Heathers (1989, Winona Ryder, Christian Slater)

Sheila Johnston, writing in The Independent, praised Heathers for its “inventiveness and energy” while Time Out said the film used “an intimate knowledge of teen-movie clichés to subvert their debased values from the inside “. The Heathers of the title are three very vacuous prom queen types, all of whom are called Heather, whose ultimate aim is to be popular while ridiculing their socially misfitting and inadequate colleagues. Veronica (Winona Ryder) is initially keen to enter their clique and with some difficulty sets about selling-out her former (socially inadequate) friends.

Her wake-up call comes with a teaming of talents with new social misfit and malicious rebel JD (Christian Slater). The two soon discover a common bond in their desire to do some serious damage to the credibility of the sneering, pouting style fascists. But Veronica and JD’s perspectives begin to differ – while she favours and believes in the necessity of exacting some shaming revenge, JD sees as an opportunity to go all the way and rid the school of them once and for all. Revenge becomes murder, with the killers rigging the deaths to look like suicide. But the plan backfires as the dead Heathers become the ultimate example of cool with suicide the next big chic experience and the bitches revered more than ever.

A cruel, malicious and extremely funny satire on high schools, high school movies, fashion victims, street slang and numerous other teenage experiences, Heathers succeeds thanks to its clever mixture of slang and attention to the tiniest details. The film is overflowing with one-liners and perfectly observed sight gags while still managing to avoid drowning itself in knowing self-reference. Slater is superb as the ruthless and somewhat enigmatic epitome of otherworldly cool while Ryder is a perfect foil for the barbed bitchiness of the three Heathers. The result is a black comedy that rips along striking its targets with an unfair accuracy.

USA / 1989

Director: Michael Lehmann
Writer: Daniel Waters

Cast: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker, Penelope Milford

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