A Borderline Libelous Review of Buffy: Season 8 (No, The Other One)
Today saw the release of Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Season 8" comic from Dark Horse, and since I've already had a phone call from a friend of mine telling me it was sold out where he tried to buy it, some of you out there might be interested to know that if you desperately need to find out what happened after the TV show's final episode, there is an alternative.
I am, of course, speaking of Emma Paige Langley's monumental forty-minute Buffy fan-film, Forgotten Memories.
Originally brought to my attention by adorable novelist Caitlin Kittredge as something I needed to see, Forgotten Memories does not revolve exclusively around people getting repeatedly kicked in the face. As such, there's only one other reason someone woud want me to take a stern look at a piece of vampire-themed media, and that is this: It is not very good.
Admittedly, I may not be the target audience here. I actually do like Buffy, but I haven't watched the last season and a half, but enduring several weeks of Grayson and Star Wars: Revelations on a loop at work, I've developed a monolithic, all-consuming hatred of fan-films, so I'll cop to coming at it with a certain chip on my shoulder.
Of course, the fact that it's pretty hilariously bad doesn't help matters either.
For that, I think it's safe to lay most of the blame on Langley herself, whose roll as "screenwriter and star" should be familiar to anyone who managed to get through the Joe Estevez classic, Soultaker as a combination that doesn't always work out so well for amateur filmmakers. To her credit, though, the whole thing's pretty amazingly ambitious for someone who wrote and shot it at the age of 17 with what looks like a high school drama club to help her out, and as a guy who fancies himself as a creative kind of guy who puts his work out there almost every day for people to see, I'm fully aware of how much it sucks to have some jerk-off get on his blog and talk about how awful your work is.
And that's why I already feel bad for what I'm about to say. But since my particular talents tend to fall into what could charitably called "reviews"--or, y'know, "kicking people while they're down" if you want to get accurate about it--I'm going to make the immense personal sacrifice of my peace of mind and do it anyway.
There is, unfortunately, one pretty obvious problem with casting Langley as Buffy, and I'll put this as gently as I know how. My friend Brandon, who tried to overcome my noted distaste for the undead and introduced me to the show on DVD, likes skinny white women like some people like oxygen, and even he thought that after a few seasons, Sarah Michelle Gellar got too thin, and, well, that's not one of the criticisms you can level at this one.
She does, however, manage to keep her accent consistent through the course of the film, which, really, is the least of your worries when dealing with a cast of teenage Australians.
And that's the major problem with a fan-film that uses established characters. Nobody looks, speaks or acts quite right. Dawn, for instance, is supposed to be Buffy's little sister, but I swear to you that she comes off like somebody's angry mother. This could, however, be her uncanny resemblance to Marsha from Spaced, which might explain why I was constantly expecting her to light up a cigarette and start yelling at Amber.
The best example, though, has got to be the guy playing Angel, who acts with the consummate skill of a cardboard box, speaks with a lisp, and is roughly three and a half feet shorter than the guy playing Spike:
It's fantastic. It made me want to see an entire season's worth of that guy re-enacting episodes of Bones with the girl playing Willow.
Also, this is the guy playing Giles:
Cracks me up every single time.
But it's probably best to move on. I could literally go on about the cast here all night, but by all rights, there oughtta be a plot summary in here somewhere.
Here's how it goes down: In the pre-credits teaser sequence, Buffy's training up a new slayer, Crystal, who is pretty, blonde, and thoroughly incompetent, thus explaining why we shouldn't be that bothered that she's not going to survive the episode. She attempts unsuccessfully to deal with a vampire, at which time Burly the Vampire Slayer up there steps in with a chair leg and does the heavy lifting and gives Crystal a stern talking-to. Cut to an allegedly evil ritual performed around a lopsided pentagram, where one of the attendees suddenly throws back her standard-issue Rennaissance Faire hood to reveal a head of hair that has been teased to within an inch of its life.
"Surely, this cannot be our villain," you may very well think to yourself. "Any minute now, she'll finish her ritual and summon the real villain, and we can all get on with it."
Get used to disappointment, pal: this is Despica.
Yeah, that's her name. And they manage to get through the entire forty minutes without a single Daffy Duck joke. It's astonishing.
Her evil plan involves re-opening the Hellmouth, but--assuming I'm hearing things correctly--she's continually stymied by a need for ramen, until she figures out that what she actually needs is the blood of a Slayer. How that connection is made, we may never know.
Meanwhile, life goes on for the rest of the cast--including a scene where Faith is ruled to be too hot for college--until Slayer Trainees Paige and Crystal finally get permission to go out and battle the undead without a chaperone, which for some reason nobody recognizes as a bad idea.
Crystal, having never seen a movie in her entire life, decides that it's a fine idea to go wandering off by herself in a city populated almost exclusively by vague lurking horrors, and--as tends to happen with this sort of thing--is immediately set upon by Dispica and her crew of flunkies. Two minutes later, and we have our first special effect of the evening.
In this case, it's a jar of delicious Smuckers Strawberry Ice Cream Topping trying its level best to pass as blood.
And apparently, said topping represents the entirity of the special effects budget, because when Buffy visits Angel to find out more about the Talisman of Ramen--the preferred magical artifact of cash-strapped college students everywhere--an office intercom is substituted by someone standing off-camera and talking.
What follows is an emotional funeral, complete with a lot of people yelling at Buffy for not forcing her Trainees to follow Rules 1, 6, 12, and 18 of Successful Adventuring, but the real gem of the sequence comes at the burial, where Paige--distraught over the sudden murder of her best friend--awkwardly propositions Xander at the gravesite.
Eventually they figure out what's up, and before long it's Buffy and Despica in an epic swordfight, the likes of which I haven't seen since my 10th Grade English class sat through a twenty-minute version of the Scottish Play, where a hefty MacDuff gently tapped Macbeth's sword while laboriously reciting lines between breaths. After a few soft pokes with her katana (of course it's a katana), Buffy gets a cut on her hand, which, for reasons that I could not begin to fathom, turns the battle in her favor.
And then--and I swear to God this happens--she smirks at the much smaller Despica, says: "I guess size matters," and then proceeds to kill and eat her.
Okay, that last part, I made up. But that line is totally in there. Thus, Buffy cuts off Despica's head, Faith snaps a bunch of peoples' necks, Buffy and Spike have sex, Willow and some girl make out, and all of that somehow causes everything to work out okay.
For those of you who want to experience the unmitigated hilarity for yourselves, Forgotten Memories is freely available to download on Langley's website, and is well worth it.
I mean, it might be one of most hilariously awful things I've seen in my entire life, but, well, I still like it better than Fray.
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