“Are we going to prom or to Hell?” – Heathers (Film Review)

Rating:

No other phase of the human life inspires artists and storytellers more than the teen years. A person’s first tastes of responsibility, employment, sex and romance, all with one foot still in childhood. Among film’s many forays into those intense, often painful years, one of the most beloved is Michael Lehmann’s 1988 black comedy Heathers which is being re-released this year to mark its 30th anniversary.

Winona Ryder is Veronica, a student at Westerburg High School in Ohio. She is part of a popular clique of girls, three of whom are named Heather. Veronica finds that being popular isn’t it’s all cracked up to be and she doesn’t have the same cruel streak as her friends. One day a new student joins the school. Jason ‘J.D.’ Dean (Christian Slater) has been expelled from many other high schools for volatile behavoir and he soon makes trouble at Westerburg too. He and Veronica are instantly attracted to each other and begin a relationship. They decide to start dealing out some some justice to the cool kids for their bullying and obsession with hierachy. However, things soon get out of control.

Heathers uses the high school as a metaphor for America itself. The rich and powerful prosper while most get left behind, leading to an inevitable, violent backlash. However, it doesn’t go much deeper than that. The script is sometimes funny but peppered with cringeworthy attempts at edgyness (“Well, fuck me gently with a chainsaw”) and there are plot holes and logical inconsistencies aplenty. The characters are two-dimensional and the film has a certain cartoonishness that has aged badly. This was director Michael Lehmann’s debut film and it would prove to be the best he was capable of, his subsequent efforts including critical turkeys like Hudson Hawk and Airheads.

Thirty years on, Heathers doesn’t hold up. It may have helped launch the careers of Ryder, Slater and Doherty, but its significance ends there.

Dir : Michael Lehmann

Scr: Daniel Waters

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

Prd: Denise Di Novi, Iya Labunka, Christopher Webster

DoP: Francis Kenny

Music: David Newman

Country: US

Year: 1988

Runtime: 103 minutes

HEATHERS 30th Anniversary 4K Restoration is released in UK cinemas from 8th August and on digital and on demand from 20th August.

 HEATHERS will also screen at The Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Square on the following dates. Book tickets here:

  • Friday 10th Aug 16:00
  • Saturday 11th Aug 20:45
  • Sunday 12th Aug 15:45
  • Monday 13th Aug 18:25
  • Tuesday 14th Aug 15:30
  • Wednesday 15th Aug 21:00
  • Thursday 16th Aug 13:00