Throwback Thirty – Heathers (1988)

23850465_star_rating_system_3_and_a_half_stars Today’s TBT post got off to a bad start because I got a lot of contradictory information about when this film was released. Most places displayed the release date as 1988 but every so often I would see it described as a 1989 film. So, despite being pretty set upon watching Heathers this week, I decided to just go for it. According to Wikipedia, which is, despite what my university said, a reliable source, it was released in Italy in 1988 before being released in the US in 1989. So, I’m taking that. After all, people have been telling me to watch Heathers for years. There’s something about this that, apparently, I’ve been missing for 30 years. Now was the time to find out what I was missing.

Time and time again on this blog, I’ve discussed my love of teen movies. From the cooler John Hughes films of the 80s to the much less cool Hilary Duff films of my childhood, I’m a sucker for a teen flick. I’m also a lover of dark comedy. I was raised on comedy like The League of Gentlemen and it really ruined my sense of good taste. So, really, Heathers should have been my kind of thing. It’s a dark, satirical look at High School life with a bunch of murder thrown in for good measure. Starring 80s icons Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. How could I not find this absolutely compelling?

Heathers focuses on Veronica (Ryder) who has managed to find herself stuck in the popular crowd. She is part of the popular clique, which is made up of three girls all called Heather. She is fed up with the bitchy and petty ways of her high school and detests the people she calls her friends. When dark and brooding newcomer JD.. (Slater) starts at school, Veronica is drawn to him as her only saviour. Turns out he’s actually going to be the one who turns her into a murderer.

J.D. starts with the head of the Heathers and manufactures a situation in which Veronica ends up poisoning her. They hide their crime by making it look like Heather committed suicide. Rather than helping to make school a better place, her death only turns her into some kind of saint. Nothing changes and Veronica only gets angrier as her fellow students continue to praise the girl who tortured them for so long. It pushes her and J.D. further down their dark road and the number of fake suicides increases. But, with every new death, Veronica becomes less sure that J.D. is the voice of reason she believed him to be.

If I’m being honest, I’m not entirely sure what I think of Heathers. I think I enjoyed it but I suspect that it doesn’t entirely hold up now. I think if I’d seen it earlier in my life it might have been different but, right now, it feels kind of tame. Yes, there is some dark and weird comedy but I was kind of bored. There are some fantastic moments and some funny scenarios. Take the scene where two jocks are killed and left in such a way that their deaths become a gay suicide pact. Amazing. The way it dissects high school society is pretty impressive but it doesn’t always know the best way to deal with it. There are more than a few sections that just felt like they were included to amp up the weird. It seemed unnecessary and a little desperate at times. The film dragged itself out and kind of meandered towards the finish. Yes, there were a few laughs along the way and I’d be up for a rewatch. But I can’t say that I’ve definitely found my new favourite teen movie.

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