By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: These girls are bitches.
Heathers (Kim Walker, Shannon Doherty, Lisanne Falk) are three beautiful teens all with the same first name of Heather who act as the bitch queens of their Ohio high school. Veronica (Wynona Ryder) strives to be accepted into their exclusive clique and eventually does, but feels guilty about having to ignore her old friends as well as not particularly liking her new ‘friends’. In comes J.D. (Christian Slater) a rebel who decides to shake up the status system by killing off all of the snotty girls and jocks and making it look like suicides. Veronica reluctantly goes along with it, but when J.D. decides to blow up the entire school in order to make ‘a statement’ she decides things have gone too far.
Daniel Water’s dark script is incisively on-target and filled with original quotable lines of dialogue. Director Michael Lehmann gives the proceedings a nicely surreal touch with just a pinch of satire with the funeral scenes of the victims being the funniest and most creative. The characters are pretty much portrayed on the negative side, but the caricatures have a lot of truth to them and it reminded me a lot of my high school days.
What really makes this stand out from other 80’s high school movies is the fact that it transcends the teen culture by showing how the adult world really isn’t much better and this high school is simply a microcosm of a cold, screwed-up world that it inhabits. In fact Veronica’s mother (Jennifer Rhodes) says it best when she states: “When teenagers complain that they want to be treated more like adults it is usually because they are being treated like one.”
Ryder is superb and I still consider this to be the best role of her career. The fact that the character is morally dubious, but still manages to stay likable makes it all the more fascinating. Christian Slater’s Jack Nicholson impersonation is irritating, but he is still a good pick for the part. The two share some particularly good exchanges including this one:
Veronica: “I just killed my best friend.”
J.D.: “And your worst enemy.”
Veronica: “Same difference.”
I must admit that I fell completely in-love with Kim Walker as Heather #1 as she possesses an amazingly beautiful face, which would be enough to make me want to watch her regardless of acting skills. I’m surprised that her career never took off and she was relegated to supporting roles in minor productions.
However, she does get two great lines including:
“Fuck me gently with a chainsaw.”
And her most famous one:
“Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?”
Unfortunately she gets killed off much too quickly when she is tricked into drinking some drain cleaner supplied to her by J.D., but she still looks beautiful even with blue teeth and a blue tongue. What is even sadder and more perplexing is that in real-life she died at the young age of 32 by believe-it-or-not a brain tumor.
Falk as Heather #2 is attractive as well although not quite like Walker. Her career never skyrocketed either and her biggest claim to fame outside of this is that she was the model on the cover of Foreigner’s Head Games album. Doherty as the third Heather may be the most famous of the three, but she is not as attractive. For the first half she didn’t even seem all that effectual but comes into her bitchy best during the second part.
Despite the fact that the teens were not using cell phones, or texting, or had any of the other technological advances of today the film doesn’t seem dated, which is another plus. Only two scenes really stood out to me in this area. One is when J.D. shoots at a couple of mean jocks (who are characterized in amusingly dim-witted style) with a gun full of blanks and he doesn’t get into any trouble for it. Off course in 1988 school shootings were unheard of, but today the place would be put on lockdown and J.D. would not only be suspended but probably serve some jail time blanks or not. Another scene involves Veronica and J.D. planning to ‘humiliate’ these same jocks by making it look like they are gay lovers, which today would get Veronica and J.D. labeled as being homophobic.
Although I enjoyed the scene where J.D. gives Veronica the finger only to have it shot off I did find the second half not to be as slick and the concept itself seems to get stretched too thin. The script’s original ending called for a prom to take place in heaven and featuring the teens in different cliques than the ones they were in on earth, but unfortunately the suits at the studio in typically stupid fashion nixed that idea and went with a rather dopey and contrived one instead.
There is also ample argument to the fact that most investigators probably wouldn’t be fooled by these staged suicides and instead consider them the homicides that they were, but because it was all done in the satirical vein I’m willing to overlook it in what is otherwise one of the best high school movies ever made and one that enjoys a considerable cult following. There are also apparently rumors of turning the film into a TV-series where a grown Veronica returns to her hometown with her teen daughter who must now contend with a new generation of teen bitch queens named Ashley.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: October 1, 1988
Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes
Director: Michael Lehmann
Studio: New World Pictures
Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video