Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Creature Feature - The Gentlemen

So every Friday we're going to profile some critter from one of our favorite geek franchises. What better way to start the weekend then by remembering some of the best freaks fictional worlds have to offer? This week we'll take the award winning creature, Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Gentlemen.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer followed the monster of the week format, with an overarching story to connect it together. The Gentlemen only showed up in one episode and were pretty much never mentioned again, but the episode they had won the show an Emmy. What is this amazing monster you may ask?

The Gentlemen, as explained by Giles, are demons who appear randomly throughout history to steal hearts and can only be destroyed by a maiden's scream. They posses a magic box that steals the voices of everyone in Sunnydale when they arrive, so most of the episode is done completely without dialogue.  The Gentlemen themselves are freaky grinning ghouls, and look like a mix between those aliens Sigourney Weaver was always fighting and the Joker. It's a huge credit to the makeup artists on this one, who usually did a pretty good job with the Buffy monsters (Except for werewolves, but that's a personal opinion), since these things freak veterans of the series out, even in reruns. So the Gentlemen wander around town stealing hearts while Buffy and the gang try to beat them. Yadda yadda yadda Buffy manages to scream at one point after a thing with the box and down they go.

So what makes these guys so creepy? Well to start is the whole no voices thing. As if people's hearts disappearing isn't enough, to add not being able to communicate properly just adds to the tension. It's a huge credit to Whedon's writing and the caliber of the actors to pull this off as well as they did. The second piece is just how unsettling they are. There's some Star Trek novel out there where Kirk explains that the scariest looking beings in the galaxy are the ones who look so much like humans but aren't, like an uncanny valley effect. On top of their looks they've got this whole polite pantomime thing going on, like they're sampling cheese while they're choosing who's hearts to take. There is no villain who could come up with dialogue that would match the simple gestures and freakish grins these guys have while they're looking down at a victim as he screams without sound. It's just eerie.

While the show was pretty much all about monsters, Whedon didn't really have anything else that was scary in Buffy throughout it's run. The vampires, though well imagined, seemed to lose the creepy factor with the forehead effect Whedon added. Besides that mostly everything else was a ripoff of various monster movies and mythologies. He wouldn't create something this bone chilling again till years later, when he wrote the Reavers in Firefly. So the Gentlemen get special notice for being an awesomely creepy monster that shines out in a show about monsters. Just remember, "They need to take seven and they might take yours..."


  1. Can't call for mom,
    Can't say a word,
    You're gonna die screamin'
    But you won't be heard...

    1. There it is! I couldn't find it!

    2. Full rhyme:
      Can't even shout, can't even cry
      The gentlemen are coming by
      Looking in windows, knocking on doors
      They need to take seven and they might take yours
      Can't call to mom, Can't say a word
      You're gonna die screaming but you won't be heard.