Heathers is one of only a handful of 1980’s teen movies that was in some way not written, directed, produced or in some way connected to John Hughes (creator of the “Brat Pack”). Instead, Heathers was directed by Michael Lehmann, also the director of Hudson Hawk, 40 days and 40 nights and the Truth About Cats and Dogs. Heathers stars a young (pre-shoplifting) Winona Ryder, Christian Slater and Shannen Doherty.
The film portrays four girls in an elite clique at a fictional Ohio high school. The girls — three of whom are named Heather — rule the school through coercion, contempt, and sex appeal. Seventeen year old Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder), is one of the more popular girls at a fictional Ohio high school. In addition to Veronica, the Heathers are wealthy and beautiful (but deeply unhappy) girls: the cruel leader of the trio, Heather Chandler (Kim Walker); the timid Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty); and the spineless cheerleader Heather McNamara (Lisanne Falk). The three wicked girls rule the school through brutality and emotional sadism. Although they are the most “popular” students, they are feared and hated rather than adored, and Veronica has had enough of their shallow, vicious behavior and longs to return to her old life, where she was happy with her former friends.
Enter new student J.D. (Christian Slater), a rebellious and self-styled outsider who opens with pulling a gun on two school bullies Kurt and Ram and fires blanks at them. Naturally, Veronica finds herself captivated with him. In an act of revenge for a slight at a frat party, Veronica and J.D. break into Heather Chandler’s mansion and facetiously prepare a cup full of drain cleaner to bring Heather as her morning wake-up drink. Veronica decides on milk and orange juice as a suitable form of revenge, as the combination can induce vomiting, but J.D. distracts her with a kiss and she takes the wrong cup to Heather. Though J.D. notices the mistake, he does not inform Veronica and Heather Chandler drinks the drain cleaner and dies. J.D. reminds Veronica that she has the ability to forge handwriting and protect herself from suspicion and forge a suicide note in the deceased handwriting. The school takes Heather Chandler’s “suicide” as a dramatic, but cool, decision made by the popular yet troubled teen. Another one of the Heathers soon steps into the lead and begins wearing the red scrunchie that had belonged to Chandler.
The two “jocks” that J.D. shocked by firing blanks at them become the next targets because they have spread false rumors about Veronica. J.D. devises a plan to kill the two jerks and he will then plant “gay” materials on them, including a candy dish, mascara, a postcard of Joan Crawford, gay porn, mineral water, and a suicide note stating the two were lovers participating in a suicide pact. At their funeral, a one of the fathers is seen crying, “My son’s a homosexual, and I love him. I love my dead gay son!”, and the boys become martyrs against homophobia.
The body count continues to rise as the movie unfolds. In the end Ryder not only stops J.D. from blowing up the school but also stops Heather from continuing her unrelenting stranglehold on the students.
The movie lost money at the box office, but is now on many “Top Lists” as a “Cult Classic.” I am on the fence with this one. There are just as many good scenes are there are bad clichés. To be sure, the Heathers are diabolical, cruel creatures who get what’s coming to them. J.D. seems to embody what many high school students would like to do (and have done) to some of their classmates and the whole high school culture. All in all Heathers is not a bad movie, having some great qualities, but also some irritating parts as well. Take a look at it — you won’t want your two hours back.