ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 1 (1997)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Charles Martin Smith (and others)

Starring:
Sarah Michelle Gellar/ Buffy
Nicolas Brendon/ Xander
Alyson Hannigan/ Willow
Charisma Carpenter/ Cordelia
PLOT-CRUNCH
Hot blonde stuff Buffy (Gellar) moves to Sunnydale with her mommy and consequently attends a new high school. That means: homework, new friends, dating and of course, battling the forces of evil. You see “Buf -Babe” happens to be the chosen “Slayer”, meaning it’s her responsibility to rid the world of vampires, demons and any other creature that dares threaten humanity. Talk about a heavy workload! And how was your week?
THE LOWDOWN
I can’t say that I was initially ecstatic when I sat my arse down to watch the first season of “Buffy” for this review, since I had never followed the show before, and to be honest, I never gave a fudge about its existence either. To my immense surprise, I found myself diggin' this baby like a teen girl going ape shite with daddy's credit card. Who knew? I quickly got addicted to this “Season 1” DVD box set and viewed it all in one shot. That’s 12 freaking 45-minute shows in one sitting, y'all! Ouch! With its wacky storylines, its horror themes and its many mysteries, the show reminded me of a “teenie” version of the "X-Files". And just like that show, this season has a main storyline (with the vampire Master dude thang) and stand-alone episodes as well (loved the giant “Praying Mantis” one…good fun times!).

And it's definitely the schizophrenic nature of “Buffy” that hooked me to it. You’ve got the serious side, in which it successively tackles relevant teen issues such as fitting in at high school (we all know high school is hell), relationships with one’s parents, teen crushes, the dating scene and of course...big bad homework. You’ve also got the action angle of the show where Buffy runs, jumps, flips and kicks all kinds of vampire bootie in a frenzy of slick martial arts moves. You’ve got the horror elements that surface due to the various monsters; the occasional suspenseful scenes and the light boo scares. You’ve got the shady brooding dude (played to a "T" by Boreanaz) that brings the eventual “love factor” to the storyline and a much-needed dose of darkness. And if that's not enough, you’ve also got the hip “teen” dialogue and the cheeky humor that never failed to bring a smile on my face. How’s that for varied?

On a negative vibe, I did have a hard time getting into this season’s main vampires and their story. I really didn’t care about that overacting bloodsucking bore coming back to life. Also, some of the un-dead spit out the most atrocious lines and come across as too “immature” for my liking. Am I supposed to fear these mooks? On a technical level, the vamp makeup isn’t all that either and some of the effects aren’t always up to par. To be fair though, most of the effects were bang-on and that’s what made the weaker ones stand out. I also didn’t buy some of the actors as 16 year old teens and that took me out of the stories sometimes (Nicholas Brendon and Charisma Carpenter look like they’re in their mid-twenties). And last but not least, being a hardcore genre fan that I am, I would’ve liked more bite to it all, a meaner edge. I don’t know if the following seasons take that path but this first season could have used a shot of morbid darkness in its milk (Angel’s presence wasn’t enough).

But overall, Buffy "numero uno" is still undeniably fun. It’s kool to see a strong female character in a show of this nature. Buffy should be every teen girl’s role model. The episodes themselves move fast, the actors have great chemistry together, the shows are at times unpredictable (they love to kill off folks that appear to be regulars) and who doesn’t want to gawk at Sarah Michelle Gellar while she performs her impressive, high flying round kicks? She can beat the shit out of me anytime (hope she wears leather). Take out your “Pom-Poms” guys and dolls...it's Buffy time!
GORE
Not much in this department. We get some average vampire makeup, some bloodless bloodsucking and some disintegrating vamps. I will admit that some of the creature effects are pretty gnarly (loved the Praying Mantis and the robot).
ACTING
Like her or not, you can’t deny Sarah Michelle Gellar’s (Buffy) talent. She has a wide range in terms of acting and really impressed me with her performance. I didn’t like Nicholas Brendon (Xander) at first but he grew on me. I found myself really digging his shtick by episode 4. Alyson Hannigan (Willow) is solid as the “nerdy” type girl. I did expect her to talk about “Band Camp” and whip out a flute at any moment though. Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia) does the bitch thing very well and handles her sharp dialogue like a champ. She’s got a great “derriere” too. Anthony Stewart Head (Giles) brings balance to the show as the more “straight” character. Ken Lerner (Principal Flutie) got on my nerves as the pestering principal, I was happy to see that he didn’t last for the whole season. Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers) is very credible as Buffy’s caring mother. Julie Benz (Darla) is on the money as the sweet looking but evil vamp: loved the schoolgirl skirt! David Boreanaz (Angel) is captivating as the enigmatic love interest.
T & A
Us boys get Sarah Michelle Gellar in tight tops showing off her ample chest and Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia) looking fine. The gals get sulking David Boreanaz in a tank top or bare-chested. We’re all somewhat winners here.
DIRECTING
All of the directors who tackled this first season keep to the same vibe. The show is at times very colorful (it is set in California), stylish (lots of POV shots of weapons being thrown at vampires), energetic and it has its semi-dark moments. Good job by everyone. The directors of this first season are: Charles Martin Smith, John T. Kretchmer, Stephan Cragg, Bruce Seth Green, David Semel, Scott Brazil, Stephen Posey, Ellen S. Pressman, Reza Badiyi, and Joss Whedon.
SOUNDTRACK
We get the usual teen oriented “hip” pop/rock songs and a kickass rocking opening credit tune by Nerf Herder. I loved that jam!
DVD FEATURES
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Release Date: January 15, 2002

IMAGE: The episodes can only be viewed in Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1 format. Now I don’t know if it was the “screener” box set that I got but the image was very hazy and undefined. It looked like a bad recording off TV or something. I hope for you hardcore Buffy fans that it was just my screener box set.

SOUND: We get an English and French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track that failed to blow me away. It’s adequate but nothing more. NOTE: Available subtitles on the DVD: English, French and Dutch.

EXTRAS:

DISC 1- Interview with Joss Whedon and David Boreanaz: A short featurette with Joss Whedon telling us how he came up with the idea of Buffy and David Borenaz (sporting a goatee) giving us his thoughts on the show. This featurette is harmless and entertaining.

Joss Whedon on “Welcome to Hellmouth” and “Harvest”: Joss comments on both shows, the reasons why he thinks the series itself is popular, some background info on a visual effect and what his intentions were in regards to writing the character of Angel. This featurette is very similar to the first one. Another harmless extra. NOTE: This begins with the exact same footage as “Interview with Joss Whedon and David Boreanaz”. Let it run its course and you’ll get to the new stuff.

Audio commentary by Joss Whedon: This “full length” commentary for “Welcome To Hellmouth” and “Harvest” has Joss Whedon go all out. He talks about the meaning behind the opening credits, comments on both productions, specific scenes, the actors and so much more. Whedon is very animated, funny and at the same time, he gives us lots of background info on the show.

Disc 1 also offers us access to the Original Pilot Script ( Welcome to Hell Mouth and Harvest), the Buffy Trailer and a DVD Rom option that I couldn’t get to since I don’t have the software.

DISC 2- Joss Whedon on “Witch” and “Never Kill A Boy On The First Date”: Joss talks about the characters and the pieces of him that are in them, the writing process in regards to each respective episode and why they were both important episodes to the season. Again harmless, short and similar to the other two featurettes.

Disc 2 also has the requisite IMAGE GALLERY.
BOTTOM LINE
If only teen girls are supposed to like “Buffy" then slap a dress on me and call me Tracy cause I dug it. The show has enough energy, sharp dialogue, hip tunes, charismatic actors, action and good ideas to please any entertainment junkie. But remember that the show is very teen-oriented and I do recommend that you stay away from it if your teen spirit died with age or lack of having fun. Others will enjoy…should I go buy an issue of “Teen Beat” now? I just want to fit in! Gotta book! Laterz!
BULL'S EYE
Out of the 12 episodes from this first season, Joss Whedon only directed the finale “Prophecy Girl”.

Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) initially auditioned for the role of Cordelia and Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia) auditioned for the part of Buffy. Funny how things work out.

Joss Whedon first brought Buffy to life with the 1992 Theatrical flop “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” with Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry. The film wasn’t all that and I’m happy that he got another shot at it and came out victorious with the TV show.
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