It’s been nearly 25 years since television viewers were welcomed to the Hellmouth beneath Sunnydale, California. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a career-defining series for much of its cast, who went on to have pretty prolific careers in sitcoms, animated series, and films across the board.
Like the many prophecies found in Mr. Giles’ codices, sometimes it seems the monster and horror genres will always be a part of these actors’ destinies. Whether they play similar roles to their Sunnydale counterparts or go against type, it’s always fun to compare characters and projects, seeing our favorite Scoobies face down maniacal slashers or vengeance demons getting a taste of their own medicine on the silver screen.
Let’s open the watcher’s guide to some of the most notable horror roles the cast of Buffy tackled outside of their time in Sunnydale.
Sarah Michelle Gellar — Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and more
When she wasn’t busy being the Chosen One, Sarah Michelle Gellar filled her filming schedule with plenty of other now-iconic horror flicks. But not every role can be Buffy Summers, and while she played daring detectives and pageant queens, our favorite Slayer doesn’t survive in every subsequent cinematic outing. (Thankfully, death never seemed to stop her before.)
In 1997, the same year as Buffy’s small screen debut, Gellar also saw the release of Scream 2 and I Know What You Did Last Summer, the latter of which introduced her to Freddie Prinze Jr., her eventual husband and a repeat co-star. In Scream 2, she played Casey “Cici” Cooper, an ill-fated college student whose name made her a target for the copycat recreating the list of the original Ghost Face killers’ victims. In I Know What You Did Last Summer, she starred as Helen Shivers and delivered one of horror cinema’s most iconic chase scenes in addition to being a more fully developed character than audiences expected from slasher victims at the time.
Following the Buffy finale, Gellar took up a more detective-based role as Daphne Blake in the cult classic live-action Scooby-Doo film and its sequel Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. While initially receiving a lukewarm reaction from critics, these films have recently become fan favorites for the combination of the silly tone, strange visual effects, and near-perfect casting of the live-action Mystery, Inc. crew (with Freddie Prinze Jr.’s Fred Jones, Linda Cardellini’s Velma Dinkley, and Matthew Lillard’s Shaggy Rogers completing the human roster).
Gellar also appeared in the American remake of The Grudge and, being the sole survivor of that film, appeared for a brief time in the sequel. It seems her time as the Slayer prepared her to face down even more ghosts and ghouls after shutting down the Hellmouth.
Eliza Dushku — Wrong Turn
After her turn as the rogue Slayer Faith Lehane, Eliza Dushku took on the role of Jessie Burlingame in the first of the Wrong Turn films in 2003. Trading vampires for mountain cannibals, Dushku starred as one of a group of young adults on a camping trip cut short by Three Finger, Saw Tooth, and One Eye, a group of killers who ritualistically hunt travelers driving through the mountain pass. She ends up captured and restrained in their junkyard cabin, although she managed to avoid a lot of the traps they had initially set to snare the campers.
While not a traditional final girl character, Jessie Burlingame does ultimately survive the horrific incident, escaping along with Chris Flynn (played by Desmond Harrington) as the cannibals get caught in an explosion rigged by the youths. While the franchise continued, the subsequent films did not bring back any of the survivors from the first film, making this a one-off role — although Dushku later teamed up with the film’s director for another horror piece, The Alphabet Killer.
Alyson Hannigan — You Might Be the Killer
The wise, wyrd, and occasionally wicked Willow Rosenberg was the savviest of the Scoobies, using her book smarts, tech knowledge, and magic powers to kick some serious evil butt. In You Might Be the Killer, a small independent horror production inspired by a Twitter thread of all things, Alyson Hannigan stars as Chuck, a comic store manager who uses her knowledge of genre tropes to help her unfortunate friend Sam (Dollhouse‘s Fran Kranz) navigate a gory night at his camp leader job.
See, it turns out that the longer the night goes on, the more odd things happen to Sam — like finding slaughtered junior counselors, blacking out and waking up covered in blood, and finding a haunted mask that calls out to him. The more Sam describes, the more quickly Chuck is convinced that her friend is actually the killer, and together they try to break the deadly slasher curse on the camp.
Looks like all that library research with Mr. Giles did come in handy!
Alexis Denisof — Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Married to co-star Alyson Hannigan, Alexis Denisof went from bumbling watcher to certified hero by the time Buffy‘s spinoff series Angel was through. Wesley Wyndam-Pryce dedicated his life to the study of demons, magic, and the supernatural, but in the Netflix original adaptation of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (based on an Archie Comics series of the same name), his character is all but ignorant to the supernatural world. However, he does end up engaged to a witch — art imitating life?
In this series, Denisof played the recurring role of Adam Masters, a normal man who whose fiancée Mary Wardwell is murdered and replaced by Madame Satan, also known as Lilith. While Lilith initially planned to kill him too, his relentless kindness and optimism softened her heart and she eventually began to develop genuine feelings for the man. While Adam remained none the wiser, unfortunately the honeymoon period wouldn’t last, as the Dark Lord executed him and served his head to Lilith for dessert.
Bittersweet, to say the least.
Seth Green — Idle Hands
As the quiet and musical Daniel “Oz” Osbourne, Seth Green used his hands to strum guitar alongside his band Dingoes Ate My Baby, but in the teen horror comedy Idle Hands (1999), he gets a little bit more than he bargained for when his stoner friend Anton discovers his hand is possessed and murderous. Green plays Mick, an equally lazy teen who gets murdered by buddy Pnub (played by a young Elden Henson, of later Daredevil fame) with a glass bottle to the head.
In horror, death is never a true ending, and so Mick and Pnub come back as zombies to taunt their friend as he deals with his deadly digits. Torn between being helpful to the cause and simply causing more marijuana-fueled chaos, Seth Green gets to utilize his comedic chops in this offbeat horror flick, in sharp contrast to the stoic werewolf of Sunnydale fans know and love.
Emma Caulfield — Darkness Falls
Before she was launching wild fan theories in Marvel Studios’ WandaVision, Emma Caulfield expertly stole scenes throughout the Buffy series as Anya Jenkins, the former vengeance demon trapped as a mortal after losing the source of her terrible power. While most of her time was spent helping scorned women grapple with their male tormentors, she spends her role in Darkness Falls trying to stave off the demonic forces of a malevolent spirit embodying the legend of the Tooth Fairy.
In the film, she plays Caitlin Greene, whose younger brother is plagued by nightmares, refusing to sleep for fear of the woman Matilda Dixon. While Caitlin believes Dixon is just a story told to children, it’s revealed that the woman was more than just a myth — a witch from the middle of the 19th century, she cursed the town of Darkness Falls and would visit children on the night they lost their last tooth, marking them for vengeance. Caulfield’s character survives the film and helps the other characters to ultimately lift the horrible curse.
Michelle Trachtenberg — Black Christmas
What do Christmas and Buffy have in common? Slays! Jack Skellington might have showed audiences the potential dangers of crossing holidays, but festive horror flicks maintain a selective popularity among genre fans.
Famous for her role as Buffy’s surprise sister Dawn Summers, Michelle Trachtenberg went from the frosty and family-friendly Ice Princess to Black Christmas (2006), a loose remake of a 1974 slasher film by the same name. In this gory production, Trachtenberg plays an ill-fated sorority sister named Melissa Kitt, who gets ironically offed when a pair of ice skates decapitates her. Although there was an alternate ending where the character was slated to survive, one of the actress’ stipulations to appearing in the film was that her character should die.
While Buffy may have saved Dawn’s life in “The Gift,” that was a wrap on this role.
Honorable Mention: Supernatural Cameos
Long before the Winchester brothers took to the road, Buffy and her Scoobies were facing down demons on the daily (with time to finish their homework). When Supernatural began airing after Buffy’s 2003 finale “Chosen,” it seemed a natural fit for some of these actors to make cameos in this somewhat of a spiritual successor to the Slayer’s adventures.
A number of Sunnydale alumni have taken turns appearing on this series, including Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia Chase), James Marsters (Spike), Julie Benz (Darla), Mercedes McNab (Harmony Kendall), Amber Benson (Tara Maclay), Harry Groener (Mayor Wilkins), and even Felicia Day (Vi the potential Slayer).
Perhaps most notably, Carpenter and Marsters, who also starred in Angel after their time on Buffy, played a married witch couple whose fidelity issues end up getting taken out on an innocent town in the episode “Shut Up, Dr. Phil.” McNab, who ended up cutting her fangs as a newly-sired vampire in Angel was once again turned bloodthirsty as the party girl Lucy in “Fresh Blood.”
An additionally interesting tidbit is the fact that while Amber Benson played Supernatural‘s first recurring vampire character (because, let’s be honest — bloodsuckers don’t have a long shelf life around monster hunters), it wasn’t actually her first fanged role. In the non-canonical video game adaptation Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds, Benson voiced a vampire version of her character Tara, sent to torment her girlfriend Willow at the behest of the First Evil.
Talk about raising the stakes!
Honorable Mention 2: Anthony Stewart Head in Rocky Horror
Okay, we couldn’t end this article without mentioning everyone’s favorite ex-librarian, ex-Watcher, all-the-time-badass Rupert Giles, played by Anthony Stewart Head. Fans may remember his dark past as “Ripper” and that both the actor and character are more musically inclined.
Well, if you didn’t know, before Buffy, Head starred in the 1990 West End revival of The Rocky Horror Picture Show musical (alongside television host Craig Ferguson), where he played none other than Dr. Frank N. Furter himself. The performance is not widely available to view anymore, sadly, but we felt it was important to share. Remember when the Scoobies first found out Giles sang at the Espresso Pump’s open mic night? Our feelings exactly.
While they may have averted apocalypses and defeated the ultimate Big Bads, thanks to the enduring popularity of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series and the horror genre at large, these awesome actors will always have a destiny to fight back against the darkness.
Can you think of any other spooky places Buffy cast members have popped up? Be sure to shout out your favorites in the comments, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!
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