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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Every generation a vampire slayer is born, known only by a hairy mole birthmark and a talent for fighting the undead. Battling Lothos the Vampire King (Rutger Hauer) and his minions for centuries, the slayers — helped only by the trainer Merrick (Donald Sutherland) — have never been able to get the upper hand. Enter Buffy (Kristy Swanson), the 1990s' vampire slayer, who's totally a cheerleader and cares only about looking good for cute guys (which explains why she had her mole removed). Once she meets the skeptical Merrick, Buffy accepts her role of slayer and slowly rejects her frivolous past, but only after a series of pop-music-training montages, and with the help of cute loner Pike (Luke Perry, the early '90s version of James Van Der Beek). There's an engaging fish-out-of-water premise at the center of the curiously inert teenage-horror-comedy Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), but as scripted by Joss Whedon, it's never enough of one those genres to fully engage the viewer. Buffy does feature a bevy of young actors who went on to the bigger and brighter, including Natasha Gregson Wagner, future Oscar winners Hillary Swank and Ben Affleck, future antichrist David Arquette, and Paul Reubens in his first post-busted performance (in a role as confused as the film itself). But rubbernecking at pre-famous actors (and Swanson's sweaty tops) is not enough to save the picture. The fault lies mainly with director Fran Kuzui, as she uses some of the weakest clichés of the action genre (bad guys who talk more than they kill, gangs who stand around while making hissing faces), and she stages everything like a television pilot — you can even sense where the commercial breaks would be — making it easy to see how this segued into its later incarnation as a hit TV show. Fox's DVD features an anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) that suffers from grain throughout, while audio is available in Dolby Digital 4.0 and Dolby 2.0 Surround. Five-minute EPK featurette, theatrical trailer, and two TV spots. Watch for the slightly altered Fox DVD promo. Keep-case.

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