Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Movie #248: Heathers

Heathers is an 80s black comedy starring Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Lisanne Falk, Shannen Doherty, and Kim Walker. It's one of those 80s movies that dates itself because of the its subject matter.

Veronica (Ryder) is in with the most popular clique in school. Said clique consists of the titular Heathers: Heather Chandler (Walker), the vicious, vapid leader; Heather McNamara (Falk), the cheerleader; and Heather Duke (Doherty), the timid, Moby Dick-reading suck-up. Veronica pretty much hates them and misses her nerdy friends, but partakes in their bullying and ridicule of other students kind of aimlessly. And then she meets JD (Slater), the trenchcoat-wearing bad boy transfer student, who pulls out a revolver and fires blanks at the football players who bully him...wait, what?

(This is what I mean about the subject matter. School shootings are kind of a different thing, now, and while Heathers raised some eyebrows at the time, I can't imagine it would get made today.)

Anyway, after a humiliation at a college kegger, Veronica tries to trick Heather Chandler into drinking something that will make her throw up...only JD has switched the cup with a mug of liquid drainer, which kills her. They make it look like a suicide, and suddenly Heather is more popular than ever. Following nasty rumors spread by two football players (Lance Fenton and Patrick Labyorteaux), they set them up in a gay suicide pact (JD lying about bullets that act as tranquilizers). Veronica finally realizes that murdering people isn't cool, leaves JD, but winds up having to shoot him when he tries to blow up the school and make it look like a mass suicide pact.

The movie feels like an early Burton movie, even though it isn't. The color palette, the satire of suburbia and high school life, it does feel a little like someone taking the piss out of a John Hughes movie. Ryder and Slater make it work, and Slater channels Jack Nicholson really effectively. The movie is set in Ohio, and it could pretty easily be Strongsville.

The movie is a pretty good example of a black comedy, I think. It doesn't get so unrelentingly dark and nasty that there's no humor anywhere, and even though there's a body count, the deaths are performed with a minimum of gore or lingering on the suffering. The dialog is snappy and the characters that remain alive have some redeeming value, so it's not entirely bleak (which is a dangerous in black comedy).

The DVD contains the script for the unshot original ending, which is entirely too bleak. I'm glad they went with the version they did.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Hellboy