'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' First Episode: THR's 1997 Review

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 1 Still - H 2015
Courtesy Everett Collection

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 1 Still - H 2015

On March 10, 1997, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was brought to television by The WB. The Hollywood Reporter's original review of the first episode is below: 

It’s creepy and it’s kooky, mysterious and … oh wait, that’s the Addams Family. Let’s revamp — what we’re talking about here is a spooky venture called Buffy the Vampire Slayer, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar in the title role.

A two-hour telefilm launches the new series, based on the feature release of the same title, picking up in storyline where the original movie left off. Gellar is a magically powered undoer of the undead who protects humanity, cuts school, hangs out in cemeteries and lies to her mother.

In tone, it’s sort of Clueless meets Dracula, with emphasis on the hip angst of high schoolers coupled with vampire danger and apocalyptic prophecies.

The opener, “Welcome to the Hellmouth,” has Gellar (All My Children) trying to fit into a new school and live down her past. She encounters a hipper-than-thou campus queen played by Charisma Carpenter (Malibu Shores), who immediately quizzes the new arrival on fashion rules.

Buffy also meets new pals Nicholas Brendon and Alyson Hannigan, both appealing sorts. Anthony Stewart Head lends some arch, dignified humor to the proceedings as Buffy’s adult mentor.

Gellar proves to be sympathetic as the superheroine who just wants to lead a normal life, hang out with her friends and not have to create more mayhem, for gosh sake.

It’s undeniable fun to see Gellar’s self-assured Buffy go through Bruce Lee moves as she wipes out the nosferatu brigade.

This supernatural series has fast, raucous music, attractive heroes and heroines, and nifty morphing effects for the vampires. There’s hardly any blood at all, as the vampires even go poof in an elegant way.

Hip dialogue and humorously self-conscious asides clue us in that the players are aware of how wacko the situation is. Enough attention is paid to dating frustrations and campus rivalries to draw in a younger audience, and there’s marital arts and vampire activity aplenty to please the genre fans. The witty wisecracks make it easy to buy into the frolic of kids and their teacher mentor secretly fighting the forces of the undead.

Photography and special effects are just fine in this two-hour premiere. — Michael Farkash

Twitter: @THRArchives