Director: Michael Lehmann
Director: Michael Lehmann
Staring: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker, Glenn Shadix, Lance Fenton, Patrick Labyorteaux, Carrie Lynn
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Plot: The Heathers are the most popular social clique at their high school, spending their time making fun of Martha “Dumptruck” Dunnstock (Lynn) and the other social outcasts, or running stupid polls with their fellow students. Veronica (Ryder) is sick of being part of this group and longs to break free, finding her opportunity to strike back with the mysterious new boy and rebel JD (Slater).
Review: It’s funny how often to find the most interesting work of an establish actor, you have to go back to their early films, when they were more willing to task risks with their art and certainly before, they moulded themselves to fit in with the Hollywood studio system and this is especially true here for the two leads, Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, whose later years would fail repeatedly to produce anything as interesting, as they sacrificed what raw talent might be seen here, in a haze of drink, drugs, shoplifting and Uwe Boll movies, which makes you forget that either of them, had such a movie in them. Still interestingly enough the lead roles were at one point associated with both Brad Pitt (who was turned down for being too nice) and Jennifer Connolly (who just turned it down), making for an more intriguing version of the film, but still both Ryder and Slater suit their respective roles well, with Ryder portraying Veronica as kind of a lost soul, who doesn’t see herself belonging to any of the various cliques and would rather everyone just get along, while Slater as the rebellious and later utterly homicidal JD, gives us his best Jack Nicolson impression while clearly playing by his own rules, with some truly creepy scenes in which Veronica meets his dad and witnesses their role reversal style relationship, which also includes the slightest of hints to the true colours of JD.
The humour throughout is strictly dark, which is kind of unsurprising when you consider that the main focus, is on Veronica and JD killing various popular kids and making their deaths look like suicides, which might not make for the most comfortable viewing for some people, especially if you prefer you comedies a little more light hearted, than frequent musings on teenage suicide, making it in many ways a forerunner to the likes of John Waters “Serial Mom” (1994) Todd Solondz’s “Welcome to the Dollhouse” (1995). Still despite being dark, it never quite pushes the boundaries in the same way that later films would and at times, seems to be playing more with the dark humour, than fully committing itself whole heartedly to this style of humour, which becomes increasingly more evident towards the end, as Veronicas doubts increase. Still when comparing the film to the original script and the tales of failed test viewings which lead to the ending being dramatically changed, it only further eludes to the darker version we could have seen, had director Lehmann gone with his instincts, as these darker parts are definatly the stronger parts of the film, while I felt my interest waning the lighter the film got.
Throughout the film I found myself constantly questioning just how Naïve Veronica really is, seeing how she buys pretty much any bullshit that JD can spin, even after she watches him deliberately poison the ring leader of the Heathers (Doherty) by having her drink drain cleaner. Still no matter how many of the popular kids they kill, she still seems to get convinced each time that it’s all a prank, only changing her mind around the third quarter, when JD starts to really show his true colours. It is also worth questioning her amazing ability of copying other people’s handwriting, when her own writing style is so frenzied, that she might as well hold the pen between her fist to write.
It was only really while revisiting this film, that I wondered why this film is never referenced as being an influence whenever some high school kid decides to bring a gun to school, or performs some equally shocking act of violence, with the media usually targeting the music of Marilyn Manson and the more obvious film titles such as “The Matrix” (1999), with only the occasional more well watched journalist perhaps naming “The Basketball Diaries” (1995) which features it’s own school shooting daydream. Yet with “Heathers” it’s almost like a troubled youth revenge fantasy placed on the screen, as it is essentially about the bullied kids striking back at their tormentors and eventually the school, this being especially potent with it’s climax involving a plot to blow up the school along with the majority of the student body, it only makes it all the more surprising that it never receives even the slightest of mentions.
Despite Ryder constantly hinting at a sequel being made, no doubt to prop up her flagging career, it’s a film which doesn’t need a half baked sequel and says all that it needs to say with this film and certainly doesn’t need a half baked sequel to add anything to it as a film, as it’s fun but slightly disposable piece of film making, for as fun as some of the characters might be, they aren’t the kind your pretty much through being with by the time the credits roll, while at the same time hinting at what could have possibly been, with the performances given by both Slater and Ryder, for both of them it still remains a career high point.