The Buffy prequel I'd love to see
It is a widely-known and 100 % objective fact that “Buffy the vampire slayer” is the best TV show ever made. Everyone who doesn’t know that is clearly weird or has never watched any television show. All joking aside though, there are reasons why decades after its initial run Buffy still has a huge (and growing) loyal fan base, why lots of academic papers have been written about the show and why Joss Whedon got to direct The Avengers. “Buffy the vampire slayer” (or in short BTVS) is incredibly well-crafted and still holds up amazingly after all these years. The writing and the acting are top-notch The characters, although inhabiting a fantasy world full of vampires, demons and mystical forces, seem relatable and real. The humor is sublime, the drama hits you right in the guts and some of the more experimental episodes (like “Hush”, “The body” and “Once more, with feeling”) will forever be among the best experiences ever put on screen. If you have never watched the show, I implore you to do it and to avoid spoilers of any type. It will enhance the experience by a lot!
Now that is not to say that BTVS is without flaws. It is very much a product of its time (although in many ways ahead of its time), some of the effects are … well … bad, the first season is almost exclusively episodic in a monster-of-the-week type of way, and of course there are many familiar tropes you’ve seen a million times (although I’d argue that BTVS did many of them first or at least with a nice twist). And then there is the unspeakable tragedy of the Buffy the vampire slayer HD remaster, which is, to put it mildly, atrocious. How anyone ever got paid for this terrible remastering job is absolutely beyond me. There are videos on YouTube, explaining in quite some length how the shot composition, effects and pretty much all of the color grading are completely off, even turning some nighttime shots into scenes in broad daylight. It’s utterly absurd and a disgrace. Why anyone would do this to a universally beloved show like BTVS, when the technology is clearly there to make it right, I can only guess (greed, money, incompetence, laziness). So if you’re planning on watching the show, try to find the original non-remastered version in 4:3 aspect ratio. It’s gonna get harder to do so, as streaming services are starting to replace it with the terrible new version. But enough about that tragedy. Let’s get to the point of this blog entry.
The Buffy movie
Before there was the show, Joss Whedon got a first shot at bringing his vampire slayer to life in 1992. And it was pretty bad. Full disclosure: I’ve never watched the whole movie. It’s cringy, it’s bad and it has pretty much no ties to the show. The creators went back to square one after this train wreck and reassessed the whole concept. The final showdown of the movie is mentioned once or twice in the show though, so this might be a good time to say that I will get into some mild spoilers for both the movie and the TV show from here on. I’ll just assume that everyone who keeps reading this is at least somewhat familiar with the Buffyverse.
As I said, the movie is bad and the show is amazing, which is why I would absolutely love to see a remake of those dreadful 86 minutes that does does BTVS justice and completely ties into it. I wanna see a good introduction to Buffy for a new generation, one that would motivate teenagers around the world to start binge watching the show, maybe even with their parents who are probably only waiting for an excuse to get into BTVS again.
If I was to make that movie (which I am not), this is what I would do: First I’d go through all 7 seasons of BTVS again (and hell, why not, the 5 seasons of Angel as well?) and write down every single mention of Buffy’s old highschool or anything that’s supposed to have happened before the pilot episode. Remember that guy, Ford? He should be in the movie. Buffy’s first encounter with a watcher, complete with Angel and Whistler in that car in the background? Definitely! Buffy’s reaction to dusting her first vampire (“Just a trick of light!”)? Obviously. And of course we have to burn down the gym because “that place was full of vampi…asbestos.” I would love to see a movie that incorporates all those little (and not so little) details while also telling a compelling and timely story of a young girl who finds out she was destined to battle the forces of evil. In the 1990s.
Some ideas and themes
BTVS, at its core, has always been a metaphor for growing up and how that’s just overwhelming and terrifying at times. What we know about the pre-show Buffy is that she was quite popular and maybe a bit shallow. We know that her parents were getting a divorce and I think the movie should explore the effects that has on Buffy. Deep down, she feels responsible for it (another thing we learn during the show). Her dad probably wasn’t around much. They have this tradition of watching Brian Boitano together, but that might be about it. Joyce probably wasn’t the best or most confident mother either (the show establishes that she reads a lot of parenting guides) and the Summers’ home surely wasn’t the most wholesome place to live in at the time. Which is why it makes perfect sense for teenage Buffy to get all rebellious, fall in with the wrong crowd and eventually burn down the gym, which is the official story of what happened. Everyone knowing about the vampire attack has to die by the end of the movie (except for maybe Ford, who could witness the whole thing and survive).
When Buffy arrives in Sunnydale, she’s immediately accepted by the popular girls (Cordelia), but also actively seeks out different types of friends. She shows the confidence to befriend “nerdy losers” and seems to see no reason why she can’t hang with both groups. Later on in the show she describes herself as having been shallow in the past (even more so than Cordelia) which is why I think there has to be some kind of transformation going on during the movie, so that it makes sense for her character to shift focus from popular friends to “real” friends. That’s the character growth I want to see.
Buffy needs to be let down by her spoiled clique, while getting unexpected support from some nerdy bookworm guy (cliché, I know) who just happens to be there when she is fighting off a couple of vampires. At some point in the movie they could have an honest, emotional talk about how Buffy never thought she was better than anyone but somehow just never made the time to really get to know most of her fellow students. She could realize that there is more to most people than meets the eye and that she might have to actively make an effort to get to know them because not everything good just comes your way (in fact few things do). By the end of the movie, when her new friend inevitably has to die, he could make her promise to, at least every once in a while, take a good look at the people around her and give them a chance to be more than just strangers. That could be a very heartfelt, sad moment and it would just make perfect sense.
So what else? One very minor thing in the show that has been bugging me, is this: At some point in season 4, Buffy encounters a vampire and a demon who are teaming up to fight her. According to Giles, this is highly unusual because demons generally deem vampires impure. Never before or after is this mentioned again. In fact, we actually see vampires hanging out with demons every once in a while. So maybe we could bring it up in the movie, so that the observant viewer better understands the unusualness of the situation? I can picture a scene not too far into the movie where some vampires enter a demon bar and the barkeeper tells them that their kind is not wanted there. Someone could call them “filthy half-breeds” to hammer that point home. Then the vampires could say that they are not usually eager to socialize with demons either, but that they are looking for something because according to a trustworthy source, the Watcher’s Council has recently sent one of their employees to the neighborhood to welcome a potential new slayer. That should probably lead to the bar closing down and the demons laying low because it’s established in the show that Buffy has only fought vampires before coming to Sunnydale. In that bar scene, somewhere in the background, we could have Whistler enjoying a drink and then suddenly paying close attention to the conversation at the bar. Later on that day he would go and seek out Angel. We’re not gonna see that in the movie – but it’s a really cool Easter egg.
Another thing: In the pilot episode of the show, Buffy is quick to identify a vampire based on his outdated clothing. It stands to reason that the vampires in the movie would all be wearing some kind of medieval attire. That’s also a cool contrast to vampire clans we see over the course of the show. The main villain of the film might be an old lord who has turned all of his servants into vampires to keep enjoying the pleasures of nobility. He can be well-spoken and maybe a bit dorky. Or maybe gay or completely over the top like Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook. He shouldn’t be anything like the Master, to keep up the tradition of making each big bad unique.
I also want a scene where Buffy jumps over a fence like she does in the pilot episode of the show. This ability is quickly forgotten, probably because it makes her too much of a superhero. It would be nice to see it once again though, for continuity. Maybe we can even fix it. If I remember the pilot correctly, we never actually see her jump over the fence, but rather just land on the other side. So maybe this time we could see her jumping, grabbing the fence and doing some sort of somersault. Less superhuman and more of an athletic approach. If “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” has told us anything, it’s that a prequel can improve an old movie by finding logical explanations for its flaws (and that Darth Vader is fucking awesome). It would be cool to do the same for Buffy, although that show is already close to flawless.
I haven’t talked about Buffy’s first watcher yet, and it’s mostly because I don’t have much to say there. He obviously needs to be dead by the end of the movie. And I don’t think he should have any type of strong bond with Buffy, to make her relationship with Giles more unique. Maybe he can be kind of a douche, like Quentin. He should do his job, give us some exposition, show Buffy the basics and, well, maybe do research. I don’t wanna overcrowd the movie and I think those are the most important characters. The focus should be on Buffy’s emotional journey. On the lack of security in her life. On her broken family. On her realization that maybe her social position at school isn’t that great either. On some kicking butt and dusting vampires. And punning, obviously. We need an actress who can play Buffy in a similar way to Sarah Michelle Gellar. Of course, with today’s technology, SMG could reprise the role, but I don’t think she has any interest in doing that. And that’s fine. I think one of the most important aspects of playing a famous character is getting the speech patterns right. If she sounds like Buffy, I’ll buy into it. Of course the script needs some good whedonesque writing. Maybe we could also see that Buffy got the affinity for puns from her dad? That might be nice.
Let’s kick this off right
If done right, this movie could make a lot of money (which is great for the studio), revitalize the franchise (great for everyone) and make millions of fans happy (great for us). It could even be the catalyst for a new HD remaster, this time done by people who actually care about the show. Oh the possibilities! So with all that being said, I’ll leave you with how I picture the first couple of minutes of the film:
SHANGHAI. NIGHTTIME. AN EMPTY ALLEY.
A young woman is being chased by two men. She runs, panting. They’re coming closer.
She reaches the end of the alley. It’s a dead. Just a wall with a locked metal door.
She stops. Closes her eyes. Inhales. Exhales. The two creeps stop right behind her. We hear the sound of a switchblade. One guy reaches out for her.
Suddenly the woman spins around and stabs him right in the heart. She’s the one with the switchblade, only it’s not a metal blade but one made out of wood. The guy freezes mid movement and exhales sharply. There’s something wrong with his face but you can’t quite make it out in the dark alley.
The second guy instantly reacts and tries to hit the woman. She blocks his attack. They fight for a few seconds before she stakes him as well. He turns to dust. The dust still lingers in the air for a couple of seconds. A camera pan reveals some leftover dust particles where the first attacker had been a couple of seconds prior.
Then suddenly a third vampire jabs his fangs into the woman’s neck from behind her. She screams and drops the knife. He had come through the metal door which is now open. The woman’s limbs go numb. She just hangs there, weak, held up only by the teeth in her neck. Her gaze becomes lifeless. The camera zooms out of the now silent scene of a young woman and her attacker, while the sound of her heartbeat grows louder and slower. Then it stops. We’ve now zoomed out to a wide shot of the alley. You can hear people and cars in the distance, but there is no life left in the ally.
TITLE CARD: BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
SOMEWHERE NEAR L.A.
A young blond woman wakes up in her bedroom to the obnoxious sound of an alarm clock. She’s had a bad dream, but she shakes it off. The sunlight is shining through the window. The voices of her parents fighting somewhere in the house are all too familiar to her. She shakes that off too. It’s time for school. Better get ready. She gets up, brushes her teeth, does her morning routine while early 1990s music is playing and the actors’ names come up on screen. Little does she know about the insane week she’s going to have.
Cliché, I know. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!