There's a special circle in the Hells of Hollywood where even films like Live Free or Die Hard or My Super Ex-Girlfriend dare not enter. It's a place occupied by films so despicable, so offensive to our collective intelligence, that their very existence has to be a joke. You know the ones: Batman and Robin. Battle Field Earth. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. And when a film becomes so bad that it's ironically good, how can you possibly spoof it? That's the mountain the Funhouse Lounge set out to summit with Buffy! A Parody Play. It's no easy task. The source material, 1992's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, has enough cringe-worthy moments to justify an intravenous morphine drip.

We decided to stack up the original film's most painful displays of camp and then assess if the parody's renditions hurt even more. 

1. The Shopping Mall Scene

The movie: Nothing illuminates an over-privileged princess better than a shopping mall excursion with her gum-smacking friends. There are kiddie pools deeper than Buffy's Valley Girl persona as she pollutes the atmosphere with one close-minded statement after the other. Case in point: "Excuse me for not knowing about El Salvador. Like I'm ever going to Spain anyway!"

The play: Sorry, you can add all the dated Pauly Shore call-outs you want, but no number of ironic references can beat that classic one-liner.

Who wields the stake? The movie. 

2. The Dream Sequences with Lothos

The movie: As Buffy inches toward her vampire-slaying destiny, she experiences a number of hokey dreams involving her arch nemesis, Lothos. Overwrought with street-level eroticism that might make a 6th grader's heart race, the dreams achieve nothing beyond an awkwardness usually reserved for OkCupid dates.

The play: The parody trashes the film's static kinkiness like an old issue of Maxim. Buffy and Lothos' connection is instead explored through the power of…dance. That's right, an unapologetically sloppy tango fills the void of Buffy's head, as she and her supposed rival spin on the stage and twirl through the audience. It's a delightfully vapid overhaul of an already vapid plot point. 

Who wields the stake? The play.


3. The Graveyard Scene

The movie: Here we have Buffy's first encounter with the undead, appropriately on a foggy night in the middle of a graveyard.  In one major stroke of convenience, a vampire claws his way out of a grave like a rejected extra from Dawn of the Dead just as Buffy and her mentor, Merrick, arrive. And for a girl who probably didn't know the Count from Count Dracula, Buffy sure knows how to dispatch a vampire with just a few over-choreographed stunts.

The play: As Merrick and Buffy wait for their vampire to rise, Merrick whiles away the time by knitting a scarf. As the entire Saturday Night Live cast could attest, there is such a thing as trying too hard. With no real attempt at recreating the scene's formula, I would have preferred a dirt nap with the vampires.

Who wields the stake? The movie.


4. The Training Montage

The movie: Once Buffy accepts her fate as a vampire slayer, she prepares herself for the challenge how any decent protagonist would—with a training montage. Jammed with shots of Buffy grunting at nothing, cartwheeling in no apparent direction and advertising Nike Air Jordans for her teenage constituents, it's a montage not even Sylvester Stallone could save.

The play: By splicing together Hollywood films, including Rocky, Karate Kid and Chariots of Fire, this is one meta (and mega) montage. If Buffy punching a cutout of Count Chocula to the tune of "Eye of the Tiger" doesn't send the eyeballs rolling, just wait until she melodramatically stabs a vampire in slow motion. And then Buffy tests her prowess on pop culture's lowest hanging fruit, Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. I suppose it makes sense that Twilight jokes won't stay dead.

Who wields the stake? The play.


5.  The Death of Amilyn

The movie: When Lothos' right-hand (and handless) man, Amilyn, meets the business end of Buffy's stake, the film shows its single glimmer of self-deprecation. Making his death a spectacle that would even try the Looney Tunes' patience, Amilyn screams and writhes for several beats too many—and then keeps whelping into the night, aware that he's overstayed his welcome.

The play: Not to let the original film get away with its one true moment of parody, the Funhouse rendition ups the ante with sheer force. This version brings the pain with the ancient western philosophy that more is obviously better. When the movie's version of Amilyn would have turned to dust, this one just keeps clawing at his embedded stake. At this rate, we'd be better off removing the stake and stabbing ourselves with it.

Who wields the stake? The play.


The verdict: By a score of 3-to-2, Buffy! A Parody Play proves that with enough disregard to taste and personal respect, you can beat schlock at its own game. Better carve out another circle in Hollywood Hell. 

GO: Buffy! A Parody Play is at Funhouse Lounge, 2432 SE 11th Ave., 841-6734. 7 pm Thursdays-Saturdays through March 29. $12-$18. Tickets here.