The Horror Icon’s Journey from Buffy to Wolf Pack

EJ Moreno on Sarah Michelle Gellar’s horror career and impending return in Wolf Pack….

If you were a pop culture lover from the 90s or the 00s, you knew the power of Sarah Michelle Gellar. She was your first crush, hero, fashion icon, or all mixed together.

One group of fans got to appreciate Gellar in a more detailed and lengthy way: the horror community. The actress has starred in nearly a dozen horror or thriller-themed projects across television, movies, and even video games. There’s an impact on the genre, and she’s joined an elite group that feels like they’re built for horror. We also aren’t seeing anything change, as Gellar will soon star in Wolf Pack, a horror-tinged drama coming to Paramount+ in 2023.

The Teen Wolf spin-off will Gellar return to weekly supernatural romps but playing a much different role than her most iconic television appearance. In Wolf Pack, she’ll star as Kristin Ramsey, an arson investigator who gets lost in the teen wolf mayhem around her. We’re seeing Gellar return to her roots, and it’s a glorious homecoming.

Her casting in the series is no mistake, as creator Jeff Davis knows what this means for Gellar, the series, and horror. “Everyone knows that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a huge influence on Teen Wolf,” Davis said during a panel at Comic-Con. “So I always thought it would be amazing if we could bring Sarah Michelle Gellar back to a horror show.”

Gellar returning to her roots brings her career in a delightfully full circle moment that needs a moment of reflection.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is undoubtedly one of the most influential and iconic shows of the 90s. Gellar starred as the titular Buffy and became TV royalty in a role that lasted seven seasons and continues to this day in comic book format. The Buffy series used the monster-of-the-week format to build teen scares while respecting the genre greats. Hell, Dracula is even featured in the Season 5 premiere, which wasn’t even the most bizarre thing the series did during its run.

Gellar has spoken about the importance of Buffy to her, giving her a starring role in a long-running series seen by countless people. The genre is sometimes kind to women but can also regulate talented actresses to supporting roles. During Gellar’s run on Buffy, she co-starred in two of the significant slasher franchises at the time, but only in parts meant to round out the body count. Her appearance in Scream 2 is a pretty thankless role, which feels odd given the growth of Buffy. She barely makes it to the second act before her fan-favorite Cici Cooper gets thrown off the building.

Thankfully I Know What You Did Last Summer gives her a bit more to play with, playing the strong friend supporting role to Jennifer Love Hewitt. Gellar isn’t necessarily playing second fiddle to anyone, but this isn’t her vehicle. Still, she offers a bit of fun in the film, giving I Know What You Did Last Summer a bit more credibility.

No one can top the series, and no one has stopped Gellar’s horror icon. Her 90s power shined in other films throughout the films, but it felt like Buffy was indeed her domain. We saw her crave a true legacy out in the genre, building an arch-type for horror that is still copied today. We are still witnessing shows feeling like Buffy the Vampire Slayer clones: horror series that led a sassy lead female and filled with light scares and heavy melodrama.

Following the long run and hilarious moments, Buffy wrapped, and Gellar tried her footing as a female lead in horror. It wasn’t easy for the creators to keep Buffy going, and it was apparent Gellar needed to move on. Her film career was a bit stronger following the series, seeing her pay respect to a kid-friendly horror icon and help usher in a haunting new film movement.

Scooby Doo in 2002, and its 2004 sequel Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed brought Gellar into the lives of another generation of horror fans. The original Scooby Doo cartoon saw mystery and scary stories brought to the whole family, and it was time, like everything, for a 00s reboot. Gellar took on the role of Daphne Blake, the fashion icon and new badass. Her role as Blake was critically lauded, and this was a moment where we saw a reinvention of the character. She wasn’t just the damsel in distress now, but a well-rounded role—another example of the Buffy effect in horror and pop culture.

The Grudge was Gellar’s second film of 2004, which is wild to think she upped her film releases just a year after Buffy’s end. Staying true to her roots, Gellar stayed in horror and took part in the rise of American remakes of Japanese genre entries. Following The Ring, horror was changing shape, and paranormal adventures began to take the forefront next to all the horror movies. During this time, SMG says, “I’ve always been fascinated by Asian culture, and I love that women can play the lead in a horror film.” It shows that she knows the place of women in the genre and how different communities placed women as the stars.

Sadly, we wouldn’t see all of Gellar’s horror efforts work at the time. Both Grudge movies had a splash, but it wasn’t the powerhouse vehicle Gellar needed in the genre. Entries like The Return, Possession, and her thriller series The Ringer weren’t very memorable. They helped play a part in Sarah Michelle Gellar stepping back from the spotlight and putting her efforts in other places.

She’d star in bit parts here or there, become an influencer in the mommy blog community, and continue to raise her family. While she was always part of the industry, it wasn’t until Wolf Pack took shape that we got the official Sarah Michelle Gellar comeback.

In July 2022, it was announced Teen Wolf would get a film sequel and a brand-new series set in its universe. Wolf Pack was heading to Paramount+, and we’d see horror icon Sarah Michelle Gellar starring and executive producing the spin-off.

During an interview with Today, Gellar spoke about why she keeps returning to this genre. “I think that you always want to make your audience happy. It’s also, like, let’s be honest; it’s where the coolest projects are. It’s where the fun happens,” she said of crafting genre shows. The actress knows her audiences but knows it’s where you can have the most fun as a performer, especially if you crave the type of work Gellar wants.

In that interview, she opened up about the type of roles she wants to play, and it feels like more of what she built during Buffy. “I don’t do projects unless the female does have action,” she explained. Adding, “And sometimes that’s verbally, and sometimes that’s physically, and sometimes that’s emotionally. So I guarantee…she will not be a wallflower.”

The role of Kristin Ramsey seems important to Gellar, and her fanbase needs to see her return to horror. While this may not be as heavy or dramatic as some fans want, it’s a step in the right direction, and we see Gellar come full circle.

She’s back in supernatural teen horror television, and we couldn’t be happier.

What is your favorite Sarah Michelle Gellar film or series? Let us know on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…

EJ Moreno


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