Directed by Michael Lehmann
Written by Daniel Waters
Released March 1989
I can’t believe I haven’t written about this film before. I would’ve thought that I had. I know I’ve written about VERY BAD THINGS, which I consider to be sort of a spiritual sequel to this film, but nothing matches the real thing. HEATHERS is my all-time favorite movie. Period. I love it. If you have seen this movie and you don’t like it, odds are that we can never be friends. Seriously. Stop reading this, stop following this blog, go away and just forget I ever existed. No hard feelings.
Strangely, I can’t remember the exact circumstances of how or when I first saw this. I know it wasn’t in the theater, I must have caught it airing on cable not long after it was released (it wasn’t a hit in the theaters, so it must have gone to TV rather quickly), because I know that by the time Young Guns 2 and Pump Up The Volume came out the following year Christian Slater was already my favorite actor. Anyway, this film quickly became an obsession of mine. I swear, I’ve practically memorized every line of dialog and can quote it. For those of you who were too young (or not born yet…it’s hard to believe but, dang, that was over 25 years ago now) to see this back then, and those of you who for whatever ungodly reason just never saw it, allow me to recap.
Winona Ryder stars as Veronica Sawyer, a Junior at Westurburg High School in Ohio, who is friends with the three most popular girls in school: Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty), Heather McNamara (Lisanne Falk), and the leader Heather Chandler (Kim Walker). As Heather Chandler states “everybody [in school] wants me as a friend or a f**k”. They’re the “it” girls, and they love lording it all over the less-popular kids who worship them. Veronica appears to be a semi-reluctant participant in their activities as the film opens. Christian Slater co-stars as Jason Dean, known as J.D., a new kid in school whom Veronica is instantly attracted to. After Veronica and Heather Chandler attend a party at a local college together where Veronica doesn’t hit it off with her date, and instead gets drunk and pukes on Heather’s shoes, Heather threatens to cut her out of their clique, removing Veronica from the popular crowd.
That night Veronica hooks up with J.D. back at her place, and the next morning they go to Heather Chandler’s house and “accidentally” trick her into drinking poison and she dies. Veronica writes a fake suicide note (she just so happens to have a talent for being able to copy anyone’s handwriting), so everyone thinks Heather killed herself. Later J.D. convinces Veronica to help him play a “joke” on two of the schools jocks (who are also bullies), Kurt (Lance Fenton) and Ram (Patrick Labyorteaux) which leads to killing them both and making it look like a double-suicide as the result of a gay love affair. Heather Duke, who was the shiest of the Heathers begins to take on the worst characteristics of Heather Chandler, even turning on Heather McNamara when she becomes depressed over Kurt’s death. Veronica realizes that J.D. is a psycho and breaks up with him, but he plans to kill her and then plant a bomb to blow up the whole school, making it look like a mass suicide.
Yes, I know, it sounds rather maudlin but trust me, it’s HILARIOUS. There’s a stream of steady one-liners and funny dialog throughout the film (at one point, while planning to slit Heather Duke’s wrists Veronica protests “That knife is filthy!” to which J.D. replies “What do you think I’m gonna do with it? Take out her tonsils?!?”) and no matter how absurd the scenes get (like Kurt and Ram wearing football helmets in their open caskets at their double-funeral), it’s always played straight. There are no nods or winks to the audience, to let us in on the joke, and that’s what makes it so interesting.
Of course the film is carried on the shoulders of Ryder and Slater, who more than rise to the occasion (even if Slater appears to be doing an obvious Jack Nicholson impersonation the whole time), and this is helped by the chemistry that these two have together on screen. Frankly, no review I or anyone else writes can do this film justice, you just HAVE to see it for yourself. I’m not even going to post a “grade” like I usually do in reviews, it doesn’t need one, this film is just perfect.
Over the years I’ve heard rumors of plans for some kind of sequel either as a film or a TV series, but this has yet to come to pass, and I for one hope that it never does. Heathers is so unique that I feel any attempt to recreate it would be futile. There is however a Broadway musical version, which my brother, a fellow Heathers-fanatic, saw a few months ago in New York and and he says it is awesome. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to check that out someday. But I already know that nothing, and I am NOTHING, can ever match the experience of watching the film.