Heathers [retro review]

“The extreme always seems to make an impression.”

The Scoop: 1989 R, directed by Michael Lehmann and starring Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, and Shannen Doherty

Tagline: N/A

Summary Capsule: Three girls named Heather fight to be Queen Bee in the high school social circuit while two outcasts (Winona Ryder and Christian Slater) fight the terror.

Justin’s Rating: I’m… confused. I need my… doctor.

Justin’s Review: In high school I worked at a video store in a local supermarket. My boss was a redheaded rhinocerous named Heather. On a side note, Heather had quite a lot of issues with her job, number one being that she hated all people. Well, Heather had a friend who worked in the floral department who was also named Heather. And their favorite movie, believe it or not, was this 1989 Christian Slater vehicle.

Another freaky coincidence was at that period of my life, I was operating under the name of “JD”, Slater’s character’s name. Goosebumps yet?

Because I worked in mortal fear of these two spreading their hate and insanity into my very soul, I was never too keen on seeing this movie. But a couple months ago I mustered up the courage, and made my rent.

Don’t you just love back stories? This whole page could become my personal therapy session instead of movie reviews (NOTE: this will not happen).

Heathers is a confused film told from a confused perspective (a high school girl who craves popularity) in a confused environment (uh, high school). Veronica (Ryder) seeks to become friends of a high-class clique, starring three girls all named Heather. Since power, makeup, and “whatever” attitudes rarely bring world peace, Veronica ends up loathing the very people she’s attempting to emulate. Eventually she hooks up with new kid/rebel Jason Dean (Slater) and they kinda start killing everyone. Natural Born Killers-lite, if you will.

I suppose the point of this movie, as well as every teen flick ever made, is to say, “High school sucks, we’re misunderstood, and everyone is your enemy.” Ah, adolescence. Can I go through it again? Please?

You would definitely stack this in with your Dark Comedy collection, since the darker elements (including murder, frat parties, and homosexuality) are countered with a kind of zany “screw the world” mentality. Just the lesson we need to teach the youth of today! As a helpful outlet, I’m not quite sure this works. The ending is a bit of a cop-out, and I left my TV feeling dizzy and slightly bewildered. Did I catch the symbolism, I wondered? Was there a deeper meaning that I was meant to milk for its calcium nutrition? I’m pretty sure my life will go on just fine not knowing the answers to these questions.

Kyle’s Rating: Winona = fun!

Kyle’s Review: I like this movie, and I know exactly why. Not because this is a dark satire on high school that is pretty funny despite being horrifically overrated by all angst-fueled teens and most of my brainless friends (it’s not that great). It does succeed with its dark humor, but it almost defeats itself by trying too hard to shock you with violence and death, and the whole movie seems too eager and smug in its attempt to show us (symbolically, of course) how all of this physical violence and pain are just the manifestations of the mental anguish all high schoolers (especially, apparently, the makes of this film) feel. If that little analysis-laden sentence just confused you, get ready for some more confusion!

Heathers works by dealing with the well-known truth that high school is a bitch, so some girls have to become bitches to deal with it, and some guys have to become ultra-violent munitions experts to reach graduation and get a little payback of their own. But there is no hidden meaning or truth to be found here, because EVERYBODY knows school is hard stuff. I agree with Justin, the point of this film (besides being a way to kill some time watching it) escapes me, and the ending doesn’t seem to fit. (HINT: if you want the ending to be more satisfying, just turn off the movie towards the end AFTER you see the explosion but BEFORE the smoke clears, okay?).

No, I like Heathers and have it on tape because Winona Ryder is a babe and a half, and I really like her look in this movie. I could probably watch this with the sound off and The Rolling Stones playing from my stereo and like it better. So, yeah, the story is decent and you should probably watch this at least once just to know what all the hype is about, but don’t forget the most important lesson this film has to offer: Winona Ryder is one heck of a chick. Enjoy the Winona!

Drew’s Rating: Winona in a wet t-shirt? Ryder: 1, Lohan: 0

Drew’s Review: So I rented Mean Girls the other night. Not the type of movie I usually take a chance on, but my fellow mutants seemed to like it, and hey — Lindsay Lohan. Mmmmm. Overall, I’d say I agree with their assessments: not the greatest flick ever made, but as a whole, pretty entertaining. That is, until the finale, which just fell completely flat for me.

I sat there watching the credits roll and thought to myself, y’know, it’s one thing to make a watered-down Heathers… but you’ve gotta at least give it a twisted or ironic ending or something. Otherwise, what’s the point? You spend an hour and a half building up how insanely spiteful every high school girl in America is, how they’ll corrupt any nice girl who comes along, and then you cop out and go for the super-mega-happy-fun ending? Wayne and Garth might approve, but I don’t; give me the original, nihilism and all.

And as I was thinking all of this, another thought crossed my mind: Wait, don’t I HAVE Heathers? Yes, it’s sad but true. I would be embarrassed for anyone to find out just how many DVDs I’ve bought on a whim and now sit unopened on my shelf — I think I’m the anti-Rich. Regardless, a quick search confirmed my suspicion that I did, indeed, own the original, so I popped the sucker in and settled back to get my Winona on. I was actually really looking forward to seeing the entire thing from start to finish. On my previous viewing I had come in at what I thought at the time was the middle of the movie. Turns out it was only about 10 minutes in… if nothing else, you can’t say that they waste any time getting to the good stuff.

Anyway, the first thing that struck me was how atrociously hideous the outfits worn by the Heathers are. I mean, I have all the fashion sense of a blind hobo and I’m a huge child of the 80’s to boot, but even I can’t understand how any kid in school could’ve found that plaid, linebacker-esque monstrosity of Heather Chandler’s attractive. I’ll stick with the Jingle Bell Rock microskirts, thank you. I also won’t spend too much time summing up the plot because, well, it’s been done twice so far and it really ain’t that complex: girl gets fed up at shallow friends, girl and her boyfriend start killing shallow friends, girl and her boyfriend have a falling out and try to kill each other. In other words, your standard teen sex romp. Ho-hum.

So, why is Heathers regarded as a classic in some circles? I honestly think it’s more for the entertainment value of the events depicted in the film, rather than any message it might be trying to convey. There’s no question there’s a moral buried in there, the same one Mean Girls would mine 15 years later — cliques suck, worshipping popular but mean people is stupid, and being a jerk will get you shot or pushed in front of a bus or something — but frankly, as Justin and Kyle both pointed out, that’s not exactly deep. The DVD insert quotes a critic who seemed to think the primary audience for Heathers was those who loathed John Hughes and “teensploitation” films, but I’m not sure I agree; if anything, Heathers has less insightful thoughts to convey about teen angst and social segregation than does, say, The Breakfast Club. No, it’s the macabre tone of the film that really appeals to us, and the scenes that make you laugh even as you’re uncomfortable with what’s going on.

With the prevalence of school violence in the last decade, no movie studio in the world would touch this one today, which is probably one of the reasons it’s ultimately more satisfying than Mean Girls. I give them credit for pushing the envelope, even if it doesn’t work in every respect. At the same time, though, it’s slightly less funny when we’ve seen similar events play out in real life, and it’s hard to get a bead on what the film really wants to say. A good portion seems devoted to showing how ultimately trivial all of the teen angst being mined by Hollywood at the time really is, and how attaching too much importance to meaningless things can cause events to spiral way, way out of your control… and then the end steps in and reminds us that, oh right, being nice to people is good too. After you’ve finished killing the ones you don’t like.

So, yeah. I can’t express my unequivocal love for Heathers because it never quite settles on what it wants to be. But with that said, a ton of great lines and an entertaining, you-could-never-pull-this-off-today storyline make it definitely worth seeing at least once. Just be careful which friends you watch it with.

One final thought: Kyle will fight me on this one, but I really think I’d have to go with Winona over Lindsay. Not that Lohan isn’t extremely attractive (and, knowing my luck, reading this right now), but there’s just something about that strip croquet…

The real reason Heather Chandler had to die

Intermission!

  • Lotho from Beetlejuice as the priest! Man, does that guy ever play normal parts?
  • Veronica Sawyer and her old friend Betty Finn are named after Archie characters Betty and Veronica, as well as Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.
  • Despite J.D. making special note of it, the word “Eskimo” never appears in Moby Dick.
  • When Heather Chandler smashes through her glass coffee table, the book atop it is The Bell Jar.
  • It might just have been me, but did the town name sound like a spoof of Shermer, Illinois to anybody else?
  • Heather Chandler’s kitchen is the same one used for the later dream sequence of Heather Duke’s kitchen, just with different colors and lighting.
  • Veronica Sawyer: perfect girlfriend for the Punisher? Discuss.
  • J.D. tricks Veronica into killing the jocks by claiming to use “ich luge” bullets which he claims only pierce the skin. “Ich luge” is German for “I’m lying”.
  • The book J.D. underlines passages in was originally supposed to be The Catcher In The Rye; when they couldn’t get permission to use it, it was changed to Moby Dick.
  • Westerberg High is named after Paul Westerberg, the lead singer of Winona Ryder’s then-favorite band, The Replacements. (Who, incidentally, does a great song called “Stain Yer Blood.”)
  • [SPOILERS] The original, scripted ending had Veronica kill J.D., but then look out the window and bear witness to everything she hated about high school- bullying, ostracism, harassment, etc. So instead she straps the bomb to her body and blows herself — and possibly the school — up. The final scene is a very surreal sequence featuring all of the characters, including those who had died earlier, dancing together at a prom devoid of cliques or abuse. Studio execs found it too dark and demanded it be changed to the slightly cheesy version we’re familiar with… which, given how weird the original one sounds, might actually have been for the best.

Groovy Quotes

Veronica: Watch it Heather, you might be digesting food there.
Heather McNamara: Yeah, were’s your urge to purge?

JD: People will look at the ashes of Westerburg and say, “Now there’s a school that self destructed, not because society didn’t care, but because the school was society!” Now that’s deep.

Heather Macnamara: It’s your turn Heather.
Heather Chandler: No, Heather, it’s Heather’s turn. Heather?
Heather Duke: Sorry, Heather.

Veronica: This may seem like a really stupid question…
JD: There *are* no stupid questions.
Veronica: You inherit 5 million dollars the same day aliens land on the earth and say they will blow it up in 2 days. What do you do?
JD: That’s the stupidest question I’ve ever heard.

JD: The extreme always seems to make an impression.

JD: I like it. It’s got that it’s-a-cruel-world-let’s-throw-ourselves-in-the-abyss type ambience.

JD: Our love is God, let’s go get a Slushie.

Heather Duke: Veronica, you look like hell.
Veronica: Thanks, I just got back.

Veronica Sawyer: All we want is to be treated like human beings, not to be experimented on like guinea pigs or patronized like bunny rabbits.
Veronica’s Dad: I don’t patronize bunny rabbits!

Heather McNamara: God, aren’t they fed yet? Do they even have Thanksgiving in Africa?
Veronica: Oh, sure. Pilgrims, Indians… Tater Tots. It’s a real party continent.

Heather Chandler: Grow up, Heather. Bulimia’s so ’87.

Heather McNamara: God, they won’t expel him, they’ll just suspend him for a week or something.
Heather Chandler: He used a real gun. They should throw his ass in jail.
Veronica: No way – he used blanks. All J. D. really did was ruin two pairs of pants. Maybe not even that… can you bleach out urine stains?

Veronica’s Dad: Will someone tell me why I smoke these damn things?
Veronica: Because you’re an idiot.
Veronica’s Dad: Oh yeah, that’s it.

Brad: It’s so great to be able to talk to a girl and not have to ask “What’s your major?” I hate that. [pause] So, when you go to college, what subjects do you think you’ll study?

Heather Chandler: I brought you to a Remington party and what’s my thanks? It’s on a hallway carpet. I got paid in puke.
Veronica: Lick it up, baby, lick it up.

J.D.: Chaos was what killed the dinosaurs, darling.

J.D.: The only place different social types can genuinely get along with each other is in heaven.

Heather McNamara: Oh God, this is a tragic thing, and sometimes I have a hard time dealing with it and stuff. Please send Heather to heaven and all that.

Peter: Dear God, please make sure this never happens to me ‘cause I don’t think I can handle suicide. Fast, early acceptance into an Ivy League school and please let it be Harvard. Amen.

Heather Duke: I prayed for the death of Heather Chandler many times, and I felt bad every time I did it, but I kept doing it anyway. Now I know you understood everything. Praise Jesus, hallelujah!

Veronica: Hi! I’m sorry. Technically I did not kill Heather Chandler, but hey, who’m I trying to kid, right? I just want my high school to be a nice place. Amen. Did that sound bitchy?

J.D.: This is Ohio. If you don’t have a brewski in your hand, you might as well be wearing a dress.

Kurt’s Dad: My son’s a homosexual, and I love him. I love my dead gay son!

Veronica: They’re all Swatch Dogs and Diet Coke Heads.

Veronica: Suicide gave Heather depth, Kurt a soul, and Ram a brain. I don’t know what it’s given me, but I have no control over myself when I’m with J.D. Are we going to prom or to hell?

J.D.: Wanna go out tonight? Catch a movie? Miniature golf?
Veronica: I was thinking more along the lines of slitting Heather Duke’s wrists open, making it look like suicide.
J.D.: Ah, now you’re talking. I can be up for that. I’ve already started underlining meaningful passages in her copy of Moby Dick, if you know what I mean.

Veronica: That knife is filthy.
J.D.: What do you think I’m going to do with it, take out her tonsils?!
Veronica: Excuse me, I think I know Heather a little bit better than you do. If she were going to slit her wrists, the knife would be spotless.

Veronica’s Mom: When teenagers complain that they want to be treated like human beings, it’s usually because they ARE being treated like human beings.

Veronica: If everyone was jumping off a bridge, would you?
Heather McNamara: Probably.

J.D.: I knew that loose was too noose.

Veronica: You know what I want? Cool guys like you out of my life.

Veronica: Heather, m’love, there’s a new sheriff in town.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Mean Girls
  • Pump Up The Volume
  • The Breakfast Club
Advertisements

3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Heather does The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) [Remake Week] « Mutant Reviewers From Hell

  2. Pingback: Ginger Snaps « Mutant Reviewers From Hell

  3. Pingback: Eunice does The Linguini Incident | Mutant Reviewers From Hell

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s