The Evil Dead vs Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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Recently I’ve noticed some strong similarities between two of my favourite horror franchises, The Evil Dead and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I’d go as far as to say that they are more comparable to each other than to any other franchise in terms of style, tone and premise. In this article I am going to run through the vast similarities and the key differences between both franchises.

Overview of Both Series

The Evil Dead franchise began with a low budget independent horror movie, called Within the Woods, directed by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell and Ellen Sandweiss.

The film revolved around a group of twenty somethings stumbling upon an old cabin in the woods, built next to an Indian grave yard. The spirits from the grave however soon possess one of the group, Bruce (played by Campbell), who goes on to pick off the others one by one. Though Ellen (played by Sandweiss), Bruce’s girlfriend is able to slay Bruce, the ending of the film shows that the spirits have survived and leaves her fate open as one of her possessed friends advances on her from behind.

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The film proved to an unexpected success, after being shown as a b-movie before a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

A few years later in 1982, Raimi would produce a remake, titled The Evil Dead. The Evil Dead followed the same premise, but rather than being spirits from an Indian graveyard, the monsters were Demons from hell, summoned by a book called the Necronomicon.

Bruce Campbell and Ellen Sandweiss also played brother and sister rather than lovers, and switched roles, with Ellen’s character now being possessed by the Demons, and Bruce’s character, renamed Ash, being the final survivor.

The ending of Evil Dead similarly saw the last survivor, Ash, being attacked by the Demons after he believed he had banished them, leaving his fate open.

The film was a huge success, though it also proved to be extremely controversial due to its excessive gore, and was even banned in the United Kingdom.

A sequel would be produced in the late 80s, Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn.

The film has often been mistaken for a remake as it opens with Ash and his girlfriend Linda arriving at the cabin and reading from the book, with Linda being played by a new actress. However it is still intended to be a sequel. Raimi and Campbell had intended to open Evil Dead 2 with a recap of the first film, however they couldn’t get the rights as it was owned by a different company, so they were forced to reshoot a recap of the first film.

5 minutes into the second film, the Demons are shown to grab Ash just like the ending of the first Evil Dead. Everything from there on can be considered a sequel to the first film, (and would later be by the series Ash Vs Evil Dead.)

Evil Dead 2 sees the owner of the cabin Raymond Knowby’s daughter, Annie arrive at the house. Though initially believing Ash killed her parents, she later discovers the truth when her demon possessed mother Henrietta returns. Ash and Annie are able to send the Demons back to hell using the Necronomicon, though sadly Annie is killed before she can close the portal and Ash is also sucked through.

The ending reveals that the portal actually sent both the Demons and Ash to the medevil era.

Several years later another sequel would be released titled Army of Darkness which would see Ash battle the forces of the Necronomicon in the 12th century. At the end of the film Ash, after defeating the Demons is given a magic potion that will send him back to his home era.

From here there are two endings, the original intended ending from Sam Raimi, and the more family friendly ending for the theatrical cut.

Original ending.

Theatrical ending.

Over the course of the next two decades Ash would return in various comic books and video games, including several crossover series which would see Ash encounter such characters as Xena the Warrior Princess,  Jason Vorhees, Freddy Krueger and even several Marvel superheroes.

There was also a remake of Evil Dead in 2013, featuring a new female hero. The remake though successful, was more of a serious horror movie like the original, than the later entries which tended to blend humour and horror.

Two years later in 2015, Bruce Campbell finally made a full return to the role in the series Ash vs Evil Dead. This series saw Ash come out of retirement (after accidentally unleashing the Deadites again) and be forced to work with two new Demon slayers, Kelly Maxwell (played by Dana Delorenzo), and Pablo (played by Ray Santiago). The series also expanded on the Demon lore, revealing who created the Necronimcon and introduced the character of Ruby, played by Lucy Lawless (best known for her role as Xena the Warrior Princess.)

Running for 3 series, Ash vs Evil Dead proved to be a huge critical success and brought even greater attention to the franchise. Sadly however after its conclusion in 2018, Bruce Campbell announced that he intended to retire the character of Ash, seemingly bringing an end to the franchise for good.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer originally began as a film in 1992, starring Kristy Swanson as Buffy. It’s premise revolved around one girl in every generation, known as the Slayer being granted the strength and power to hunt Vampires. The latest Slayer, Buffy Summers, is approached by Merrick, a member of an organisation known as the Watchers, to combat the ancient Vampire king Lothos (played by Rutger Hauer.)

Merrick is killed by Lothos, who later launches an attack on Buffy’s school. Ultimately however unlike all of the Slayers before her, Buffy is able to slay Lothos by going against the rules of the Watchers and doing things her own way.

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The Buffy movie was a moderate success, though Joss Whedon was reportedly unhappy with it, feeling that they toned down the horror aspects, and theme of female empowerment from his original script too much.

5 years later Whedon would revive the project as a series. The series, which starred Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy, was a loose sequel to the original film. It takes place several months later and shows Buffy moving to Sunnydale, desperate to move on with her life, only to be approached by another Watcher, Rupert Giles (played by Anthony Stewart Head.)

Buffy at first refuses to continue on as the slayer after the events of the first film, only to be forced into action when her new friends Willow (played by Alyson Hannigan) and Xander (played by Nicholas Brendon) are attacked by Vampires. Buffy later discovers that Sunnydale is built over a portal to a hell dimension which makes it a magnet for not only Vampires, but Demons, Werewolves, Witches and other supernatural creatures.

Buffy’s main adversary was initially The Master, an ancient Vampire king, buried below Sunnydale who sought to open the Hellmouth and allow the Demons trapped within to emerge back into our world and conquer humanity.

Over the course of the series Buffy would go on to battle various other monsters, such as Demons, Ghosts, Werewolves, Zombies, Witches, Gods, Robots and even Aliens from outer space! The core cast would also expand over the course of the series too.

Arguably the two most significant supporting character in the series, outside of Buffy’s original three friends, were Buffy’s two love interests, the Vampires, Angel and Spike (played by David Boreanaz and James Marsters.)

Angel was introduced in the shows first series initially as a mystery man who gave Buffy cryptic advice on Vampires. Part way through season 1 however Angel was revealed to be a Vampire, cursed with a human soul, and therefore capable of feeling remorse. Angel and Buffy would fall in love in season 2, though later that year Angel would lose his soul, reverting to the evil Angelus he had been before. Angelus would serve as the main antagonist for the shows second season. After gaining his soul back at the end of season 2, Angel would later gain his own spin off series, simply titled Angel that would run for 5 seasons and become a major and influential cult hit in its own right.

Spike meanwhile initially began as an enemy of Buffy’s in season two and would continue to recur as a villain until season 4 when he was kidnapped by The Initiative, an organisation devoted to tracking down and experimenting on supernatural creatures. The Initiative implanted a chip in Spike’s brain that caused him pain every time he attempted to hurt someone, but not Demons, resulting in him becoming an unlikely ally of Buffy’s.

In season 5 Spike falls in love with Buffy, which leads to a destructive and abusive relationship between the Vampire and the Slayer, culminating in Spike’s attempt to rape her in season 6. Following this Spike would later win himself a soul and find redemption by sacrificing himself in the season finale of Buffy, before being resurrected as a regular for the final season of Angel.

The series was initially conceived as a “High School is hell” metaphor, but later series would depict Buffy in college and as a young adulthood. Outside of her battles with the undead, the series also saw Buffy cope with everyday personal problems such as her mother dying and subsequently being forced to raise her little sister Dawn.

At the end of the series, Buffy, much like in the original film, goes against the Slayer rules, and has Willow (who over the course of the series becomes a powerful Witch) cast a massive spell which turns every potential Slayer into a Slayer.

Buffy finished in 2003 after 7 season, whilst Angel finished the following year in 2004. 3 years later however, both Buffy and Angel’s stories were continued via two comic book series which are still going as of the writing of this article.

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The official comic book continuation of Buffy and Angel which is said to be canon according to Buffy creator Joss Whedon. 

In 2018, Joss Whedon announced that he would be remaking Buffy, 15 years after the original finished its run. No details are known about the casting or plot at present.

Both Buffy and Evil Dead would go onto be very influential on subsequent horror films and television series, with the characters of Ash and Buffy being among the most iconic horror characters. Edgar Wright, the director of Shaun of the Dead has cited Evil Dead 2 as one of his biggest influences, as has Eric Kripke, the creator of Supernatural, whilst the makers of both Charmed and the 21st century version of Doctor Who have both credited Buffy with inspiring and paving the way for them.

The stars of both franchises such as James Marsters, Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi and Eliza Dushku have also gone on to land major and leading roles in various other cult series and films as a result of both franchises popularity.

Evil Dead’s Influence on Buffy

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Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy and Angel is a fan of the Evil Dead franchise, having cited it as a big influence.

There have even been a few direct references to Evil Dead in Buffy, such as the First Evil shouting “DEAD BY SUNRISE!” in an homage to “DEAD BY DAWN” the tagline of Evil Dead 2, and a phrase that is frequently shouted by the Demons of the series. In the episode Crush, Xander also refers to Spike as “The Evil Dead.”

Whedon’s later horror movie, Cabin in the Woods followed the same basic premise as Evil Dead, a group of twenty somethings become lost in a cabin in the woods, and after reading from a book, end up unleashing ancient Lovecraftian Demons into the world. There is even a reference to the Deadites, the main villains from the Evil Dead franchise too.

With this in mind it is likely that at least some of the similarities between both franchises were intentional. There’s nothing wrong with this. All works of fiction take from others (including Evil Dead which borrowed from everything from The Three Stooges to HP Lovecraft.) Nothing is truly original, but still I think its fair to say that the Evil Dead in many ways was a predecessor to Buffy.

Interestingly enough however Bruce Campbell is a huge Buffy fan and has included a few references to it in his work too. In My Name is Bruce, Campbell’s fictionalized version of himself, who is called in to fight a Demon by one of his fans, says after the Demon is seemingly slain,  “next time there is a Demon, call that Buffy chick.”

Finally the season 2 episode of Ash vs Evil Dead called Delusion, where a Demon attempts to trick Ash into believing that the supernatural are all figments of his imagination, was inspired by the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, Normal Again, which featured a similar plot.

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Similarities

Both Revolve Around A Reluctant Chosen One

Both Evil Dead and Buffy revolve around a hero who is chosen by the forces of good to fight Demons and monsters. Both are even regularly referred to as the chosen one.

Ironically however in both cases the chosen one is, on the surface at least; not anybody’s ideal idea of a hero and is extremely reluctant to be a hero too.

Ash is shallow, lazy, unmotivated, arrogant, egocentric, and at times, somewhat lecherous.

Buffy meanwhile though not nearly as unsympathetic or unlikable as Ash, is still, in the original movie at least, initially shown to be quite shallow, spoiled and vapid.

Both Buffy and Ash regularly quit being the chosen one for long periods at a time, such as at the end of season 1 of Ash vs Evil Dead, and the end of season 2 of Buffy. It would be unthinkable for another Vampire hunter character like Blade or Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing to quit.

Both Buffy and Ash also regularly screw things up, such as when Ash says the wrong words to release the Necronomicon in Army of Darkness, or when Buffy leads dozens of young girls to their deaths at the hands of Caleb.

Both are even responsible for unleashing a lot of the monsters they face. Ash unleashes the Demons in season 1 of Ash vs Evil Dead when he reads from the book to try and impress a girl, (whilst he’s stoned.) Buffy meanwhile is responsible for letting the Master go free in Prophecy Girl when she blunders head first into his base, whilst in season 2, Buffy also inadvertently causes Angel to lose his soul. To be fair to Buffy in regards to Angelus, unlike Ash’s many screw ups, she had absolutely no idea that Angel would lose his soul. Still to have the hero be responsible for letting the villain be free in anyway is again not something that you could imagine with most other heroes.

Buffy and Ash’s flaws do sometimes make them come over as unsympathetic and selfish, but at other times they can make both characters seem more human, which is why both have such an enduring popularity.

Who wouldn’t react the way Buffy and Ash do a lot of the time? Imagine being told that you will have to spend the rest of your life fighting the most hideous, evil, bloodthirsty monsters, that you’ll never be able to have a family, or any kind of normal life again, and that the rest of your life will probably be very short. You’d have a right to be pissed off and ask why does all of this have to fall on your shoulders.

Unlike Blade or Peter Cushing who make it a mission to hunt the forces of darkness, Ash and Buffy are thrown into it unprepared.

Buffy and Ash in both cases later gather together a group of misfits, and unconventional heroes to help them battle the paranormal, the Ghost Beaters in Ash’s case, and the Scooby Gang in Buffy’s.

Buffy and Ash’s unconventional status as heroes is regularly used as a source of comedy and tragedy in both series, which leads to my next point.

They Both Mix Horror and Comedy

Evil Dead and Buffy are not the only examples of the horror and comedy genres being merged together.

However I think its fair to say that they represent arguably the most extreme examples. Most other horror comedies tend to settle on being largely one over the other.

Scary Movie for instance is totally a comedy with a horror movie setting, whilst An American Werewolf in London might have humorous, and witty moments, but is still largely a horror movie.

With Buffy and Evil Dead however the comedy is so severe that it is more or less a complete parody, whilst the horror in both franchises represent some of the most extreme and gruesome in the history of the genre in either film or television.

The jump from comedy to horror is so large as you can see from the two clips above, that if you were to watch both clips in isolation you probably wouldn’t believe they were from the same show!

Both Buffy and Evil Dead are able to merge both genres together so well because they make everything so extreme. The monsters are so over the top, even just in terms of appearance that the viewers are able to accept the horror and comedy being so over the top as a result.

Buffy Vampires vs The Deadites

The main villains of both franchises possess many strong similarities with one another in the following ways.

Origins

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The gigantic, Lovecraftian, tentacled creators of the Vampires and the Deadites.

In both the Buffy and Evil Dead mythology, gigantic god like Demons were said to have ruled the earth many thousands of years before recorded history began. They made the earth a hell dimension before being banished to another dimension, allowing the age of man to begin.

In Evil Dead’s case these Demons were referred to as the Dark Ones, whilst in Buffy they were referred to as the Old Ones. Both are based on the Old Ones from HP Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos.

The Dark Ones were banished by one of their own, Ruby, through a book called the Necronomicon, which she hoped to use to control them. Ruby however was later stripped of her powers. In Buffy it is not known who banished the Old Ones, but the Demons were cast through a portal to hell, located beneath Sunnydale (which is referred to as the Hellmouth.)

The Vampires and the Deadites meanwhile are lesser creatures created by the Dark Ones/Old Ones to help them escape. The Deadites are released through the Necronomicon, and their goal in all three films, and the tv series, is to use the book to release the Dark Ones to overthrow humanity and bring hell on earth.

In Buffy meanwhile the Vampires were created when one of the Old Ones fed on a human and infected him, turning him into a Demon/human hybrid. He then went on to infect another and another, creating the Vampire race. Thus Vampires main aim in Buffy is similar to the Deadites, as they hope to open the Hellmouth and release the Old Ones to overthrow humanity and bring about hell on earth.

They’re Both Demon/Human Hybrids

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The Deadites and the Vampires are not people at all. They are Demons who inhabit the corpses of humans. They absorb the memories of the human bodies they take over, and even some negative personality traits, but they are not the people whose bodies they take over in the slightest. In some cases they even refer to their predecessors in the third person.

In both franchises we see a few instances of the Demon inside of Deadites and Vampires outside of a human body and it is depicted as nothing more than a savage animal. Therefore the entire Vampire or Deadites personality comes from the memories of the host it takes over. The Demon that possesses Deadites is referred to as a Kandarian Demon, whilst the Demon that possesses Vampires is referred to as a Van-Tal.

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The Van-Tal Demon left, and the Kandarian Demon right, without human bodies to inhabit. Vampires and Deadites only refer to the combination of these Demons in a human body.

Both Demons will often use their hosts memories to trick and torment their loved ones.

Examples of this include in Evil Dead 2 where the Demonic version of Henrietta attempts to trick her daughter Annie into releasing her by singing a lullaby the real Henrietta used to sing to Annie when she was a littler girl, or in Ash Vs Evil Dead when Kelly’s mom is possessed and the Demon uses her memories to repeatedly torment Kelly.

First the Demon lets Kelly think her mother is alive, (after she was killed in a freak accident 6 months earlier.) It lies to Kelly and claims that she was injured and suffered amnesia for 6 months, before it murders her father. Even after killing her father however, the Demon manages to trick Kelly again, making Kelly believe that her mother is merely possessed and that she can fight it with Kelly’s help. Worst of all the Demon later lies to Kelly that her mother wasn’t killed in an accident, but that she in fact killed herself to escape her failure of a daughter!

Spike’s mother similarly after she is turned into a Vampire enjoys tormenting her son, by claiming that she never loved him, always regarded him as a failure, and worse that she had a sexual attraction to him!

In both cases we know that neither Spike nor Kelly’s mother viewed their children that way, but from Spike and Kelly’s point of view, there would always be a tiny grain of doubt, as ultimately the Demon has access to their memories and inner thoughts. This tiny grain of doubt is shown to torment Spike and Kelly for practically the rest of their lives.

At the same time however whilst the Demons are able to use their hosts memories to torment or trick people, ironically there are some instances where their hosts memories can affect them to some extent too. The Demons can even end up having a fleeting affection for their hosts loved ones.

Examples of this include the Demonic version of Henrietta who is shown to become visibly moved when the real Henrietta’s daughter Annie sings, (ironically the lullaby the Demon had attempted to trick Annie with earlier) purely due to Henrietta’s memories, which ultimately allows Ash enough time to slay the beast.

Similarly in Buffy both Spike and Drusilla, even as Vampires still love their parents. Spike even goes as far as to turn his mother into a Vampire, whilst Drusilla later takes a pleasure in torturing Angel as revenge for killing her loved ones, despite the fact that they weren’t actually her loved ones. She is a Demon, merely inhabiting the corpse of the young woman, whose actual loved ones Angelus killed, but once again the hosts memories are enough to trick Drusilla into caring about their deaths, just like Henrietta and Annie.

Whilst not humans, the Deadites and the Vampires do draw a fine line between Demon and human, and explore the idea of our memories really defining who we are more than anything  else, to the point where an evil Demon from hell, can still feel affection and love, simply due to inheriting our memories.

They Are Both Completely Evil

The Buffy Vampires and Deadites are both evil, sadistic monsters who enjoy not only killing, but torturing their victims. Despite the very rare, fleeting moments of affection from some Demons and Vampires. There are virtually no shades of grey to either.

They are all colossal perverts who frequently sexually abuse their victims too, or are at least shown to derive a perverse pleasure from torture.

Examples of this include Angelus who was shown to frequently rape his female victims, Marcus a Vampire who enjoyed torturing, raping and killing children, and even Spike who mentioned doing horrible things to girls Dawn’s age.

In the Evil Dead meanwhile Ruby’s Demon children similarly mention a desire to gang rape Kelly, whilst another female Deadite tears a man’s penis off whilst giving him a blow job. Then there is the notorious tree rape scene from the first Evil Dead.

With this in mind, coupled with the fact that they aren’t people at all, just Demons inhabiting, and therefore really desecrating human corpses. There is absolutely no moral ambiguity in killing Deadites or Vampires at all. The main heroes, Buffy and Ash can kill them in the most gruesome and over the top ways, and not once does any other character, or the viewers question if they are doing the right thing. If anything its extremely satisfying watching the Vampires and the Deadites suffer the most gruesome deaths.

In both cases however they’re both such perverts that they often enjoy being beaten up and tortured to an extent.

The Vampires and the Deadites ridiculous cruelty is often what allows both Buffy and Evil Dead to frequently switch between such overt comedy and such visceral horror. Sometimes their cruelty can be used in a more petty, comical way, with the Vampires and the Deadites being portrayed as homicidal trolls, or just jerks, whilst in other instances they can be portrayed as horrifying, sexual predators.

They Both Look Similar

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Vampires and Deadites can appear human, but when they attack they revert to their true Demon form. Their Demon forms look somewhat similar. They both have large, bumpy foreheads, yellow eyes (in some cases) slightly paler skin, and sharp teeth.

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Joss Whedon himself even said that he preferred the more overt Vampire make up for the creatures in the earlier seasons, because it reminded him of the creatures in old horror films like Evil Dead.

Finally as if those similarities weren’t enough, both the Deadites and the Buffy Vampires main enemies are a reluctant hero, who is picked by the forces of good to do battle against them, and is referred to as The Chosen One.

They Both Span Multiple Mediums

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Buffy and Evil Dead have had a greater success across several different mediums than most other horror franchises.

Big tv hits like Supernatural, Charmed, Being Human, Hex etc, have not crossed over into film or comic books or video games as frequently as Evil Dead and Buffy. Charmed did produce a sequel comic book series, but only one very basic mobile video game and never (to date) a film. Similarly many horror film franchises like Alien, Halloween, and Friday the 13th have not crossed over into television, whilst those who have such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream have not crossed over into the video game medium with as much success.

Meanwhile I think its safe to say that not many horror franchises have spawned musicals!

Its even more incredible when you consider that Buffy and Evil Dead have largely been produced by the same people over the decades. The 92 movie may have deviated from Joss’ original idea, but it was still his script.

There are many reasons as to why these two franchises have been able to cross over across so many different mediums more than others.

The fact that they lend themselves to parody more than other franchises is what allowed both to have musical instalments.

At the same time the fact that they do treat their horror seriously, and are even willing to go the extra mile in terms of gore and visceral content (up to and including showing people be skinned alive on screen!) Means that both can just as easily be adapted into terrifying, shocking horror movies too.

Finally the fact that both have such wide universes and mythology, allows them to be adapted as television series, comic books and video games. The fact that they both star such dynamic and over the top action heroes also makes them both a natural fit for video games and comic books too. Even Supernatural and Charmed though having a wide enough universe, both of their leading heroes are more toned down compared to Buffy and Ash. Sam and Dean are ordinary humans (most of the time) who have to rely on spells, and weapons and don’t tend to do as much over the top physical fighting as Buffy, whilst similarly, the Charmed Ones tend to rely on spells and potions to destroy Demons.

Buffy meanwhile has super strength, stabs her enemies, cuts their heads off,  and burns and beats them to death. Ash similarly has a chainsaw hand, hacks his enemies to pieces and gets involved in the most over the top surreal fights scenes.

You can see how both characters could easily translate into the comic books and video game mediums.

Conclusion

As you can see there are a number of similarities between Buffy and Evil Dead. Both feature more human, flawed, reluctant heroes, both merge extreme horror and comedy together, and both feature main antagonists who are the lesser minions of Lovecraftian Demon Gods, whose main goal is to free their masters and cause as much havoc as possible.

Finally due to their larger than life nature and dynamic, action leads, both have been able to conquer just about every medium.

The key difference between the two franchises is that The Evil Dead is aimed more at guys, whilst Buffy the Vampire Slayer is aimed more at women.

Both franchises are hugely popular among both genders, and there are plenty of strong, heroic and villainous roles for both genders in both franchises.

However that said I do think that Evil Dead is aimed primarily more at men simply because it is more of an action series. It focuses solely on the horror, the gore, the monsters. There is some romance in it, but its usually very fleeting. Most of Ash’s love interests are either killed such as Linda and Amanda, or forgotten about. Similarly Kelly and Pablo’s will they, won’t they romance, is largely in the background throughout most of the series.

Buffy meanwhile, whilst having a healthy dose of action and horror too, tends to focus a lot more on the soap opera elements than Evil Dead. We see more of her home life, and later seasons, such as most notably season 6 focus almost entirely on Buffy’s love life, as well as the love lives of her friends like Xander and Willow, with the monsters being pushed into the background.

I’m not saying that you don’t get plenty of women who love horror and gore and action, and plenty of men who enjoy romance stories, but overall I think its fair to say that women tend to enjoy romance more, whilst men tend to enjoy action more.

Buffy and Evil Dead are similar to this respect in Supernatural and Charmed, in that Supernatural and Charmed also represent a similar idea told from a different genders perspective.

With this in mind, and considering the good will there is between the makers of both franchises, I’m amazed that there has never been a crossover between Buffy and The Evil Dead.

Ash has crossed over with Xena, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street, but none of them in my opinion are as good a fit as Buffy would be.

I’d love to see a story where the Deadites posses Willow and make her start skinning people at random, like she did to Warren.

Deadite Willow would be the most horrifying villain in either franchise!

The Deadites could easily exist in Buffy’s universe, and the Buffy Demons could easily exist in Evil Dead’s. We know that there are hundreds of species of Demons in both franchises.

Furthermore as the lore is so similar, then they could easily fit together, unlike say Buffy and Supernatural, which has a totally different origin for Demons and Vampires.

If anything Evil Dead could explain who banished the Old Ones in Buffy. We never found out who did banish the Old Ones in Buffy? Maybe it was Ruby, who banished the Demons she couldn’t control through the hellmouth, and the ones she did hope to control into the Necronomicon. The Dark Ones and the Old Ones could easily be the same creatures. They more or less are. All you’d have to explain would be that some people call them the Old Ones, and others call them the Dark Ones.

Maybe with this in mind the Vampires and the Deadites are cousin races. Both created by the Dark/Old Ones, to free them from hell?

Whilst it will never happen in live action, I’d love to see a comic series that brings Evil Dead and Buffy together, and sees the Ghost Beaters and the Scoobies team up to take on some ancient Vampires and Deadites who plan to free the Old/Dark Ones from hell.

Thanks for reading.

 

Characteristics Of 90s/00s Genre Series

The 90s/00s was a golden age for sci fi and fantasy series. Both decades marked many significant and positive changes in the sci fi and fantasy genres, and also produced some of the most enduring and iconic series and characters of the genre, such as Xena the Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, Babylon 5, The X-Files and the various Star Trek sequels.

In this article I am going to run through the common tropes and characteristics of series from these decades as well the influence they have had on the current generation of genre series, such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.

1/ American Genre Series vs British Series

During the 90s America completely dominated the sci fi and fantasy market. In the United Kingdom meanwhile, the genre was for all intents and purposes dead on television.

Doctor Who had finally come to an end in 1989 whilst Blake’s 7 had ended many years prior. Though Red Dwarf still endured throughout the decade, it was often messed about by the BBC with there being several years between series 6 and 7, and later 7 and 8. for instance

The reason for this was because many high profile figures who ran British television during the 90s hated sci fi. The most notable example of this was of course Michael Grade, who launched a calculated campaign against Doctor Who in the late 80s which eventually succeeded in finishing the show for close to 20 years.

It wouldn’t be until the 00s before sci fi and fantasy series were capable of becoming mainstream successful television again in the United Kingdom, thanks largely to the massively successful revival of Doctor Who.

However even then almost all of the British genre series in the 00s, including the revived Doctor Who followed the tropes that the the American genre series of the 90’s and 00s such as Buffy, Babylon 5, Xena and Smalllville had laid down.

At the same time, the irony is that many of things that 90s American genre series pioneered from story arcs, to anti heroes, to characters dying regularly, to downer endings all originated in a British sci fi series from the late 70s, early 80s. Blake’s 7.

Now I am not saying that Blake’s 7 inspired all of these American genre series (though it did directly inspire some, with the creators of Lexx and Babylon 5 being huge fans of Blake’s 7.)

Still ironically I think that Blake’s 7 really represents the start of the 90s and 00s style despite coming over a decade earlier. Though often dismissed by modern critics as a dated, cheesy, low budget series, Blake’s 7 ironically was decades ahead of its time in terms of its story telling.

Whilst I am not going to deny that its production values are shoddy, ultimately if you can get past that, then there really is little to no difference between Blake’s 7 and indeed any classic genre series for the next 30 years.

British and American Sci Fi and fantasy have always had a habit of copying each other. At various points one will dominate the market, and so naturally the other will then try and emulate their style. There’s nothing wrong with it, but normally I feel that whenever the Americans or the British try and copy each other then there are still some notable differences as the American and British entertainment industries and markets are very different.

For instance Blake’s 7 borrowed a lot from Star Trek, right down to the teleporters, yet its really is the anti Star Trek.

Similarly Red Dwarf took a lot from Lost in Space yet the two shows sense of humour is as different as day and night. Lost in Space is upbeat, whimsical and family friendly, whilst Red Dwarf is more dry, cynical and certainly much darker all around.

In the case of the 90s and 00s series however what’s interesting is that for once there was really very little difference between British and American series in terms of style.

Take a look at say Merlin and Xena, or Doctor Who and Buffy and Angel and their styles, sense of humour are all pretty much the same. For whatever reason I feel that the 90’s/00’s style was able to perhaps translate better over seas than many others.

2/ Leading Roles For Women

A key feature of fantasy and sci fi series in the 90s and 00s is that they have much stronger roles for women compared to previous decades.

Now I am not saying that previous decades sci fi and fantasy were sexist.

I think shows like Star Trek TOS and Classic Who get a hard time from many contemporary critics, as though there are certainly some examples of vintage sexism in them, by and large both shows were actually very progressive for their time. Martin Luther King himself even said that Star Trek played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement!

Sci Fi and Fantasy were actually often the most progressive genres during the 50s, 60s, but still even with that, its true that there weren’t as many roles for women, as after all the entertainment industry in general was more male dominated back then.

However times change and I think that really throughout the 70s we start to see more and more leading roles for women emerge in some of the most iconic and successful genre series, from Wonder Woman, to the Alien film series, to The Bionic Woman, to The Survivors.

By the time of the 90s I don’t think anyone had any issues with a leading character being a woman, but what changed during this decade was that for the first time female led shows actually became dominant. The three longest running and most successful genre series of the 90s, Buffy, Xena and Charmed all starred female heroes.

It wasn’t just simply a case of women started to take on leading roles however. Throughout the 90s we started to see shows where the majority of the supporting characters were women, and the most dangerous and evil villains were women too.

There were still plenty of male led series during this decade such as Hercules, Angel and Babylon 5. Still even in these series there were plenty of strong roles for women. In Angel for instance the most powerful character is a woman, Illyria.

The 90’s was really a golden age for female heroes, not just in the sci fi and fantasy genres. Many non sci fi and fantasy female led shows such as Alias also enjoyed huge success during this time too. Still undeniably the most famous original genre characters from this time, both heroic and villainous were all women.

3/ A Character Suddenly Becomes LGBT

Again as a sign of the times becoming more progressive, 90s shows not only featured a greater representation for LGBT characters, but would often part way through their run turn a character that had previously been assumed to be straight; gay or bisexual.

Examples of this include Willow from Buffy, who became a lesbian in its fourth season when she entered into a relationship with Tara Maclay. Susan Ivanova from Babylon 5, who was in a relationship with telepath Talia Winters, and later Marcus. Finally Xena and Gabrielle themselves were in many heterosexual and homosexual relationships throughout the shows 6 year run.

In the case of Xena and Willow their gay relationships ended up becoming more popular with the fans, prominent in the show itself, and iconic and long lasting in general.

All of these characters remain LGBT icons to this day with Xena in particular having a huge following.

At the same time however there was some criticism directed towards the likes of Xena and Gabrielle, Willow and Tara and Ivanova and Talia’s relationships as they all ended in tragedy. This gave rise to the phrase “bury your gays” that refers to the apparent habit genre series have of never giving their LGBT characters happy endings.

Personally however I think that the “bury your gays” criticism is bogus. In actual fact the vast majority of relationships, be they heterosexual, or LGBT end in tragedy in genre series.

Take a look at Angel and Cordelia, she dies. Wash and Zoe? He gets impaled. Cole and Phoebe? He goes evil and she kills him and shows no remorse whatsoever. Anya and Xander? She is killed in battle after a very bitter break up where he dumped her at the altar and she tried to curse him! You could argue that Tara and Xena were less tragic as at least they were still in loving relationships with their spouses.

Even all of Buffy, (a leading heterosexual characters) relationships go sour. Angel and Riley both leave her (after Riley goes to see Vampire prostitutes) whilst Spike burns up in the Hellmouth.

Wesley and Fred is another heterosexual relationship that ends with both of them dying horrible, slow, lingering, pointless deaths.

So much for it always being a happy ending for straight characters.

People love a tragedy more than a happy ending and thus when we started to see LGBT relationships they too by and large would be portrayed as tragic. Though even then it was not always the case that LGBT relationships didn’t have happy endings either. Willow and Kennedy for instance is in fact the only romantic relationship from Buffy that ends on a positive note.

The 90s really broke new ground with its depiction of LGBT characters. Again it wasn’t the first time we had seen same sex relationships in popular television series. The first ever gay kiss occurred on British television in the 70s, whilst there had been prominent drama’s that tackled the subject of homosexuality before such as The Naked Civil Servant.

Still again much as with leading female characters then the 90s I feel saw LGBT characters become much more frequent and popular than before.

At the height of its success Xena was the most popular show in the world in terms of overseas sales. Its hard to imagine a television series starring an LGBT woman being so popular in the 60s.

Of course the success of these 90s show would lead to more shows featuring LGBT characters into the 00s, with Torchwood having an entire cast of LGBT characters.

4/ Story Arcs

Prior to the 90s most cult series did not have ongoing story arcs. The likes of Doctor Who, Lost in Space, the original Star Trek, The Avengers, Doomwatch all had self contained episodes. The reason for this was because when selling these shows abroad the makers had to take into account the fact that the entire series might not be brought, and so they decided to make each story one that could effectively introduce a new audience to the series.

There were some exceptions, such as the already mentioned Blake’s 7 and the Key to Time story arc in Classic Who.

However it would really be during the 90s that story arcs not only became practically mandatory for sci fi and fantasy series, but where many new types of story arcs were pioneered too.

Babylon 5 marked the first time a story arc spread out across an entire series from start to finish. Most of the show was written by the one man, Joseph Michael Straczynski who had mapped out the entire series before he had even written it. Though he had to make a few adjustments along the way, including replacing certain characters when their actors left.

Still the show was praised for how well it was able to develop its story across 5 years, and many series since have attempted to similarly tell a story spanning several years.

Examples of this can be found in the revived Doctor Who. The story arc surrounding Tennant’s Doctors severed hand for instance began in series 2 and though initially it seems like nothing more than a throwaway scene, it later ends up playing key roles in Torchwood series 1, and Doctor Who series 3 and 4’s story arcs.

Similarly the entire Matt Smith era follows one story arc, the war on Trenzalore, fall of the 11th prophecy, and the threat of the Silence.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer meanwhile would pioneer a new type of story arc, the Big Bad formula.

The Big Bad formula is where a major villain or sometimes a few villains will emerge, usually at the start of a series, though sometimes it might be as late as half way through.

The Big Bad will be the head of many of the lesser villains who appear in each episode. Their master plan may be slowly revealed over the course of the series. Their end game will naturally be a bigger threat than any other villain that year, and as a result they will be defeated in the season finale in a spectacular battle where they will usually be killed.

The next year a new villain will emerge to take their place and the pattern will repeat once more.

The Big Bad formula has been copied by almost every major cult series since. Being Human, Doctor Who, Smallville, Once Upon A Time, Supernatural, Charmed, Arrow, The Flash etc.

Whilst it would be wrong to say that story arcs in genre series began in the 90s, it was certainly during this decade that through the likes of Buffy and Babylon 5 they became more prominent than ever before.

5/ Characters Seeking Redemption

There had been anti heroes before the 90s, with both Doctor Zachary Smith from Lost in Space and Kerr Avon from Blake’s 7 being two classic examples.

However in the 90s they not only became a lot more common, but I feel were taken to a whole new level.

Where as Avon was merely ruthless and self serving, 90s anti heroes such as Xena, Angel, and G’kar had all been murderers of women and children in the past!

It was quite a risky thing to make characters we were meant to root for be guilty of such deplorable things, from advocating genocide, to rape, to cold blooded torture. But that was often the point of 90s shows, that people can change.

These characters will often have to face someone they wronged at some point and try find a way to earn their forgiveness. Sometimes it doesn’t work, like Angel and Holtz, whilst in others such as G’Kar and Londo, Angel and Giles and even Xena and Callisto the atoner is able to earn forgiveness from the person they wronged more than anyone else.

At the same time however these series would often play around with the idea of the former villains never being able to truly make up for what they have done, and thus characters like Xena, Angel, G’Kar and Londo are often denied their happy endings.

A fairly large amount of 90s/00s genre series have a character like this. In Xena there is obviously Xena herself. Xena was once an evil warlord who slaughtered countless villages before being redeemed by Hercules and Gabrielle.

Charmed meanwhile has Cole who was once one of the worst Demons but later finds redemption (eventually) through his love for Phoebe.

In Smallville there is Lionel Luthor who starts out as the shows main villain, but ends up becoming a father figure to Clark Kent.

In Babylon 5, G’Kar and Londo both qualify. G’Kar starts out as a vicious racist would be conqueror. Though his people the Narn were genuinely wronged by the Centauri, the Narn still went on to conquer other worlds, and bully other races they way they had once been. They also sought to not just simply get back at the Centauri, but to exterminate their entire race from the universe.

As time goes on however G’Kar after all he endures, sees the error of his ways and ironically ends up becoming an almost messiah like figure preaching love between all races of the universe.

Londo his rival/friend (though only in the later series) starts out desperate to reclaim his species former glory at any cost. This of course leads him into a very dodgy deal with the Shadows that almost destroys two worlds (including his own) and costs millions of innocent people their lives.

However as time goes on he too sees the error of his ways and does all he can to rectify the wrongs he caused and later ends up sacrificing himself to save his world.

Doctor Who has also played around with this idea too with both Captain Jack and the Doctor during the Russell T Davies era having been guilty of terrible things in their past, such as the time war (before it was retconned).

Finally Buffy and Angel have a seemingly never ending supply of these types of characters. From Angel and Spike, two of the worst Vampires in recorded history, to Anya a former vengeance Demon, to Doyle a coward who left his people to be butchered, to Illyria a former Demon who killed Fred, to Willow who flayed a guy alive and nearly destroyed the world, to even Giles whose reckless actions in his youth let loose a Demon that killed several innocent people.

These characters helped the 90s/00s genre series be somewhat more morally grey than many of their predecessors such as the original Star Trek series.

6/ Lovable Lovestruck Rogue

A popular character in 90s shows, this character was always a man.

He will start out as a villain, maybe the major enemy of the female hero. However as time goes on it will be revealed that he is in love with her. This will of course horrify him at first, not only because he has fallen in love with his enemy, but being in love will be contradictory to his nature, as he will be a creature of evil.

After realising his love for the female hero he will then try and become good. His love for her will motivate him to do some good things, but it may also motivate him to do some horrifying things too.

Eventually however his good side will win out, and he will even become more human and vulnerable, requiring the female hero to protect him. Throughout the story the female hero will struggle with feelings for him, which she will give into frequently. Ultimately however they will never get together, though usually by the end the female hero and male villain have a more respectful and caring relationship.

Cole from Charmed, Spike from Buffy and Ares from Xena all fit this template perfectly. All start out as major enemies of the main female heroes, Buffy, Xena, and the Charmed ones, all are creatures of evil who are not supposed to feel love. A Vampire, a War God, and a Demon respectfully. All try and do good to win round the heroine they are in love with and all do manage to do great things. Ares gives up his Godhood to save Xena’s daughter, Spike is almost tortured to death by Glory to save Dawn, whilst Cole saves the Charmed ones lives many times.

However all 3 do horrible things as a result of their infatuation. Spike almost rapes Buffy, Ares tries to blackmail Xena into giving him a child by threatening to go to the Gods, whilst Cole rewrites time itself, murdering Paige in the process to win Phoebe back.

All 3 lose their powers or become more human. Ares and Cole literally become human, whilst Spike gets a human soul.

Finally all 3 do not get the girl in the end, but still they all develop a more respectful relationship with her, with Ares telling Xena that he wouldn’t ever want her to go evil again as he loves her for who she is now, Cole helping Phoebe find love again, and Spike sacrificing himself to save Buffy and her friends.

A further similarity between Spike and Ares can be found in their relationship with the main male heroes of their respective franchises too, Hercules and Angel.

Spike and Ares initially start out as darker characters on the series starring a male hero. They both have nothing but hatred for the hero and thus get a chance to be more genuinely evil characters.

As time goes on however Ares and Spike both become more comical characters as we discover their hatred of Hercules and Angel is actually more shallow and petty. The two villain are both just jealous of Herclues and Angel and at times seem more like a squabbling brother than a true archenemy.

Naturally these characters were always very popular. Both James Marsters and Julian McMahon who played Spike and Cole went on to have fantastic careers afterwards. Sadly Kevin Smith who played Ares was tragically killed in an accident not long after Xena finished.

In many ways I think this character represented how the 90s and the 00s became more female dominated.

Normally in the past the role of the more romantic, lovestruck villain desperate for the heroes attention was taken by a woman. Catwoman in Batman,  Maxima in Superman, Black Cat in Spider-Man and in some versions Irene Adler in Sherlock Holmes. The role of the more vicious, unsympathetic, evil villain who wanted to kill the hero meanwhile was always taken by a man. The Joker in Batman, Lex Luthor in Superman, Professor Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes.

In 90s series however this classic set up was completely reversed. The hero and the evil, psychotic, villain who was a rival to the hero were occupied by women, Xena and Callisto, Buffy and Faith, whilst the lovestruck villain is now a man, Ares, Spike etc.

It was good to give both women and men a chance to play different types of characters.

7/ Crossovers

Many 90s and 00s series were part of a larger franchise. Again this was something that we didn’t really see that often before or indeed since (apart from the Arrowverse which is already based on a shared universe, DC comics)

The various Star Trek series, Voyager, Next Generation Deep Space 9, all took place in the same universe and had crossovers with one another.

The revived Doctor Who franchise during the 00s also had two spin off series, Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures, both of which had crossovers with the parent show.

Xena and Hercules also took place in the same universe, as did Buffy and Angel. Finally even Babylon 5 had its own short lived spin off series too.

Personally I always liked the fact that these series took place in a shared universe for many reasons. To start with it allowed the writers to expand the fictional universe to a much greater extent. Also it was interesting watching what were similar ideas but from both a female and a male perspective, as was the case with Xena and Hercules and Buffy and Angel.

Hercules and Xena were both fantasy series set in ancient Greece, whilst Buffy and Angel were both Vampire series set in modern day. However the fact that Angel and Hercules featured male heroes meant they were more straight forward action series, whilst Buffy and Xena the two female led series had more of a soap opera element to them.

Also the fact that many characters would cross over between both series was interesting as we got to see how they interacted with the heroes of different series.

As already mentioned on Buffy and Xena, Spike and Ares were more complicated, romantic, conflicted, sexy, even sympathetic characters, whilst on the show starring a male hero they were comical, jealous, petty, and humorous characters.

Faith meanwhile is almost the reverse. On the show starring a female hero, Buffy, she is her archenemy, whilst on Angel he takes on the role of a mentor to the troubled Slayer.

Then there is the debate about which characters worked better on each show. Worf for instance many would agree was far more effective on Deep Space 9 than on Next Generation, whilst similarly there are many fans who preferred Captain Jack as the lovable, cheery sidekick to the Doctor on Doctor Who, as opposed to the depressed, angst ridden anti hero on Torchwood.

And finally many fans are split on whether Spike was better as the hilarious, sarcastic, rival to Angel, or the more complex, but wimpy, weepy love interest of Buffy.

8/ Ancient Villain Who Returns 

Many 90s and 00s shows feature an overarching villain who was once one of the most powerful and dangerous creatures in all of existence, but who was banished eons ago in a great war. Their followers however remain, and seek to try and find a way to bring them back. The heroes are always terrified of what will happen if they come back, and have to do everything they can to try and stop that from happening.

Examples of this trope in action include the Old Ones from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dahak from Xena and Hercules, The Shadows from Babylon 5, and the Daleks from the Russell T Davies era of Doctor Who.

The Old Ones were once the masters of the earth. They were god like Demons whose power was beyond mortal comprehension. However they were banished from the earth through a portal to hell. Many lesser Demons throughout the course of Buffy seek to open the Hellmouth and bring them back. Buffy knows that if the monsters were to return there is nothing she could do to stop them and has to prevent the Hellmouth from being opened above all else.

The Daleks in the Davies era of Doctor Who had similarly been the most powerful and evil creatures in the entire universe. They however were seemingly destroyed centuries ago in the Time War, but a few of them have survived and are trying to rebuild their race.

The Doctor throughout the Davies era is desperate to prevent that from happening to the extent that he even considers killing everyone on earth in the season 1 finale, The Parting of the Ways to stop the Daleks from regaining their power.

The Shadows meanwhile were similarly once one of the most powerful creatures in the entire universe who were driven away in a war, but much like the Old Ones, traces of them as well as followers survived throughout the Galaxy and they now plan to return which serves as the main threat throughout the first 4 seasons of Babylon 5.

Finally Dahak in Xena and Hercules was also said to have once been the most evil and powerful creature of all, even the Gods were terrified of him. However he too was banished from our reality before the rise of man. Just like with the Old Ones and the Shadows and the Daleks, traces of his evil remain, and years later his followers attempt to bring him back from the nothingness the Gods banished him too.

All of these characters were inspired to some extent by the old ones from the Cthulu mythos created by H.P Lovecraft, who were similarly ancient Demons who were sealed beneath the earth, yearning for a chance to return.

Even the designs for monsters like the Shadows and Dahak were somewhat Lovecraftian.

9/ Best Friend Who Is In Love With The Hero

This character is also popular in 90s/00s shows. They are the heroes rock. They would do anything for them, are there when the hero needs them the most, often help the hero through their darkest days, will take any secrets the hero has to the grave. Yet sadly the hero barely notices them. Certainly not in the way they would like.

Eventually this character will tell the hero how they feel and even perhaps try and make the hero feel guilty for not seeing them the same way they do. Things will be awkward for a while after until eventually the friend gets over their crush and gets a new love interest, whilst still remaining the heroes greatest friend.

Examples of this character include Martha Jones from the New Doctor Who, Chloe Sullivan from Smallville, Xander from Buffy, and Joxer from Xena.

Romance never had as big a role in Sci Fi and fantasy series before the 90s. The likes of Doctor Who, the Avengers, and Lost in Space feature no romance at all (other than an implied attraction between Peel and Steed). In Star Trek meanwhile Kirk obviously had many love interests, but they were all one offs, whilst Nurse Chapel’s infatuation with Spock didn’t play as large a role which leads me to my next point.

10/ More Soap Opera Elements

Perhaps as a result of the genre series of these decades becoming more female dominated, many of them tended to make a move towards being more of a soap opera.

Charmed, Buffy, the new Doctor Who, Torchwood all at times focused more on the characters relationships and personal drama rather than any supernatural threat.

One episode of Buffy called The Body, featured just one Vampire that appears at the end. The rest of the episode revolves around the death of Buffy’s mother from natural causes.

The decision to take the fantasy genre into more of a soap opera territory was somewhat controversial. On the one hand it did at certain points allow the writers to flesh their characters out more, but at the same time its true that it was at other points at the expense of the Fantasy and Science Fiction.

11/ Annoying Child of One Of The Main Heroes

Another character type that emerged in 90s, 00s shows. This character often starts out as a baby who is born through some special, mystical means. The baby stays a baby for a short while until the writers realise that its difficult to have an action hero constantly look after a baby.

So the baby gets aged and later resurfaces as an adolescent. The adolescent will be evil and want to make their parent pay, and do heinous things, worse things than even the heroes worst enemies.

However they will be forgiven at the last minute and redeemed.

Naturally these characters were never too popular among the fans. Eve from Xena and Connor from Angel follow this pattern completely whilst Chris and Wyat Halliwell together also fit this pattern loosely.

12/ Mixture Of Camp And Darker Material

Whilst its true that previous decades series could sometimes get a bit silly (not always on purpose) I don’t think there was ever quite as extreme a variation between darker and lighter material as there was in series such as Xena and Buffy.

Some episodes of Xena and Hercules can only be described as outright parodies such as the musical and modern day episodes.

Yet at the same time other episodes actually pushed the boundaries as to what was acceptable on television. For instance in the first episode to feature Callisto, Xena’s archenemy, the villain makes her entrance by casually slicing the throat of a 3 year old boy open.

Buffy similarly could waver between extreme camp and some of the darkest television ever made.

See for yourself.

I must admit that I didn’t think merging such extreme humour with such dark content always worked as sometimes it could feel quite jarring and off putting.

However that said it was true that it did give the 90s and 00s shows a somewhat wider range of stories they could draw on.

13/ Self Pitying Archenemy

Many 90s/00s series will often have a nemesis who tries to paint themselves as a poor, misunderstood victim. To be fair they will have been genuinely wronged. Maybe even by the hero. At first the audience will have sympathy for them, but eventually it will reach a point where it doesn’t matter what a shitty life they’ve had, their crimes will be so great. Often it will be a supporting character who will point this out to them in a defining moment and the villain will not be able to take it.

Eventually however this villain may be able to find redemption, but if not then they will at least finally take responsibility for the monster they became.

Callisto from Xena, Holtz from Angel, Faith from Buffy, the Master from the new Doctor Who, Grey from Torchwood, and Ethan from Primeval all follow this pattern.

Callisto was originally just a nice young girl from a small village called Cira. Unfortunately however when Xena raided the village she accidentally caused a fire which burned it to the ground. All of Callisto’s family including her little sister were burned to death and Callisto was driven completely insane.

Though obsessed with getting revenge on Xena above all else, Callisto doesn’t care who she has to hurt in order to make the Warrior Princess pay. In her first appearances she begins slaughtering hordes of men, women and children simply so she can frame Xena for their deaths. In her second appearance she murders scores of innocent people (including Gabrielle’s husband) because she knows Xena will feel guilt for their deaths as she ultimately made Callisto.

Eventually however Callisto pushes Xena too far when she plays a key role in the murder of her only son, Solon. To be fair Xena had been shown to be willing to murder Callisto before, but it was only from a practical point of view of she couldn’t let Callisto go around killing people, and she knew no prison would ever hold the lunatic (think on Batman!)

After Solon’s death Xena genuinely despises Callisto and even refuses to kill her at one point because she knows that will ease her pain. Incredibly enough however the two are able to forgive one another after Xena (who has become an Angel at this point) finally takes responsibility for making Callisto and uses her Angelic power to purge her soul of darkness.

Holtz in Angel meanwhile was once a noble Vampire hunter and rival of Angelus, the most twisted and evil Vampire of them all. Angelus later rapes and murders Holtz’ wife, snaps the neck of his infant son, and turns his child daughter into a Vampire, forcing Holtz to kill her himself by throwing her into the sunlight.

Holtz naturally wants to make the Vampire pay, even when Angelus is cursed with a soul and becomes a hero in his own right, Angel.

Angel much like Xena obviously feels guilt over the role he played in Holtz turn to the darkside. Holtz much like Callisto doesn’t care who he hurts in order make Angel pay. At one point he is even prepared to snap Angel’s infant son Connor’s neck!

Just like Callisto, Holtz finally pushes his archenemy too far when he goes after his son. Interestingly in both cases, Holtz and Callisto are only able to hurt Xena and Angel’s children thanks to one of their closest friends, Gabrielle and Wesley, betraying them. Xena and Angel subsequently try and kill Wesley and Gabrielle as a result in what are two of the most shocking moments in either series.

Holtz never achieves any kind of redemption however (though his sins were never as great as Callisto’s to be fair.) Still at the very least he does show some self awareness, telling his closest companion Justine that he knows he is headed for hell. Also rather interestingly he calls Angel, Angel rather than Angelus (which he always did before) in his final letter to Connor.

Before he had always seen his vendetta against the Vampire as righteous and made no distinction between Angelus and his souled counterpart, but his last moments show that at the very least he now knows that Angel is not evil, and that he is motivated solely by vengeance.

Faith in Buffy also follows this template to some extent. Throughout her entire life Faith was completely rejected by everyone close to her, except for her Watcher who was brutally tortured to death by the Vampire Kakistos right in front of her. All of this makes her a somewhat unstable, unpredictable character, but its only when she accidentally kills an innocent man who she mistakes for a Vampire that she is finally pushed over the edge.

Its quite a nice twist on the idea as unlike Callisto and Holtz who had horrible things happen to them, in Faith’s case she did something heinous by mistake and simply couldn’t own up to it.

Much like Callisto and Holtz, she goes around blaming everyone else for her turn to the dark side. At first Buffy actually feels bad for Faith, even at one point saying that it could have been her in Faith’s shoes. Of course just like Holtz and Callisto, Faith eventually pushes Buffy too far when she poisons Angel and Buffy tries to murder her. Prior to this Faith is also brilliantly called out by Willow, in much the same way as Callisto often was by Gabrielle.

Faith however later manages to achieve redemption and though she and Buffy never become great friends, they do end the series fighting against the First evil side by side.

Finally the Master during the Russell T Davies era of Doctor Who fits this template too. In the Davies’ era it was revealed that the Master had been driven insane by a constant drumming in his head that he gained when he first stared into the untempered schism as a boy.

Just like Callisto, one incident as a child twisted the Master’s personality and turned him into a monster. As a result of this the Doctor during the Davies’ era is more sympathetic towards the Master than he had ever been before.

In the classic era the Master was not insane. He was a megalomaniac who sought power, and though he and the Doctor had been friends, the Doctor had no quams about killing him. Indeed in The Mind of Evil he goes out of his way to try and murder him, whilst in The Deadly Assassin the Doctor says the Master is the one person in the universe he would wish death on.

The dynamic was completely changed however in Tennant’s time as the Doctor now wanted to help the Master and believed that deep down he wasn’t really evil. The Master also later redeems himself (though it doesn’t stick) in his last appearance in the Davies era where he seemingly sacrifices himself to save the Doctor by blasting Rassilon, the evil timelord who implanted the drumming in his head and thus made him a monster.

All 4 of these villains in some respects were inspired by the Joker. Not only are many of them portrayed as cackling, hysterical psychopath’s, but they all (with the exception of Holtz and Angel) have a gay subtext with the hero too. Also finally the idea of the villain not only being driven completely insane by one bad day, but being created by the hero too is reminiscent of Batman and the Joker.

The Joker was originally a small time crook named the Red Hood who tried to rob a chemical plant, but when Batman intervened he inadvertently knocked the Hood into a vat of chemicals which horribly disfigured him and drove him insane.

The Joker is often quick to point out how Batman made him and therefore is really responsible for the evil he causes.

It makes sense that villains in the 90s and 00s would draw on the Joker for inspiration. Though he had always been a cultural icon, the Joker’s popularity really skyrocketed during this decade thanks to Jack Nicholson and Mark Hamill’s stellar performances as the villain. This would continue into the 00s when Heath Ledger’s Oscar winning performance really cemented the clown prince of crime’s place as the most iconic comic book villain of all time.

14/ Killing Major Characters

This was less common in genre series pre the 90s (again apart from Blake’s 7 which was a trailblazer in this respect.)

There were a few instances of characters being killed off in genre series from the 60s, 70s and 80s such as Adric in Classic Who.

However generally speaking in series such as the original Star Trek, Lost in Space and Doctor Who main characters were never killed off.

In a post Blake’s 7 world however the reverse was certainly not true. It wasn’t even just that 90s series killed main characters. They would often do it suddenly, without warning. Fan favourites wouldn’t die in some big glorious battle. It would just be a sudden horrible accident, like Warren shooting Tara as he ran off, or Wash getting impaled, etc.

This has only increased to the point where now shows like The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones regularly kill main characters off. Still its important to mention that it was during the 90’s that this darker and bolder style really came into fashion.

15/ Downer Endings

Yet another thing that Blake’s 7 pioneered, but really became the norm in the 90s. To be fair not all 90s and 00s shows had downer endings. Some such as Charmed and Buffy had reasonably happy endings.

Still many of the series from this time often featured quite bleak endings. Xena ends with the main character being decapitated, whilst Angel similarly ends with all of the main characters facing certain death. Even in Buffy though she and Willow succeed in making the world a better place, Anya and Spike two of the shows main characters both die. Similarly in Babylon 5 the lead character Sheridan dies before his time too.

In previous decades many genre series such as Star Trek and Lost in Space actually didn’t even have endings. They were often sadly cancelled before their time. Still even then it would have been unlikely for a series like Lost in Space or say Doctor Who to end with any of the main characters dying horribly.

16/ Greater Focus On The Paranormal

Throughout the 60s, 70s and 90s sci fi tended to dominate fantasy on tv. Writers and general audiences were interested in the idea of exploring other planets and meeting other races and where technology would take us in the future.

When you look at things like the original Star Trek and Dan Dare, there’s a certain optimism to them that’s charming even after all this time.

Back in the 60s people did genuinely believe that we would be living on the moon in 30 years time and flying to work in a space ship.

Hence why many sci fi series were set only a few decades into the future, such as Lost in Space, Space 1999, Dan Dare, and even various Doctor Who stories.

Sadly however by the 90s as this future failed to materialize, and audiences had had their fill of stories about space exploration, then they turned to stories about old myths and legends about creatures like Vampires, Werewolves and Demons, reinterpreted for modern audiences.

The 4 longest running, most successful, influential and culturally significant series of the 90s/00s period, Buffy, Xena, The X-Files and Charmed all featured supernatural creatures such as Vampires, Demons, Gods, and Witches. Though the Vampires and other supernatural creatures in The X-Files were given a more rational explanation in The X-Files.

There was a still a place for Sci Fi series like the Star Trek sequels and Babylon 5 and the Doctor Who revival.

Still even then many of the creatures in these series still had a somewhat supernatural aspect to them such as the Vorlons and the Shadows, who though still aliens were for all intents and purposes Demons and Angels in space, or the mysterious soul hunters in Babylon 5.

In the modern Doctor Who meanwhile creatures like the Daleks, and even the Doctors own people the Time Lords have also demonstrated supernatural like powers such as being able to revive the dead.

Demons have also been featured in both the modern Doctor Who and Torchwood, whilst the grim reaper himself also was introduced to the Doctor Who universe via Torchwood.

17/ Historical Series That Make No Attempt To Be Historically Accurate

A style that was really pioneered with Hercules and Xena. These series were set in the past, but would often not only feature many glaring historical inaccuracies, but would figures and events from various different periods, separated by thousands of years living together. For instance the Xena/Hercules franchise depicts Julius Cesaer, Vlad the Impaler, and Ulyssess all living at the same time.

Many subsequent fantasy series would be made in this mould over the course of the next two decades. The most successful was unquestionably the BBC’s version of Merlin, but others included The Legend of the Seeker, The Adventures of Sinbad, and the BBC’s version of Robin Hood.

Whilst many people may have knocked the historical inaccuracies of these series, I also rather liked them, as it added to the surrealist nature of all series.

18/ Series Set In Modern Day

Prior to the 90s not that many genre series had been set in modern day. Star Trek, Lost in Space, Blake’s 7 and Space 1999 were all set in the future. Whilst episodes of Doctor Who were set in modern day, and other series like Quatermass also favoured a contemporary setting, as the focus was on sci fi stories, meeting alien races, and the future, then naturally shows set in modern, everyday surroundings were not the norm.

This changed in the 90s as the focus shifted to the paranormal. In some ways this made the 90s shows more effective. On the one hand they weren’t as able to create new and fascinating worlds like Star Trek could, but the fact that the monsters exist in everyday surroundings and in some case, such as with the Mayor in Buffy, are able to use our own system against us.

As Jon Pertwee who played the Third Doctor once said “There’s really nothing more alarming than coming home and finding a Yeti, sitting on your loo in Tooting Bec.

The 90s/00s era took advantage of this to a greater extent than ever before with series like Buffy, Angel, The X-Files, Charmed, Torchwood, Being Human, and Primeval.

19/ A Future Where Technology Has Marched On, Yet Nothing Else Has

The final most common main setting for 90s genre series was a future where technology had improved, man had made contact with aliens, yet all of the same problems of today still persisted. They had simply moved to a different location.

Examples of this include Babylon 5 which is basically the UN in space, Firefly and Star Trek Deep Space 9.

Whilst its true that many previous sci fi series would use villains like the Daleks and the Klingons as metaphors for problems of the present like the Soviet Union and the Cold War. Overall the future in most sci fi television series and films tended to broadly be divided into two categories.

Either things had worked out for us like in Star Trek and Dan Dare, or humanity had gone evil like in Blake’s 7, or we had been conquered by evil monsters like the Daleks.

It was quite rare to see a mixture of both where the future was better and worse in some ways. Once again this became the norm for this generation of sci fi and fantasy series.

20/ Influence Of Chinese Horror and Fantasy Films

Throughout the 80s and the 90s there was a massive horror boom in Hong Kong cinema. These included the likes of the Mr Vampire film series, Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind, A Chinese Ghost Story and The Bride with White Hair and Heroic Trio film series.

Now many of the tropes of 90s genre series can actually be found in the 80s Hong Kong horror boom.

The makers of series such as Xena, have openly cited Chinese horror and action films as being major influences. Rob Tapert, the creator of Xena even listed the Bride with White Hair as the single biggest influence on Xena, this would be reflected in the two parter The Debt, which featured a Chinese woman as Xena’s mentor, and in the final episode of the series which was very heavily inspired by the classic A Chinese Ghost Story.

The Chinese horror movies blended horror and action like never before. We had kung fu Vampires, Demons, Witches and Zombies, all of which would go on to feature in shows like Buffy, Angel and Charmed. In the first episode of season 7 of Buffy, Dawn even jokes that the latest Vampire doesn’t seem to know all of the crazy Kung Fu moves they all seem to pick up.

Furthermore the Vampires in Chinese movies are always depicted as being monstrous and ugly. They were as single minded as animals and nothing but rip their victims to pieces. They didn’t even speak! Again you can see how this was reflected in later 90s and 00s series like Buffy with the Turok Han.

The Chinese Horror movies also regularly blended overt horror alongside slapstick comedy too, which Buffy, Xena and Charmed would all become known for.

The Chinese horror movies also featured strong, complex heroic and villainous roles for women too. In films like The Dead and the Deadly you’d see female characters beat the absolute shit out of Demons, Vampires and monsters long before their counterparts would in western television series.

Michelle Yeoh’s character in the Heroic trio and the leading character from The Bride with White Hair, played by actress Brigitte Linn are the forebears to the likes of Faith, Callisto and Xena. They are all evil, psychotic, villains who eventually change their ways and become heroes.

Yeoh’s character from the Heroic Trio, much like Xena later dies a violent death in order to achieve a proper redemption.

Conclusion

As you can see the 90s/00s pioneered a new style that managed to spread out across both fantasy and sci fi, and arguably travel better overseas than any other before.

However it would eventually be replaced by a darker, grittier style that was pioneered in 10s genre series like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.

In some respects however modern genre series just pick off where the 90s/00s style left off. Like 90’s/00’s genre series they still feature ongoing story arcs, the big bad formula, and more soap opera elements, and they kill characters off more often.

However what has been dumped from the 90s/00s style is the overt camp and humour. Most modern genre series tend to take themselves very seriously and indeed the likes of Xena and Hercules are sadly often looked down on by contemporary critics as being too camp.

Still the 90s/00s style does still persist in some genre series such as The Flash, Once Upon A Time and the revived Doctor Who.

Whilst mass audiences generally may prefer sci fi and fantasy (and indeed most forms of entertainment) to be dark and gritty nowadays, its nice to see 90s classics like Buffy and Babylon 5 not only still maintain a devoted following, but also their influence and style still continuing to influence series to this day.

Thanks for reading.

 

Top 10 most Horrific Deaths on Buffy The Vampire Slayer

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Though Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still celebrated almost twenty years on as a television classic. I feel that sometimes the horror elements of the series are overlooked by contemporary critics. People tend to focus on the themes of female empowerment or the massive impact Buffy had on the industry.

Whilst these are valid discussion points, ultimately Buffy was first and foremost a horror series. It was responsible for some of the most terrifying monsters, disturbing concepts and visceral scenes of horror ever seen on television. At its best I think Buffy can hold up with any classic horror movie.

In this article I’ve decided to compile the most horrific deaths throughout all 7 seasons of Buffy. Please let me know what you think and if there are any you think I’ve missed.

10/ Celia, Buffy’s Cousin/ Killed by Death

Sadly Buffy’s sweet cousin Celia gets one of the most frightening deaths in the entire history of the show. Celia is a victim of the demon called Der Kindestod, who can only be seen by those who are ill. Der Kindestod primarily targets children.

When the monster attacked Celia, Buffy was standing right there but couldn’t see it and assumed that Celia was simply succumbing to her illness. Its only years later when Buffy has an encounter with the demon herself that she realizes what really happened.

The flashback we are later shown where Celia screams and panics as the invisible monster kills her is definitely one of the shows most terrifying moments. This is what Der Kindestod looks like by the way.

Imagine that thing bearing down on you whilst you are a child, ill and no one else, not even your family who are standing next to you can see it!

9/ Sunnydale Swim Team/ Go Fish

The Sunnydale Swim team are infected with a chemical that causes them to mutate into heinous monsters. Its bad enough becoming a horrible fish man, who has to go and live in the ocean for the rest of your life, but the way they change is even more horrific. The monster they become literally bursts its way from under their skin.

8/ The Monk/ No Place Like Home

Not quite as creatively horrible as some of the other deaths on this list. It earns a place for how brutal it is. This unnamed monk is the last survivor of the order of dagon all of whom one by one are tracked down and killed by Glory. A hell goddess who is searching for the Key. The last of the Monks is tortured throughout the entire episode by Glory. Though Buffy does manage to get him out of there, he ultimately succumbs to his wounds. Glory would torture a few other people including Spike for the location of the Key throughout series 5, but none of them died so evidently this poor monk got it the worst.

7/ Catherine Madison/ Witch

Unlike the previous victims on this list Catherine completely brings this on herself (literally Buffy deflects her own spell back at her). Catherine ends up trapped in her own statue seemingly forever unable to move or speak. I don’t know whether to class this as a death, as technically Catherine’s mind survives in the statue. Still she’s dead technically as her body was destroyed. The statue is presumably later destroyed either when the school or Sunnydale are later blow up, so Catherine did later die anyway, but had to spend years trapped in a statue.

6/ Spike/ Chosen

Spike’s death whilst noble and poignant is also pretty horrific when you think about it. The amulet he wears which ultimately destroys the Uber Vampires also slowly burns him to death from the inside out, causing his skin to slowly burn off, his eye balls to melt in their sockets, his organs to explode and his bones to crumble to dust. Worse he’s conscious right until the end of it. Though to be fair Spike does relish in the mayhem he causes and we all know this death didn’t take anyway, as Spike later returned in season 5 of Angel.

5/ Rickie/Anne

Poor Rickie is a victim of the demon Ken. Ken captures runaway’s and forces them to work in a hell dimension for the rest of their lives, where they are brutalized and tortured to the point where they don’t even remember their own name. As time runs differently in hell dimensions, 100 years in hell is only 1 day on earth. Rickie is gone for only a few hours on earth before being spat out as an insane, aged old man who dies from the life of abuse he has endured.

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4/ Student/ Hush

A legendarily horrible scene from possibly the greatest of all Buffy episodes. The Gentlemen steal everyone in Sunnydale’s voices so that they can attack their victims in their sleep and cut their hearts out without being heard. (They need 7 for some nefarious scheme that is never revealed.) One unlucky student is cornered by the monsters and has his heart cut out slowly by the grinning monsters, as hopelessly tries to scream for help.

“You’re gonna die screaming but you wont be heard” 

3/ Caleb/ Chosen

Caleb played by Nathan Fillion is the recipient of one of the most gruesome and emasculating deaths in the entire history of the series. Fortunately he is the one person who you not only don’t mind it happening to, but you are actually happy for it to happen too!

Caleb is one of the shows nastiest villains. Aside from blinding Xander in one eye, Caleb is also shown to enjoy brutally torturing and murdering young women for fun. This makes his gruesome death at the hands of an iconic female hero like Buffy (who kills him by stabbing him in the balls with an axe and then slicing him up the middle) probably the least subtle death in the entire history of the show. Still its nevertheless one of Buffy’s defining moments as both a hero and a feminist icon.

 

2/ Warren Mears/ Villains

I know what you’re thinking shouldn’t this be number 1? Well as nasty as this is I actually think there is one worse. (Which is really saying something!)

Much like Caleb, Warren is not exactly that sympathetic a character. Having already murdered his girlfriend in cold blood (after having attempted to turn her into his sex slave) and also having murdered fan favourite Tara Maclay. He was probably the best person to give this horrible fate to.

Warren is tortured by a vengeful Willow who strings him up, stitches his mouth together so that he cannot scream and slowly sticks the bullet into his chest. Later when Warren pathetically begs for his life, Willow grows bored of him and strips the skin from his body before burning him alive. It is later revealed however in the season 8 comic that Amy, an old witch rival of Willows teleported him to safety after Willow flayed him. However he did still die as the first was able to take his form, so in his later appearances he is technically undead.  Later when magic is banished from our reality Amy’s magic that is keeping him alive after losing his skin vanishes and he finally dies from the flaying.

Sometimes a pic isn’t enough.

1/ Skinned Teen/ Same Time Same Place

Buffy’s most gruesome death is another flaying, but this is even worse than Warrens. The perpetrator is a Gnarl demon that paralyses its victims with poison in its claws, leaving them unable to move or speak. The Demon then uses its claws to slowly peel the skin from its prey’s bodies piece by piece.

This seems to be a common theme throughout Buffy of being attacked, but being unable to call for help. Buffy’s cousin is attacked by Der Kindestod and no one but her can see it, The Gentleman take away your voices so no one can hear you scream when they tear your heart out, Willow stitches Warren’s mouth up so he can’t scream as she slowly sticks the bullet into his chest, and the Gnarl paralyses its victims to the point where they can’t scream for help.

This is definitely more horrible than the others for me. Warren’s flaying whilst vile is at least over in a second, similarly the Gentleman’s victim and Celia’s deaths would have been over much more quickly. This however goes on for hours and added to that the Gnarl looks a lot uglier and nastier than even the Gentlemen or Der Kindestod. Willow ironically very nearly becomes a victim of the Gnarl, but Buffy manages to save her and gives the Gnarl itself a pretty horrible death by putting her fingers through its eyes.

Unfortunately at the start of this episode she is unable to save a young teen from the same fate which is our number 1 most gruesome death in Buffy, (if not anything.)

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