Batman: The Movie, Bedazzled, Big Trouble in Little China, The Legend of Hell House and Young Frankenstein), film-themed menu screens, scene access (30 chapters), languages: English (DD 4.0 & 2.0), subtitles: English, Spanish, Closed Captioned

"They had fangs, they were biting people, they had this look in their eyes - totally cold, animal. I think they were Young Republicans."

All right slayers, pack up your wooden stakes and glossy lipstick because it's time to kick some vampire ass - in style! Your Master Slayer tonight will be Buffy (Kristy Swanson). Sure, she may look like your average teen princess valley girl, but trust me... she can dispatch the undead without even breaking a nail. But Buffy wasn't always all about slaying vampires. Just a few short weeks before, Buffy was a happy-go-lucky (if a bit lacking in intellect) high school senior with a close following of friends and a hunky beau. Yes... life was peachy for Buffy until a number of her fellow high school students began turning up murdered, killed by severe neck and shoulder tissue trauma. Then a mysterious stranger calling himself Merrick (Donald Sutherland) shows up one day claiming that Buffy is the "chosen one". He proves to Buffy that vampires are to blame, and tells her that she must train with him if she's to fulfill her destiny of ridding the world (and her senior dance) of this terrible plight. But it won't be an easy task - Buffy must confront Master Vampire Lothos (Rutger Hauer) and his right-hand-man (literally - see the film) Amilyn (played by Paul Reubens). In past incarnations, and for many generations, Buffy has battled against Lothos. But this time, Buffy's training began late, and she isn't as disciplined as the past Slayers. Will she have what it takes to finally defeat the Master Vampire, or will she be just another in a line of Slayers destined to fall to Lothos?

On the surface, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a fairly typical teen flick - a cross between a campy slasher film and a valley girl comedy (think Clueless and an entire decade of '80s teen comedies). Buffy doesn't tread too much new ground. Much of the film is predictable, its pace slows down in the middle and there are some decidedly anti-climactic moments. I also take issue with the casting of Rutger Hauer as the Master Vampire Lothos. Paul Reubens is so funny and so unusual in this film, that he really needed someone less archetypal to play opposite him to help spice up the evil pair... perhaps Crispin Glover?

With all that said, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still a movie that is a lot of fun to watch, if you take it for what it's worth and don't carry any high expectations. For the most part, the script is average, but there are several very funny and very memorable lines. I hadn't seen this film since its theatrical run in the late summer of 1992, but here it is nine years later, and the lines that "slayed" me then (get it?) were still just as funny. Not one to normally sing the praises of Kristy Swanson, I did find her performance here to be entertaining (and even convincing) as her character psychologically matures in the latter portion of the story. Luke Perry makes his feature film debut as Buffy's sidekick Pike, and his performance is every bit as entertaining and likeable (he's responsible for most of the memorable lines).

Fox has presented Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio (anamorphically enhanced, of course), but the results are a notch or two below the studio's normally gorgeous transfers. The entire image takes on a very soft appearance through much of the film's length and, during darker moments, film grain becomes excessive. Both of these anomalies obscure fine picture detail. Colors are accurately conveyed for the most part, however appear slightly washed out and dated in some scenes. On plus side, the master used for the transfer is very clean and free from any overt blemishes.

The audio on this disc is also a mixed bag in terms of quality, yet fares better than the video. The Dolby Digital 4.0 mix conveys a nice sense of fidelity, but some of the dialog is obviously ADR looped, with poor spatial placement in the mix in reference to the location of the characters on screen. For example, in one scene, Buffy and Merrick are sitting in a car talking, yet the dialog sounds like it was recorded in a cave. Moments of hiss between lines of dialog were also noted in several areas. Thankfully, however, the rear channels are used to enrich the soundscape during more action-packed moments, and the music is nicely spread amongst the front three channels.

As for extras, Fox has included an EPK-style promotional featurette that runs approximately four minutes. There's not much meat here, but there is some footage of backstage tomfoolery that is fun to see. The theatrical trailer and two TV spots for the film are on this disc, as well as "Fox Flix" trailers for other DVDs (including Batman: The Movie, Bedazzled, Big Trouble in Little China, The Legend of Hell House and Young Frankenstein).

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is far from a perfect film, but its entertaining and likable characters (along with several very funny bits of dialog) make it worth at least a Saturday night rental. While the technical features of the DVD won't wow anyone, they're still... like, totally acceptable. Almost.

Greg Suarez
gregsuarez@thedigitalbits.com




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