Heathers (1988)

heathers IMDb

Was Heathers ever considered funny? Because I just found it too mean and overly morbid to really enjoy. Perhaps it’s because I attended high school at a time when students shooting their classmates was an all too common occurrence, so the thought of such mean spirited, murderous teens turns my stomach rather than makes me laugh.

I guess I can kind of see the appeal of this movie. There are some genuinely funny parts that I enjoyed. The clique of girls all named Heather rang true to me, having grown up with multiple Ashleys in my grade. The ultra WASPy 80s wardrobes and the leads’ hobbies (they play croquet!) were hilarious. But the story… I just can’t get on board.

The best way to explain Heathers is “Mean Girls times 10.” (Sorry, but I’d never seen this movie before, so unfortunately my frame of reference are teen flicks that were no doubt influenced by this film.) Shannon Doherty is the “queen bee” Heather, the Regina George of the group, if you will. She is terrible, but popular, so of course everyone wants to be her or be friends with her. In fact, her performance– and the entire first quarter of the movie, really– are great. She strikes the perfect bitchy note, making you hate Heather and wonder exactly how her entire empire will eventually crumble.

From here things take a turn into very dark territory. Veronica (Winona Ryder), a member of the Heathers clique, is quickly becoming disillusioned by her new friends. She befriends the new bad boy at school, JD (Christian Slater), who helps her get revenge on Heather… by murdering her. The two continue to murder anyone who stands in their way, forging suicide notes to avoid suspicion from the authorities.

I enjoy dark comedies, but the subject matter covered in Heathers is just too relevant to high school today for me to find it truly funny. The news is full of stories about school shootings and gay teens committing suicide, so it just feels wrong to make light of these very real issues plaguing America. Maybe things were different in the 80s. Perhaps this all seemed incredibly far fetched, or maybe people just didn’t care. However, watching this movie in 2014 just reminds me of how real it actually is. The fashions may have changed, but sadly so much of this is all too relevant.

Rating: C

I had never seen this film before watching it for the blog. I had heard Heathers mentioned in the same breath as my favourite teen film of all time, Clueless, so figured if it was anywhere near that level I would enjoy it. This film is very different from Clueless. It is much darker, and not as funny. I think I expected it to be funnier than it was, but it just wasn’t really that funny at all.

Winona Ryder stars as Veronica, a high school student begrudgingly accepted as part of the popular girl clique nicknamed ‘Heathers’ as that is everyone’s name except for Veronica. She does not really like her friends and meets up with the school bad boy, J.D. (Christian Slater) who shows her a new way to have fun at high school, by murdering all of the popular kids.

As you can see, this is quite a dark film. Everyone in this film feels like Regina George from Mean Girls, or worse. It makes it very difficult to empathise with anybody because they are all so horrible. No character in the film can be rooted for by the audience. We are meant to be following Veronica and J.D., but they are almost as bad as the people they are killing, so it is very hard to like them in any way. If there is nobody in a film I can root for, I find it very difficult to enjoy. If I want to watch a movie filled with awful people that I wish would go away, I have my own life for that (thanks Seinfeld!!). If Veronica and J.D. were likable at all I’d have enjoyed this film a lot more. As it is, Heathers does not do a good enough job of convincing me that the people being murdered were that much worse than the people committing the killings. What makes Mean Girls such a great film is it shows very clearly that Regina George is evil and she should be stopped. You have some empathy for Lindsay Lohan’s character which makes you go along with all the mean things she ends up doing and you agree with them because Regina has already been established has so much worse than anyone else. That dynamic does not exist in Heathers. I can’t tell you that Winona Ryder’s character is any better than the people she ends up killing, and that is why I can’t love this film.

Heathers is a black comedy, without much of the comedy. It is relevant in pop culture mostly because it introduced us to Ryder and Christian Slater, both of whom went on to do much better work than this, especially Ryder.

Rating: C-

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