Director: Michael Lehmann.
Genre: Dark Comedy.
New World Pictures.
Heathers is the original “popular girls in school get what’s coming to them” movie. Without it there would be no Mean Girls, and a world without Mean Girls is not a world that I want to live in. I don’t really know where to start with this movie. It’s like coming downstairs on Christmas morning and deciding which gift to open first.
Let’s start with story. The plot of the movie is that Veronica (Winona Ryder) used to be uncool until a clique of the coolest girls, The Heathers, take pity on her and induct her into their crew. The three Heathers are gorgeous, super-popular, and cruel, and though Veronica doesn’t want to, she finds herself helping out with their unpleasant tricks in order to keep her social status. As she begins to see the error of her ways she meets JD (Christian Slater), the new boy in school with a shady past.
After a terrible night out with the lead Heather, Veronica decides to enlist JD’s help in playing a prank on her “friend”, which leads to something a little more deadly.
Winona Ryder is astonishing in this film. She exudes this constant aura of don’t fuck with me-ness that is magnetic. She is like a 50s femme fatale, sexy and smart and sharp as a knife. Unlike Lindsay Lohan’s passive character in Mean Girls, Ryder plays Veronica as someone who has willingly joined the evil popular girls knowing full well who they are for her own goals, and then been hit with regret later.
Christian Slater reminds me in this movie why he used to be huge. Admittedly his JD in this film is basically a long Jack Nicholson impression but, even though he is nuts, he manages to inject the character with charm and pathos that makes you see how Veronica could full under his spell.
Pretty much every other character/actor are simply window dressing for the interactions between these two. It’s one of those movies you watch and think, huh, those two should still be mega-famous.
This is an old school black comedy where the humour is so dark that light cannot escape it’s surface. It is cruel and unpleasant in parts, and vicious and unfeeling towards the dead for the majority. It mocks new age (or new at the time, 1988) ideas about sharing your feelings and communicating your emotions. A especially funny scene is when, in an effort to plant evidence that a character is gay, JD simply puts a bottle of mineral water in the character’s bag. Hey presto, all the evidence anyone needs that the character is homosexual.
For a movie that is nearly thirty years old Heathers holds up well. After all, life in high school never changes. There will always be the popular kids, the unpopular kids, the outsiders, the geeks, the nerds, the jocks and so on and so on. Ignoring the fashion and a few hairstyles and you could think this movie was made this year.
My suggestion, double bill this movie with Sightseers, my previous Netflix Hidden Gem choice. Both are tales of love, romance, and murder. And both will have you laughing your ass off and wondering if it’s okay to be giggling so much watching something so dark.