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Thursday, March 15, 2007

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.




More of the ISB Taking On Supernatural Mediocrity!

| Matchup #1: Anita Blake vs. Dracula |
| Matchup #2: Anita Blake vs. Batman |
| The Annotated Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #3 |
| The Annotated Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #4 |
| The Mind-Melting Horror of Halloween with Tarot |
| The Senses-Shattering Horror of Tarot #41 (Or: Yule Be Sorry) |

33 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate to pull out my dork badge here and call you out on this but Soultaker's probably the mst3k target you're looking for.

3/15/2007 4:22 AM

 
Blogger LurkerWithout said...

Obviously that Angel has been recursed to turn back into a puppet again...

3/15/2007 5:25 AM

 
Blogger MD said...

I think if Despica's hair was teased any more, it would sue for harrassment.

3/15/2007 5:30 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deleted Buffy Season 7 ending:-

EXT. OUTSIDE BUS

DAWN: Yeah, what do we do now, Buffy?

BUFFY smiles, and we cut to

INT: BUFFY'S NEW HOUSE

The house is full of pies. Pies, pies, pies, as far as the eye can see. Big pies, little pies, fruit pies, meat pies, fruit'n'meat pies, just — pies.

Buffy worked hard! She deserves them.

CREDITS

------------------

Word verification: owmuvp, which is the perfect verbal description for the expression on pseudo-Giles (Piles? sure looks like it) face.

3/15/2007 6:12 AM

 
Blogger kelvingreen said...

That's brilliant. I love midget-Angel. What a great creative decision!

3/15/2007 7:32 AM

 
Blogger Siskoid said...

Have not watched it yet (and life is so short...), but my immediate response is: Are those celebrity endorsements on her website REAL?

Did Sir Anthony Head really call it "Excellent"? (Actually, I wouldn't be that surprised.) Or is there room for a nice lawsuit or two?

3/15/2007 9:24 AM

 
Anonymous Jack Potts said...

"Burly the Vampire Slayer?"

You're a bastard, Chris...but a MAGNIFICENT bastard, and I love ya!

No, but really, man, that was just mean. Funny, but mean.

3/15/2007 9:31 AM

 
Blogger Philip Looney said...

So me and Brandon are kind of like polar opposites, huh?

3/15/2007 9:36 AM

 
Blogger SallyP said...

Wait a minute...Despica can't kill Buffy, because of her constant need to devour delicious if inexpensive noodle soup?

It's been a while since I was in college...but I find this to be strangely compelling.

3/15/2007 10:39 AM

 
Anonymous the faulk said...

At the very least this review got me thinking it's time to watch Spaced again...

3/15/2007 10:51 AM

 
Anonymous phaet2112 said...

This takes place in sunnydale post apocalypse and all the other crap that was needlessly (and incoherently) jammed into the final season of Buffy? I shudder to think of the clarification needed to explain how the town re-arose out of the enormous crater that the final Season 7 ep.

Does Xander at least have an eyepatch on?

3/15/2007 12:09 PM

 
Blogger Ted Bramble said...

She looks like she ate the prom...

Chris, you do bring the funny.

3/15/2007 12:35 PM

 
Anonymous hydrogenguy said...

It's been a while since I've felt so bad about laughing so hard.

And Chris, between this and the Anita Blake reviews, the vampire huntin' fans mafia is going to take out a contract on you soon. Be careful.

3/15/2007 3:13 PM

 
Blogger tug said...

That screen capture of Spike and midget Angel is probably the best thing since ever.
Midget Angel in squeaky voice: 'Where we goin' today, Spike? Huh? Huh? Huh?'
Spike: Shaddup, you.

3/15/2007 3:43 PM

 
Blogger Bill S. said...

There's no way the movie could ever live up to your description of it!

3/15/2007 4:00 PM

 
Anonymous Zachary said...

I read this blog everyday. I enjoy this blog every day. Seriously, I send the link to anyone and everyone. Todays blog made me a little uncomfortable. Picking on the Buffy fan fiction of a chunky girl isn't exactly speaking truth to power, Chris.
I haven't seen this girl's fansite. It's not really my bag. I don't doubt that it's terrible and funny. But she's not doing for profit, right? She's not working for any one of the number of cynical and generally useless comic book companies. And she's not hurting anybody, right? So why not leave her the fuck alone?
And then to watch all your buddies pile on, devastatingly handsome as I assume they all are, is just a little bit gross.
I'm sorry that the first time I've written, it's to bitch. I should have written earlier to tell you how much I love the site. But, here we are...
I'm still a big fan, will continue reading, etc. etc.
Thanks,
Zachary

3/15/2007 4:02 PM

 
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

http://www.emmapaigelangley.com/news.htm

Oh MAN:

"I need to urgently alert you to a very serious and urgent situation. Soon after the Hub Productions convention, my manager received an email from someone calling himself/herself ‘informant', accusing myself of ripping off a scene from his or her Buffy season 8 fan fiction story. After looking at their website, it is clear that this person does write Buffy season 8 fan fiction, but Forgotten Memories is entirely my creation.

The scene in question is the Willow/Xander eye scene, just after the opening credits. ‘Informant' claims that this scene was up on their website since September 2003, which by this time, the cast was already rehearsing with that scene! I have also been informed (computer illiterate that I am) that web hosts can change the dates on things so it can appear that text was posted earlier than it actually was. The scene in question was emailed out to many people when we were auditioning for Willow, and although I can't prove how the paper trail lead to ‘informant', this is probably where he or she came across it and lifted the scene. The script has also been online to download since late 2004, so there is also a possibility that they lifted it then. Informant probably never thought that the film would have done as well as it has, and therefore they wouldn't have been found out. Funny how people lie when they are up against a wall.

We have asked ‘informant' repeatedly to give us their name and contact details so our lawyer can discuss this with then, but they are hiding behind the pseudonym ‘informant'. This person has threatened to contact all the actors involved with the film, including those at the screening, trying to totally discredit me and have already contacted many people that have conducted interviews with me to date. I can only assume that this person has a massive gripe against me, possibly someone who was removed from production or was knocked back for a part. "

LAWYERS??? NEITHER OF YOU OWN IT!

3/15/2007 4:02 PM

 
Blogger Richelle Mead said...

Oh, Chris.

Chris, Chris, Chris.

I heart you.

3/15/2007 5:09 PM

 
Blogger Jason said...

dan, the scariest part is that pparently, she HAS engaged a lawyer and he or she has chosen not to tell her that there's really nothing to sue about here. Yipes.

Zachary, you do make good points, however, she does go so far as to put soliciations for both (I'm assuming paying) acting jobs and convention appearances. So she is trying to make money off of this. Also, you should know that once you put something up on the internets, you're going to get made fun of. It's not like she's gettin made fun of for being "big" while starring in a Mama Cass bio. She's taking a role from one of the skinniest actresses on TV. You've gotta comment if "one of these things isn't like the other". I applaud her for putting herself out there, but if something is this bad, it must be commented upon.

Incidentally, is it me or does Despica look exactly like Kelly Lebrock from the White Snake videos? Is there a scene in the movie when she writhes on a Camarro while Steve Vai wails on the guitar?

3/15/2007 5:28 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funniest thing I have read on the ISB in a long time. And I read every damn day.

While I still enjoy the comic commentary, Chris, I think you should give serious thought to another blog where all you do is review fanfilms.

Because yes - while I appreciate these folk are just doing it for the fun, etc etc - they do often take themselves way too seriously, and deserve a good ribbing.

And of course - there's always the odd diamond in the rough. Although there is a lot of rough out there....!

Stephen

3/15/2007 7:21 PM

 
Anonymous Rich said...

Almost completely off-topic, the campaign blog at that "Rules of Successful Adventuring" link is one of the oddest things I've ever read. Which is saying something, considering Bob Haney and all...

3/15/2007 8:11 PM

 
Blogger Chris Sims said...

Anonymous: Damn it, you're right! It's fixed now.

Phil: In pretty much every way, yeah. You two have got to start hanging out.

Jack Potts: I blatantly stole "Burly the Vampire Slayer" from Friend of the ISB Mark Hale, but I told him I was going to do it, so that makes it okay.

And now, the big one:

Zachary: First off, I'm certainly glad you like the ISB, and while I (obviously) don't agree with your feelings about what I wrote, I don't mind you voicing your opinion at all. It's what the comments section is for.

So why not leave her the fuck alone? Short answer: I update this blog every day, and in the great roulette wheel that determines my content, her number came up.

As to why I had to be so mean about it, well, that should be obvious: It might not be "speaking truth to power" as you put it, but I certainly think it's funny, and that's my primary concern here, although that might not always be apparent.

The fact of the matter is, when you produce any sort of content and make it available to the public, being made fun of is a risk that you take. And I'm saying this not just as someone who gets a kick out of cheap laughs at someone else's expense, but as someone who--much like Emma Paige Langley--offers free content that I work at on a daily basis.

And if somebody wants to make fun of me for it--like, say, the lady from the Newsarama Forums who called me a tool for making fun of Anita Blake--then I say go for it. I'm not going to stop doing what I do because someone doesn't like it, and neither should anyone else.

And really, it's not like I don't have a precedent for this sort of thing. It might be a little underhanded to make fun of Langley for her weight, but like Jason says, she's trying to portray one of the most waifish actresses around, and really, that's just asking for it. But it's no more tactless than having a laugh over Jim Balent's Star Wars wedding, or thoroughly mocking his bat-shit crazy representations of his religious views every two months when Tarot comes out.

This may be a tangent, but I've been actively trying to write comedy since I was a teenager, and in that time, there are two quotes on comedy that I've kept in mind while trying to be funny:

1. "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die."
--Mel Brooks

2. "All comedy is rooted in pain."
--Al Capp

(2a. "That says a lot more about Al Capp than it does about comedy."
--Walt Kelly)

3/15/2007 10:29 PM

 
Blogger Mark Hale said...

I am the puppetmaster behind the ISB.

3/15/2007 10:53 PM

 
Anonymous Matt P. said...

It was the Soultaker than reeled me in, I believe. Now if you can just find a good way to reference Arizona Werewolf you'll have done the Joe Estevez canon entire!

3/15/2007 11:06 PM

 
Blogger Chris Sims said...

"This movie sleeps like a coyote, nose to anus."

I live to serve.

3/15/2007 11:25 PM

 
Blogger Evan Waters said...

"This fanfilm is absolutely fascinating."

3/16/2007 1:02 AM

 
Anonymous jim treacher said...

Not all fanfilms suck. This Green Hornet one is actually awesome, with the kicking and the punching:

http://tinyurl.com/2qwjg9

3/16/2007 1:50 AM

 
Blogger Chris Sims said...

You don't have to believe me, but them's the facts!

3/16/2007 2:37 AM

 
Blogger Jeff said...

I really want that Giles kid to follow me around sycophantically and make that face every time something awesome happens.

As for Puffy the Vampire Slayer and her fan film, I might have enjoyed it more if it weren't for the nonstop cavalcade of inappropriate casting that kept distracting me.

I, oddly, have no problem with Despica. We need more villains who are likely to start slow dancing with their boyfriend whenever 'Pour Some Sugar On Me' comes on.

3/16/2007 12:31 PM

 
Blogger K. Thor Jensen said...

Oh my shit, this is going on Evil Video 5 poshaste.

3/20/2007 3:11 PM

 
Anonymous John said...

There was one point where the guy playing Angel referred to the villainess as "Dethpica" and I was thinking, "Ooh, sooo close to that Daffy Duck joke Chris wanted...So close!"

And I didn't take your comments about the film as mean spirited, I took them as humorous observations about the oddball casting. I got the feeling watching it that the writer simply decided "Darnit, I worked hard on this thing...I get to be Buffy!!"

I have to admire the hard work of all involved, but be stunned at some of their casting choices...but man, the girl who played Willow nailed Allison Hannigan's speech patterns on that show.

Thanks, as always, for pointing out another rare gem, Chris. I had fun watching it and that's all that matters, after all.

3/20/2007 10:54 PM

 
Anonymous Julian said...

Well, I do not actually imagine it is likely to have success.
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10/13/2011 8:41 AM

 
Blogger The Scream Man said...

Was feeling nostalgic tonight when i found this:

I know u posted this almost a decade ago, but if you ever want to know some of the behind the scenes stuff I can help you out; I stared as a grip, and ended up choreographing the thing. Oh the tales I can tell you, should you still care.

3/19/2014 10:43 AM

 

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