Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a game-changer, a line in the sand for what genre TV could and should be. Ambitious, progressive and all-around well-produced, the show’s legacy has lasted for more than 20 years since its premiere, and its cast can still inspire massive lines of devoted fans at every Comic-Con. It is, in short, a cultural phenomenon, a touchpoint of modern pop culture against which most others of its ilk are measured. But while the success enjoyed by its cast and crew during the show, after it ended, things weren't so fortunate for the Scoobies.
Of course, in those sea of 8x10s waiting to be signed, it’s not often you’ll see any for projects that weren’t Buffy. Sure, David Boreanaz might get some Bones fans, or Alyson Hannigan some love for How I Met Your Mother, presumably from those who skipped the last two seasons. But at the end of the day, the phenomenal (and undeniably talented) cast hasn’t always had the best luck picking roles, particularly on the big screen. From hokey “family comedies” to cheap horror flicks to a movie about a magical crab, we’ll take a look at the worst movie roles for the cast of the Buffy-verse.
15 SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR- SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE (1999)
It has to be said that 1999 was one of the greatest years in cinema, giving us The Matrix, Eyes Wide Shut, and SMG’s best film role to date, Cruel Intentions. It also gave us the absolutely bug-f*** insane Simply Irresistible. What’s that about? We’ll let the director explain: “…part of my interest with the movie was this idea of being able to bend reality. How food and wine actually bends time and space [...] the whole Einsteinian view of bending time and space based on your position relative to the events that are happening.”
Does that clear it up? No? Well, Simply Irresistible stars Sarah Michelle Gellar as a frazzled restauranteur who falls in love with Sean Patrick Flannery, only to be blessed by a magical crab that allows her to insert her emotions into the food she prepares. Strangely, Cruel Intentions is the better remembered Gellar film from ’99. Some people have no taste.
14 CHARISMA CARPENTER- BOUND (2015)
In 2015, Asylum, the company behind mockbusters like Transmorphers and The Da Vinci Treasure, decided to prove that there could in fact be a worse film, with less chemistry, than Fifty Shades of Grey. Bound is a bargain bin “erotic thriller” that somehow managed to land breakout star of Buffy and Angel Charisma Carpenter, despite her having recently appeared in the action-blockbuster franchise The Expendables.
That trailer is a thing to behold. Looking like it was hastily assembled for a film school student’s Kickstarter, the shamelessness with which it rips off the already shameless Grey franchise is honestly the least of its problems. That it’s interspersed with the cheesiest of Cinemax “ecstasy exhales” isn’t even the most egregious. It’s that somehow, a movie trying to market itself as erotically charged repeatedly cuts back to shots of a weary Daniel Baldwin talking about his company and “schtupping.” So… hot?
13 DAVID BOREANAZ- THE CROW: WICKED PRAYER (2003)
How much do you need to know about The Crow: Wicked Prayer to know it’s awful? That the cast includes Edward Furlong and Tara Reid in 2005? That it’s the the third film to try and make a franchise out of a cult film where the lead actor died tragically making the original? That it holds an infamous 0% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes?
Based on a Crow spin-off novel by Norman Partridge, rather than the original James O’Barr graphic novel, and featuring a Dennis Hooper that makes his work in Super Mario Bros. look like Blue Velvet, The Crow: Wicked Prayer is a dumpster fire of epic proportions. We can understand why Boreanaz took the role of Luc “Death” Crash, a Satanist biker gang leader: Angel was winding down, he wanted to try and branch out into movies. We’re just betting he’s glad that Bones pilot came along when it did.
12 ANTHONY STEWART HEAD- GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (2011)
Anthony Stewart Head has actually had a surprisingly good career overseas, appearing in significant roles in shows like Merlin and Little Britain. Musically, he’s had his own albums and appeared in a West End production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Stateside, however, he’s had less luck, particularly on the big screen. Sure, he had the lead in the cult-film-of-questionable-quality Repo! The Genetic Opera, and a significant part in the maligned but Oscar-winning The Iron Lady, but beyond that it’s all been small roles, like bit parts in Sweeney Todd and Scoop, the worst Woody Allen movie. Worst of all, Head had the misfortune of appearing in one of the worst Marvel movies to date, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Playing Benedict, a monk guarding young Danny Ketch, Head does his best with what little he’s given, but the film is clearly a low-point in his filmography. And when the low-point isn’t the movie you made with Paris Hilton, that says something.
11 JULIE BENZ- SAW V (2008)
Despite what you’ve heard, the Saw sequels aren’t all bad. Sure, it’s written off as “torture porn,” but the dynamics of Jigsaw’s moral code and his use of apprentices, while pushing the limits of suspension of disbelief, can yield some ultimately engaging plot lines, as evidenced by the third film or the most recent entry, Jigsaw.
That said, Saw V is abysmal. Arguably the worst of the Saw films (though that title might belong to Saw 3-D), Saw V seems to think we all come to these films for the “police procedural” portions and not the elaborate tortures. A lot of the narrative weight relies on new Jigsaw and human cipher Detective Hoffman on the run, throwing in unrelated snippets of a “game” involving Brit, an executive played by Julie Benz, who is seemingly just cashing a paycheck every time they call cut. Her performance suggests she knows the film is a vacuous waste, but we can’t honestly blame her.
10 ELIZA DUSHKU- THE NEW GUY (2002)
Maybe you were a child of the '90s, hitting puberty on the cusp of the “raunchy movie revolution” ignited by 1999’s American Pie. In that case, you likely saw films like Eurotrip or Van Wilder and thought they were the peak of hilarity. We’re here to tell you, they weren’t then, and they’ve not aged well, either (“Scotty Doesn’t Know” is still a damned catchy track, though). The New Guy might be one of the worst, then and now.
Eliza Dushku, to her credit, does the best she can in a severely underwritten role (it’s the hot chick in a teen comedy, those roles are always underwritten). Even character actor D.J. Qualls seems game for everything in a rare starring role, and Zooey Deschanel spends the film perfecting her “adorkable” brand. But the absurdist and gross humor is not only juvenile but simply bizarre, as though it wasn’t just written to appeal to 13 year old virgins but written by them.
9 ALYSON HANNIGAN- DATE MOVIE (2006)
Let’s be clear: Alyson Hannigan is never bad. Not once. The stand-out star of American Pie, the most lovable character on How I Met Your Mother, and of course her fantastic evolution in the role of Willow, Hannigan has constantly shown herself to be the most game and committed performer in any role you give her. That said, her choice of roles isn’t always the best.
Scary Movie reignited the “parody movie” craze, but failed to anticipate the “meme” culture in the age of the internet, so by the time later spoof films like Meet the Spartans or Superhero Movie hit the screen, their jokes and cultural reference points were already tired, limp laughs. Date Movie, spoofing already exhausted hits like Napoleon Dynamite and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, drags poor Hannigan through the cheapest of gags. She does the best she can, but her best couldn’t save it.
8 NICHOLAS BRENDON- PINATA: SURVIVAL ISLAND (2002)
Some might say the low-point of Brendon’s resume is Psycho Beach Party, a film best remembered for featuring a bottomless Amy Adams. However, we’d like to raise two points: 1.) Psycho Beach Party, a camp spoof of the classic AIP “beach” movies, actually has a strong cult following, and 2.) Did you not see that he made a movie titled Piñata: Survival Island?
Co-starring Emmy-winner Jaime Pressly, the film is sometimes known as Demon Island, but changing the title won’t fix the fact that your premise is "a bunch of horny teens unleash a demon that was trapped inside a haunted piñata." The film later tried to add CGI to “enhance” their rubber suited monster, but that somehow makes it worse. This kind of lazy, stupid and downright absurd filmmaking is ruining cinema, and the fact that anyone would want to watch a movie about a haunted piñata that’s basically softcore po….you’re renting it right now, aren’t you?
7 AMY ACKER- GROOM LAKE (2002)
We’re not gonna knock Amy Acker’s career. Since her Saturn Award winning role as Fred on Angel, Acker’s landed major roles in Dollhouse, Person of Interest and The Gifted, as well as films like The Cabin in the Woods. Hell, in 2002 she appeared in legendary director Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can, which is surely a high-point in any actor’s career. Yet 2002 also saw her low-point, landing a lead role in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier “director” William Shatner’s Groom Lake.
You’ve seen Troll 2, you’ve seen The Room, you’ve seen the works of Neil Breen, but we promise you, you haven’t seen something as low-budget bad as Groom Lake. Shatner has two Emmys, a huge fanbase and enough star power that the world is his oyster. That he used that to make a film featuring a repeated line about “ripping out a cow’s p***y” is incomprehensible.
6 JAMES MARSTERS- DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION (2009)
We don’t like to get personal here at CBR, we like to keep things objective. So we’ll just say we imagine some people were huge Dragon Ball Z fans growing up, and probably excitedly ran to the cinema with birthday money from their aunt to buy a ticket to Dragonball Evolution. We’d imagine they subsequently had to grit their teeth and pretend it was “great” when said aunt asked, all the while letting their hatred for that white-washed waste fester somewhere deep inside.
Dragonball Evolution is a misfire from all angles, rightfully the final film to date from Final Destination director James Wong. Its entirely whitewashed cast, absolute dismissal of the original story, and squandering the usually engrossing James Marsters in an egregious example of miscasting as Lord Piccolo all contributed to Dragonball Evolution not just being a bomb, but a massive Spirit Bomb. At least future anime adaptations learned from this, right Death Note?
5 MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG- COP OUT (2010)
Kevin Smith was one of the early indie-brats with 1994’s groundbreaking Clerks, and his subsequent varied filmography, sometimes linked only by the presence of Jay & Silent Bob, was admirable, if not for everyone. But in production on Zack and Miri Make A Porno, Seth Rogen reportedly introduced Smith to the “wonders of weed,” and that event’s timing with Smith’s creative downfall seems almost inarguable.
We can respect Smith wanting to try something new, namely directing a script he hadn’t written, with 2010’s Cop Out, but the end result of this troubled production is arguably one of Smith’s worst. Trachtenberg, who played the divisive Dawn on Buffy, appears in the film as Ava, the daughter of Bruce Willis’ Jimmy Monroe. She’s given little to do in the film (say what you will for Yoga Hosers, it at least had decent roles for women) save being the catalyst for the film’s action. Going out on a limb, we doubt the Ice Princess star considers this a career highlight.
4 EMMA CAULFIELD- DARKNESS FALLS (2003)
Emma Caulfield came into the public eye as Susan Keats on Beverly Hills, 90210 before becoming a fan favorite as Anya on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When the show concluded in 2003, she took the leap onto the big screen with a horror film that seemed poised to be a hit, and in fairness it was. But it was also Darkness Falls, a film better remembered for its McFarlane Toy than the story itself.
We’re not gonna pretend like 2003, the year of Freddy vs. Jason and Leprechaun: Back 2 In Tha Hood, was a particularly peak year for horror. But even with that low bar, Darkness Falls still fails to clear it. Seemingly existing solely to prove why the next year’s Saw would be so crucial to the survival of the horror genre, Darkness Falls is a slow, scare-less affair that did Caulfield’s career no favors.
3 SETH GREEN- WITHOUT A PADDLE (2004)
So, how did we settle on 2004’s Without a Paddle over, say, 1999’s Idle Hands as the worst Seth Green movie? Because as dumb as Idle Hands’ possessed limb plot is, there are some laughs to be had, and it's notable for how packed its cast is with future stars like Jessica Alba, Vivica A. Fox and Ricky Martin. Idle Hands is going to at least give the world a fun Podcast Like It’s 1999 episode. Without A Paddle, on the other hand, possesses no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
The story of three dopes in search of D.B. Cooper’s treasure, this absurd adventure makes the almost always likable Dax Shepard, Matthew Lillard and Green all painfully grating. The film is riddled with the easiest and most infantile jokes, and references, which felt dated even in 2004. That the film was actually a hit, grossing three times its budget, and spawning a direct-to-video sequel, says a lot about the state of film in 2004.
2 AMBER BENSON- ONE EYED MONSTER (2008)
With the introduction of Amber Benson’s Tara on Buffy, there came a new era of the show, not just in its exploration of Willow’s sexuality but in a new, broader scope of emotion and empathy, in no small part due to her talent. In addition to her acting, Benson has proven to be exceptionally gifted as a novelist, with series like Ghosts of Albion and Calliope Reaper-Jones. And in 2008, she played a woman being chased around by the detached, sentient shaft of adult film star Ron Jeremy.
Does the wang know Morse Code? Of course it does. How else would Amber be able to learn its name and fall in love with it? The script on One Eyed Monster is so atrocious, one not only feels bad for Benson, but even for Ron Jeremy, who himself has better mainstream film roles (Boondock Saints, Orgazmo).
1 TWO BUFFY ALUM- MY STEPMOTHER IS AN ALIEN (1988)
You may have fond memories of My Stepmother Is An Alien. Don’t. This is not a good film, and does not become one just because you watched it in the “immaculate ‘80s” on VHS. That said, the film is notable for one reason (and really only one reason): the first date of Willow and Oz.
Not the characters, obviously, but it's hard not to think of the two when Seth Green’s Fred Glass arrives to take Alyson Hannigan’s Jessie Mills, stepdaughter of the titular alien, out on a date. The truth is, Hannigan and Green sell the film’s often awkward jokes better than any of the adult cast (which included SNL alums Dan Aykroyd and Jon Lovitz), and surely positioned Hannigan for the level of stardom she’d eventually achieve (Green, more of a supporting role in this film, had made a name for himself in Woody Allen’s Radio Days the year prior). So at least one good thing came out of this dreadful endeavor. And only one.