Picks and Pans Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

updated 08/17/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/17/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland, Paul Reubens, Rutger Hauer, Luke Perry

Don't let Twentieth Century Fox, or anyone else, convince you that this movie is a spoof. It is a straightforward vampire movie, with lots of neck biting, blood gushing and stakes through the heart. Even Reubens, who as the main monster's right-hand vampire is the only player with a sense of camp, kicks a girl in the stomach.

After a colorful opening sequence in which Swanson {Hot Shots) leads her Los Angeles high school cheerleading squad through a hip-hop cheer, director Fran Rubel (Tokyo Pop) Kuzui takes the easy way out. Like Roman Polanski in his putative 1967 spoof, The Fearless Vampire Killers, Kuzui settles for routine bits of vampirophilia, unimaginative reworkings of the myth.

Sutherland, as an ageless coach to vampire killers—Swanson is his latest protégé—skulks around like death warmed over on a low setting. His mission is to help Swanson hunt down a star vampire, the impassive Hauer, and his overly made-up minions, led by Reubens. Swanson is perky, likable and plenty athletic as she learns to kick vampires in the teeth and other vulnerable spots.

Perry, the scrawnier of Beverly Hills, 90210's two resident hunklings, has an inconsequential role as Swanson's beau, to which he brings his Martin Sheen kite attitude and little else, certainly not any humor. In his screenwriting debut, Joss Whedon motivated him-sell enough to have Hauer call the heroine "a stupid little bitch," but didn't have the courage (or was it creativity?) to take any digs at 90210, which might have given Perry material to work with.

Trivia fiends can spot Candy (American Graffiti) Clark as Swanson's mom, columnist Liz Smith as a TV reporter, and Natasha Gregson Wagner, daughter of Natalie Wood and movie writer Richard Gregson, as one of Swanson's obnoxious, neo—Valley Girl pals who spend a lot of time trashing each other's outfits—"that's so five minutes ago."

For vampire humor, though, try George Hamilton in 1979's Love at First Bite or Tod Browning's 1931 classic Dracula with Bela Lugosi, which is funny intentionally, as well as in camp terms. (PG-13)

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