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HAPPY BIRTHDAY PROPHECY GIRL! 9 Episodes to Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’

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If you told someone back in 1997 how popular Buffy would get, you’d probably have been laughed out of the room, down the street, and into a taxi headed straight for a Hellmouth in SoCal.

But decades later, a titanic fanbase lives on, and an unending enjoyment of Buffy Summers and the rest of the Scooby Gang defending the world lives with it. So, of course, I felt that we should look back at some of the best Buffy episodes to rewatch in celebration of the big two-five!

I Robot…You Jane
When I pick an episode to casually rewatch, I usually choose one of two depending on what mood I’m in. I Robotembodies the show’s madcap creativity and humor, partially because of the very intentional camp in the episode and partly because it’s SUPER dated (it’s about an internet demon in the late 90s, what did you expect?). It also has one of my favorite creature designs, showing the costuming and makeup that became the gold standard for sci-fi and horror shows. Oft maligned for its goofiness, its tongue-firmly-in-cheek ridiculousness is still fun to watch today.

Hush
Meet the other one of the two. On the other end of the spectrum, Hush is the better script horror-wise and directorially; everybody in Sunnydale loses their voices to mysterious, floating, organ harvesting undead that look creepy as all hell. I’ve watched this episode with a fair share of people, and it has this truly disturbing factor in its premise and execution that resonates deeply with many people. By its end, it’s a relief to see the silence broken.

The Zeppo
One of the things Buffy did best was deconstructing a lot of the show’s characters and getting to the core of who they are, all in an hour. This episode has a funny conceit, but ultimately a surprising climax that brings a whole new range of depth to Xander, a character who is an admittedly small player on the show’s massive stage. The Scooby gangs most mundane member proves himself to be extraordinary and rises to the occasion, resulting in a lot of fun.

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Fool for Love
Spike is such a compelling villain; between his despicable beginnings, his redemptive arc post Initiative chip, and the dynamic love-hate relationship he has with Buffy, almost every Spike scene ends up a testament not only to the impeccable acting of James Marsters but to how great the character writing was on this show. It’s an episode all about Spike, his past, and his future with Buffy, capped off by an incredibly surprising ending that shows the humanity of one of the show’s most inhuman villains.

Surprise/Innocence 
I know, I know, it’s cheating to pick two, but they’re inseparable. Innocence has a particularly special place in my heart as it’s the first episode that I ever watched. And what a confusing gut punch to start on! Arguably the best two-parter in the series, this is the apex of the show’s romantic drama with Buffy and Angel’s love being torn apart following their lovemaking and the resurgence of the Angelus persona. The triple threat of Angel, Drusilla, and the Judge is short-lived if not incredibly fun, and leads to one of the show’s most memorable deaths (“What’s that do?”).

Once More, With Feeling

What is definitively the best musical episode in television history also turns out to be one of the show’s most wonderful; a show-tune singing demon comes to Sunnydale and enchants everyone into singing and dancing. We get surprisingly good vocal performances from the entire cast, with guest star Hinton Battle and series regulars bringing serious vocal work. Not to mention the insane reveal by song as Buffy confesses to her friends that Willow bringing her back was more of a curse than a blessing. What could have been a disaster execution-wise ends up a masterpiece that doesn’t go even slightly off-key.


Graduation Day, Parts I & II

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Originally, I was going to say that the Season 3 opener Anne had the best fight in the series. My editor kindly reminded me of how wrong I was with Graduation Day, arguably the best two-parter in the series. Take your pick of reasons why it’s so good: it might be that it has the show’s best choreography and stunt work with Buffy and Faith’s knockout slayer duel. It could be Buffy risking her life to save Angel. The student body banding together and fighting vampires to save the day, maybe? Or it could just be Principal Snyder lecturing to his grisly demise and Mayor Wilkin’s comically explosive death. Whatever reason it is, you’re sure to have a lot of fun rewatching.

SOME FINAL WORDS

The allegations of Joss Whedon’s reprehensible abuses of power are intolerable to all of us here at Horror Press; that being said, it’s a heavy disservice in my eyes to allow one man’s transgressions to tarnish something so much larger than him. Joss Whedon did not make Buffy alone. The dozens of other directors and writers that collaborated on the show also made Buffy. The set designers, the SFX people, the makeup and wardrobe teams that worked aesthetic miracles weekly made Buffy. And most importantly, the incredible acting of cast members like Sarah Michelle Gellar, Charisma Carpenter, Allyson Hanigan, and David Boreanaz (to name only a few) made Buffy.

On this 25th anniversary of Buffy, its important to remember: the show, and the love of that show do not belong to one person. And we don’t have to leave the hard work of all the other wonderful contributors in the past.

So, to all the wonderful cast and crew who made Buffy spectacular, I and everyone at Horror Press like to say thank you for all the memories!

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Luis Pomales-Diaz is a freelance writer and lover of fantasy, sci-fi, and of course, horror. When he isn't working on a new article or short story, he can usually be found watching schlocky movies and forgotten television shows.

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‘The Last of Us’ Adaptation is Almost Here, Will It Meet Gamer Expectations?

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We’re counting the days until The Last of Us premieres on HBO, and the latest trailer doesn’t make the wait any easier. This trailer has everything: titillating hints to a revolution brewing in a post-apocalyptic world, brief introductions to the game franchise’s most beloved characters, the creature reveals, and a surprisingly menacing version of the saccharine 80’s bop “Take On Me” by A-Ha.

There are some big names attached to this project, including Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin and The Last of Us creator Neil Druckmann himself. The score will be composed by Gustavo Santaolalla, who also did the original score for the game.

By the looks of the trailer, the show will be as visually stunning as the games. The trailer opens up with a pensive Ellie asking Joel, “if you don’t think there’s any hope for the world, why bother going on?” A gruff Joel responds, “You haven’t seen the world, so you don’t know.” Joel goes on to tell Ellie that she’s not family, but cargo. Fans of the game know that Joel eventually does a 180 on that sentiment, but here he is, all business.

The latest trailer gives us more background to Joel and Ellie’s epic journey and the people they meet along the way. The Mandolarian’s Pedro Pascal is our intense protagonist Joel, tasked with getting Ellie (Bella Ramsey, Game of Thrones) west. We get a few peeks at the crumbling cities, snowy forests, and gritty militia-style outposts they encounter, and Ellie shows off the scarred-over bitemark on her arm and the true reason for their trip. It’s revealed that Ellie may be the answer to finding a cure for the Cordyceps fungal infection that left the world in ruins, underscoring the high stakes and how treacherous Joel and Ellie’s journey out west will be.

Ellie’s charming personality and Joel’s rough and authoritative demeanor are on full display in this trailer, and I’m looking forward to Ramsey and Pascal making these beloved characters their own. You’ll see a few familiar faces and may recognize them as some of the other endearing characters Joel and Ellie meet while traveling across the post-apocalyptic U.S. The star-studded cast also includes Merle Dandridge, who reprises her role as Marlene, the leader of the resistance movement the Fireflies; Nick Offerman as the survivalist Bill, and Storm Reid as Riley. Riley’s appearance in the trailer means fans can expect to learn more about Ellie’s past from The Last of Us: Left Behind expansion. We also see glimpses of brothers Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard), and I, for one am not ready to relive that trauma.

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And of course, this trailer saves the best for last: the creature reveal. The last few seconds reveal several cordyceps rising from a fiery pit, which is enough to fuel a few nightmares. Fans of the game will recognize the monster in the center frame as a bloater, the last and most formidable stage in the Cordyceps fungal infection. Honestly, no notes: the creature design looks perfect and faithful to the game’s style. I’m already creeped out by their various clicking noises, much like I was while playing the games.

I was undecided on if I would watch The Last of Us when it was first announced. We all know that movies and shows based on video games can be hit or miss, and I worried about how such a compelling story would translate to primetime TV. But it’s a great sign that Neil Druckmann is credited as a writer for this project, and it’s obvious that HBO/Warner Brothers are invested in producing a faithful retelling of this story. I’m excited to see how accurate the show is to the source material and what new nightmares it’ll bring to audiences.

The Last of Us premieres on HBO and HBO Max on January 15.

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The Best Holiday Episodes from ‘The Twilight Zone’

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Happy Holidays from The Twilight Zone!

Rod Serling was born on Christmas Day, 1924, in Syracuse, New York. “I was a Christmas present that was delivered unwrapped,” Serling once stated. It is around the holidays that The Twilight Zone, Serling’s peculiar and beloved television show that ran for five seasons from 1959 to 1964, comes back into our lives like an apparition in search of closure. The haunting show marathons on New Year’s Eve at the dawn of a new year, a new era, as many become weary yet hopeful for what the next year will have in store.

Holiday episodes of The Twilight Zone showcase the anxiety we feel when change is imminent. Serling offers us a choice: watch and confront your fears, or flee. As is indicative of the popularity of The Twilight Zone marathon for the past several New Year’s Eves, we willingly enter the dimension of sight, sound, and mind willingly, where nothing is as it seems.

All of the following episodes (except the honorable mention) stress the importance of children’s sensibilities – to dream, to be hopeful, and to wonder. The children in these episodes hold the key to how to survive as an adult. They remind us never to lose the senses that kept us on the edge of our seats, easily delighted, eager to love, and be inspired.

Let us ring in the holiday season with the fruits of Serling’s expansive imagination with some of the best episodes of the iconic television show SPOILER FREE, all themed around the holidays!

“The Night of the Meek”

Premiered December 23, 1960
Season Two, Episode 11
Directed by Jack Smight
Written by Rod Serling

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Introductory Narration: This is Mr. Henry Corwin, normally unemployed, who once a year takes the lead role in the uniquely American institution, that of department-store Santa Claus in a road-company version of ‘The Night Before Christmas.’ But in just a moment, Mr. Henry Corwin, ersatz Santa Claus, will enter a strange kind of North Pole which is one part the wondrous spirit of Christmas and one part the magic that can only be found in … the Twilight Zone.”

This is the quintessential Twilight Zone Christmas episode. Now adored by audiences, this series entry was once the cause of a barrage of angry letters from a concerned viewer accusing the show of blasphemy for depicting a drunk Santa on television. Despite this claim, “The Night of the Meek” is as pure as The Twilight Zone can be. According to Mark Scott Zicree in his book The Twilight Zone Companion (1982), the kids hired as extras had a blast shooting this episode and were full of excitement and joy. It will not disappoint.

“The Changing of the Guard”

Premiered June 1, 1962
Season Three, Episode 37
Directed by Robert Ellis Miller
Written by Rod Serling

Introductory Narration: “Professor Ellis Fowler, a gentle, bookish guide to the young, who is about to discover that life still has certain surprises and that the campus of the Rock Springs School for Boys lies on a direct path to another institution, commonly referred to as the Twilight Zone.”

If you have ever felt like you haven’t made a difference in someone’s life, especially in a profession involving working with children and adolescents, this episode is for you. Prof. Ellis Fowler is forced to retire from teaching before the holiday break. Distraught, he intends to end it all when the unlikely occurs, as it does in the Twilight Zone.

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“Five Characters in Search of an Exit”

Premiered December 22, 1961
Season Three, Episode 14
Directed by Lamont Jackson
Written by Rod Serling

Introductory Narration: “Clown, hobo, ballet dancer, bagpiper, and an army major— a collection of question marks. Five improbable entities stuck together in a pit of darkness. No logic, no reason, no explanation; just a prolonged nightmare in which fear, loneliness, and the unexplainable walk hand in hand through the shadows. In a moment we’ll start collecting clues as to the ways, the whats, and the wheres. We will not end the nightmare, we’ll only explain it — because this is the Twilight Zone.”

The opening narration for this episode appears to reveal nothing but indeed says it all. You will figure out why these eclectic characters are in this bleak cylindrical precipice by the end of the episode. Prepare for a Descartes-inspired existential crisis.

Honorable Mention:

“Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?”

Premiered May 26, 1961
Season Two, Episode 28
Directed by Montgomery Pittman
Written by Rod Serling

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Introductory Narration: “Wintry February night, the present. Order of events: a phone call from a frightened woman notating the arrival of an unidentified flying object, then the checkout you’ve just witnessed, with two state troopers verifying the event – but with nothing more enlightening to add beyond evidence of some tracks leading across the highway to a diner. You’ve heard of trying to find a needle in a haystack? Well, stay with us now, and you’ll be part of an investigating team whose mission is not to find that proverbial needle, no, their task is even harder. They’ve got to find a Martian in a diner, and in just a moment you’ll search with them because you’ve just landed – in The Twilight Zone.”

This is one of my favorite episodes of the series. Passengers from a bus forced to stop due to a snowstorm find themselves in a local diner. Police officers enter in search of a person/alien alleged to have exited a crashed flying saucer nearby. This is a classic “Who Done It?” situation, as all the diner patrons begin suspecting one another of being an alien from the planet Mars. The alien is revealed near the end of the episode, but they are not who you would suspect. A classic Serling twist!

You can stream all Twilight Zone episodes on Paramount+.

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