Horror cinema has been around since the late 19th century. That gives us 130+ years of thousands of individuals who have laid some cement on the foundation of the genre that we have today. From the performers who were drenched in blood and screamed their way through countless films, to the writers and directors who created the causes for those screams, to the makeup artists and costume designers who brought the horrors to life.
It’s been an internet hobby of mine since the internet was a thing to research those involved with the genre. The most interesting part of the research is the arrival of the present and seeing where these individuals from past films are at now. With this monthly column, I will be sharing with you bits of information that I find out on these pioneers of horror past, answering the question, Where Sc[Are] They Now?
Ghosts, spooks, and spectres have popped up all over for A Haunting on Film Street. I thought I’d bring in someone for Where Sc[Are] They Now who could eradicate these nasties. No, I’m not talking about a ghostbuster or a Winchester brother. While they have taken care of a good number of ghosts, I’m talking about someone else. She’s dealt with her fair share of ghosts. She’s done it with a mostly 100% success rate. She is … the slayer.
The time has come to take a look back at the one and the only Sarah Michelle Gellar. So that I do not gush about her for 5,000+ words, I will simply state that I’ve been a SMG fan for more than 20 years. I’m about to give you all of the reasons why.
Let’s go back to where it all began in 1997 thanks to a little TV station called The WB. The 1992 feature, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was a childhood favorite of mine. When I heard a TV series was going to be done, I freaked. Little did I know how much of an impact that series would have on me, and how much of an appreciation I would have for the actress who would portray Buffy Summers. Sarah Michelle Gellar let us have it during that first season, and let us know that she would continue to let us have it with her delivery of the line …“I’m 16 years old. I don’t want to die” in the first season’s finale.
What followed was 6 more seasons over two different networks, and many, many more incredibly displays of strength, humility, sadness, and hilarity via Gellar. Since the focus this month is on ghosts, one of the best ghost centered episodes appears in season 2. In I Only Have Eyes for You, the spirit of a student who murdered the teacher that he loved them killed himself begins to possess individuals at Sunnydale High, recreating the night of the murders. In a gender crossing moment, the male student possesses Buffy’s body while the teacher possesses Buffy’s ill fated lover, Angelus (David Boreanaz). Thus lies one of at least the top 3 Buffy and Angel moments in the series, and one of many of the top SMG performances within the series.
With Buffy having made SMG a household name, it was time to transition to the movies. It was, of course, the horror genre that welcomed her so warmly. It began in October of 1997 with I Know What You Did Last Summer. SMG portrayed pageant queen turned murder accomplice turned victim of the murder that she accompliced, Helen Shivers. Many have wished that it was Helen that defeated the Fisherman rather than Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Julie, and I agree. But then we wouldn’t have had one of the best chase scenes that horror has given us in the past 30 years, if ever. Helen’s chase scene stretches out over 4 locations, one song, many different score cues, one other kill scene, and ends on the fatal tip of the Fisherman’s hook just as she’s reaching salvation. Our Croaker Queen may not have survived the film, but the impact that SMG made as Helen will last forever.
“With Buffy having made SMG a household name, it was time to transition to the movies. It was, of course, the horror genre that welcomed her so warmly.”
Two months later in 1997, Sarah portrayed sober sister CiCi in the sequel that everyone in Hollywood wanted to be in, Scream 2. It is said that SMG accepted the role without even reading the script. Another pretty terrific chase scene ensued, and again, SMG didn’t make it until the end.
A few small bits in horror centric appearances occurred over the next few years. While not a horror film, SMG did voice one of the dolls in Small Soldiers (1998). As the Gwendy dolls, Sarah make quippy puns for the dolls in a scene that looked straight out of a Tim Burton movie. 1999 saw her portray a chef with the power to put her emotions into whatever she was cooking in Simply Irresistible. In 2000, she appeared in the music video for Stone Temple Pilot’s Sour Girl. The video was dark and brooding with SMG as the titular Sour Girl.
Then, in 2002, SMG would battle many a ghost (or were they?) in the live action adaptation of Scooby Doo as Daphne. Scooby Doo would be one of many collaborations that she had and would have with her husband Freddie Prinze Jr. who portrayed Freddie. SMG would continue to fight the supernatural alongside Scoob in the 2004 sequel, Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.
2003 brought about the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Through 144 episodes (145 if you count the unaired pilot), and 2 episode appearances on Angel, the television reign of Buffy ended. So did my world, for a while. But you can always catch her voicing Buffy – and Daphne – in the many random skits of Robot Chicken.
In 2004, SMG would face her ultimate cinematic specter in the American adaptation of The Grudge. SMG portrayed Karen, a nurse practicing abroad in Tokyo, who steps into the grudge laden house, and must try to avoid the curse of Kayako (Takako Fuji). The film went on to gross $180+ mil worldwide. This meant a sequel was bound to happen, and it did. While she successfully avoided Kayako’s curse in the first film, Karen was not so successful in The Grudge 2 (2006). She was the opening kill of the film, and as a SMG stan, I felt wholly upset. The rest of The Grudge 2 meant nothing to me. Just kidding. It was alright.
Throughout the remainder of the aughts, SMG had a few small ghostly films. In 2006’s The Return, she portrayed Joanna, a woman who is being led to uncover an unsolved murder by the victim of the murder. In 2009’s Possession, she portrayed Jess, a wife whose husband comes back in the body of his brother who was the reason that he crashed his car and is now in a coma. That brother is portrayed by Lee Pace, and the combination of SMG and Pace in one film is enough reason to sit and watch.
In 2011, she became the first playable woman in the Call of Duty video game franchise when she portrayed herself in the Black Ops Zombie map alongside other genre greats Danny Trejo (Machete), Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead), and George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead).
In 2017, she reunited with the entire cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (sans Anthony Stewart Head cause obligations) for Entertainment Weekly’s reunion special. The cast gathered together to talk about the show, how they were changed by it, and how appreciative they are that heart of the show still beats strong.
“Throughout her career, SMG has devoted her efforts and time to many charitable causes.”
During 2019’s Super Bowl, SMG appeared in an ad for Olay that spoofed the slasher genre titled Killer Skin. The ad smartly placed SMG in a chase scene from a masked character.
And thus ends SMG’s horror centric resume, but not SMG’s place in Hollywood history. She’s had plenty of success throughout the years outside of the horror genre including an Emmy award winning role on All My Children, the cult classic, Cruel Intentions (1999), multiple hosting and additional appearances on Saturday Night Live!, the prematurely cancelled TV series, Ringer (2011), and The Crazy Ones (2013) for which she won a People’s Choice Award, and much more. I suggest seeking out the drama, Veronika Decides to Die (2009), as it’s one of her most underrated and underseen films. She gives a stellar performance of a woman who survives a suicide attempt, and must learn to live with the aftermath.
Throughout her career, SMG has devoted her efforts and time to many charitable causes: Habitat for Humanity, Project Angel Food, CARE, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Coalition of Skin Diseases, and the Mattel Children’s Hospital of UCLA. She’s been a constant voice for women having been a key speaker at many events.
For the past few years, SMG has devoted a lot of her time to her two children and husband, Freddie Prinze Jr. But she kept working, just on things that she was inspired by. The biggest project throughout this time was creating her own food brand, Foodstirs, which promotes GMO-free, organic, low sugared bakable snacks and snack kits.
SMG is a constant presence on her Instagram where she shares aspects of her life, her work, and shows appreciation of her past work and her fans by making sure she’s present for any anniversary or relatable meme that comes her way.
As for the future, SMG will be joining the forces against Skeletor in Kevin Smith’s Masters of the Universe: Revelation for Netflix. In the animated limited series from Powerhouse Animation Studio, the producers of Castlevania, SMG will voice Teela, a major component in the series. It’s set to premiere sometime in 2021.
SMG also has two pilots lined up. The first is a dramedy titled, Other People’s Houses, that was supposed to go up this pilot season for FOX, but nothing more has been noted. The second is Sometimes I Lie, a mini-series set to also be executive produced by SMG, based on book by Alice Feeney. Via Deadline, Sometimes I Lie stars “…Gellar stars as Amber Reynolds, a woman who wakes up in a hospital, unable to move, speak or open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they don’t know she can. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. The timeline alternates between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from 20 years ago.” Again, nothing new has been noted on this project either. I assume Covid has played a part in halting further movement on both.
No matter what Sarah Michelle Gellar has a part in, I will be there for it. I’ve long stopped hoping for a Buffy reboot with her as she has shot down those rumors and possibilities multiple times. But her love for Buffy as well as her other past roles stays strong with her, her fans, and the horror community.
What’s your favorite SMG role? How bad are you wanting her to return to the genre? Cause I’d love love and love to see her return in some form. Let us know over on our Twitter, reddit, Instagram, and on The Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!