#81: Heathers

"Got a light?"
“Got a light?”

Director: Michael Lehmann
Year: 1988
Genre: (Black) Comedy

The Heathers are the most popular and feared group of girls at Westerburg High School, Ohio. Three out of four of these girls share the same first name, Heather. The fourth girl is Veronica Sawyers (Winona Ryder) and as she tires of her clique’s snobbish ways, in walks lone bad boy, Jason Dean/J.D. (Christian Slater). J.D.’s rebellious attitude is the perfect escape for Veronica and through him she finds inspiration to humiliate the head Heather, Heather Chandler. When J.D.’s pranks turn out to be far more menacing than expected, Veronica must decide how far she’s willing to go to change the culture of her high school.

Heathers takes a spiked dildo to the John Hughs teen films that dominated the 80’s and is the precursor to films like Mean Girls (2004) and Jawbreaker (1999). Don’t get me wrong, I love me some John Hughs, The Breakfast Club (1985) is one of my favourite teen comedies, but Heathers is better. Whilst this film is a comedy, it ain’t no Rom Com. If you’re looking for a fun teen flick about unrequited love and nerds becoming cool go see Pretty in Pink (1986). Heathers is a teen film about high school reputations and suicide and it explores its dark content the best way possible, with a sense of humour. Suicide is a dicey and heavy subject for any film to deal with but screenwriter, Daniel Waters’ light approach keeps this film from being preachy or heavy handed.

Heathers is like a rotten apple, a prime example of things that were once juicy and are now shit. In a lot of ways the story is about the deterioration of society and in that sense you are watching people decay. The decay also presents itself in our reality in terms of how we view the film’s stars and themes today. If you didn’t know, Christian Slater was once one of the coolest motherfuckers around and this film sees him in perhaps his most iconic role. Winona may not be the sad case that Slater became but her career isn’t what it used to be either and Heathers shows the dark princess of the 80’s in her prime. Believe it or not “teen angst” was also cool once. It spawned in the 80’s as a form of teenage rebellion against the return to conservatism after the death of the hippie movement. Heathers is the quintessential angst film and it’s fuckin’ bad ass! It is unfortunate that angst gave birth to “emo” but the 80’s did mean well. Watch Heathers to remember what was good about the 80’s and to discover a unique and daring high school film which has yet to be matched.


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