Buffy the Vampire Slayer screenshot

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

three stars

A high school cheerleader discovers she's destined to slay vampires, which is like totally not what she had in mind.


Though better known as a television series, Joss Whedon's vampire-slaying Valley girl made her screen debut in the 1992 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Teen vampire movies like Fright Night and The Lost Boys paved the way for Buffy, which leans heavily on its comedic dialogue and is light on scares. The movie is like a self-aware time capsule, making fun of the early '90s while they were happening.

Buffy is your average blonde high school senior cheerleader. She spends her time at the mall and dreams of the day she can go to Europe and marry Christian Slater. All that is disrupted with the arrival of Merrick, who tells Buffy she's destined to slay an ancient vampire named Lothos. But with the senior dance rapidly approaching, does she really have time for that?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer screenshot

Buffy the Vampire Slayer borrows from a number influences, including Benny hovering outside a window in a scene reminiscent of Salem's Lot. Most notably, the basketball game can only be described as Teen Wolf-esque, from the illegal use of supernatural abilities to the nutty coach. The film utilizes these elements while respecting the vampire premise, managing to avoid becoming a full-blown lampoon of horror films.

The story may focus on vampires, but it is still first and foremost a comedy. Paul Reubens is effortlessly enthralling, stealing the show as the lead vampire henchman, but every character is great, from burnout duo Pike and Benny to Buffy and her clique. The Valley girl and '90s teenager dialogue is still ridiculous decades removed. Even through the comedy, they manage to tell a relatable coming-of-age story where Buffy gains perspective on what's important and what's superficial.

The film is often overshadowed by the later episodic series, ignored by the Whedon-worshipping fans and forgotten by casual viewers. The writer has disowned what ended up on film, ignoring it completely when starting his TV show. It's unfortunate that the series has caused the movie to be shunned by would-be fans instead of being embraced for what it is: a wonderfully hilarious and weird horror comedy.