Back in 1988 Heathers was a revelation. It was the perfect mix of satire, cynicism, and teen angst, one of the first films to acknowledge that for many, high school life can be a living hell. It was played for laughs, but there’s no disguising the bitter pitch-black undercurrent bubbling throughout. This was a film that highlighted the gulf between adults and their teens, so out of touch were the adults and teachers that they were willing to believe the American teenager was capable of anything.
Even 23 years on it’s wilfully scathing. Can you imagine a nasty little comedy about teen suicide being funded in 2011? There is a reason why director Michael Lehmann now works in television (True Blood, Californication, Nurse Jackie).
Three popular hyper bitchy immaculately groomed girls rule Westerburgh High. And they’re all named Heather. Veronica (Winona Ryder), desperate to be popular herself is also part of the clique, being groomed for cool, and having left her daggy friends behind. When a mysterious outsider JD (Christian Slater in his best Jack Nicolson impression) appears she finds a way to get her own back and the bodies start piling up. Suddenly Veronica’s dear diary angst has a body count.
The writer Daniel Waters, who would reach such heights as Hudson Hawk, created a whole new teen language here, lacing his acerbic wit with lines. ‘What’s your damage Heather?’ Or ‘Call me when the shuttle lands,’ and in doing so provided the fuel that launched your Mean Girls, your Juno, your Gossip Girl.
Though there’s something very anti establishment about this film. It sides with the teens, but then delights in their murders and pokes fun at them after death. And whilst the ending feels a little too lucky? Copped out maybe, it’s still black as pitch. Delightfully puerile, yet incredibly well written, teen suicide has never been so much fun.
Bob Baker Fish