“Dear Diary, my teen-angst bullshit now has a body count”
Heathers is an 80s cult, black comedy starring Winona Ryder as Veronica Sawyer, a high school girl who is best friend with Heather, a stereotypical American high school mean girl and leader of the ‘Heathers‘ a clique of similarly mean girls all named Heather that, as in all good American high school films, are the most popular girls in school.
Despite taking part in the mean girl games, Veronica is clearly upset by them but yet despite her criticisms does not actually do anything to stop them. At least until she meets new pupil J.D. Dean, played by Christian Slater, who encourages her to to take a stance.
Well more like manipulates her into killing anyone she is unhappy with whilst making it look like a suicide; not that she takes much manipulation and is more willing than she wishes to admit to herself.
An unforeseen side-effect of these ‘suicides’ is how popular these deaths make the victims with not only a gain in popularity but their most obvious, and negative, personality flaws being supplemented with more popular traits by those that knew them (and in most cases hated them) as well as leading to others to themselves attempt to take their lives.
The film deals with these dark tones using a very sharp script that utilises black yet subtle humour without ever seeming to mock nor minimising the seriousness of not only teenage suicide, but bullying, the pressures of fitting in and in the case of Martha “Dumptruck” Dunnstock, all of the above combined with isolation.
You can be laughing at a joke made at the expense of one of the characters at their funeral only for the very next moment to see the effect the impact that death is having on that persons family in a very sobering manner.
Christian Slater plays J.D. Dean, the mysterious stranger. A bad boy but with a conscience it seems but as the films goes on he plays an almost Mephistopheles like character to Winona’s Faust that offers her a way out of the life she feels trapped in. No matter where she is or what trouble she is in he appears ready with an open hand but at a cost and finally an ultimate price to pay unless she can finally stand up for herself.
A role almost perfect for Slater. Even up til the end there still is a charm about him that makes you feel if he only says the right thing then Veronica would be under this sociopaths spell once again but he ultimately has to remain true to his beliefs. The chemistry between him and the sympathetic (despite her reprehensible actions) Winona also is perfect.
But good casting isn’t limited to the two main stars as Kim Walker who plays Heather Chandler is so good as head mean girl that is really is a shame when she is killed off early on as I would’ve liked to have seen her more and then you have Shannen Doherty plays Heather Duke, a role I’m sure some of her co-stars along the years would claim she didn’t need to put much effort into playing.
Alongside the different groups in the school we are given seemingly oblivious and possibly Valium prescribed parents in their own little world that suddenly manage a moment of lucidity when offering this little tit-bit ‘When teenagers complain that they want to be treated like human beings, it’s usually because they are being treated like human beings‘ before going back into their own world to the priest as well as the school board struggling to connect to the yoofs in order to help them in their blundering way.
All in exaggerated form here but all serving their purpose within the story and never reaching ridiculous levels.
Now, whilst this a favourite of mine in the 80s and I knew I would still enjoy this, this is one film that would not be made today. The snowflakes of the age range this would be made for that are triggered by what is seems is everything would be far too outraged by the social commentary on display here.
This makes the film more relevant today and also increased my enjoyment of it.
We have the usual Arrow work on display here. 4K restoration from the original films negative that does give a nice sharp picture and is enough for a film of this type to a new 5.1 surround master from the original mono.
This isn’t mind blowing audio not that it needs to be for this nor is it the sort of surround giving you speaker specific effects. What you do get is a nice full sound that fills the room.
Again laden with extras from director commentary and brand new interviews with cast and crew to an interesting short the director made when in higher education.
Probably the definitive edition of this cult classic with themes still as prevalent and that still holds up today as it did 30 years ago.
BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
- New restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative by Arrow Films
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- Original 1.0 mono audio and optional 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary by director Michael Lehmann, producer Denise Di Novi and writer Daniel Waters
- Newly filmed interview with director Michael Lehmann
- A newly filmed appreciation by the writer, actor and comedian John Ross Bowie (The Big Bang Theory)
- Pizzicato Croquet, composer David Newman and director Michael Lehmann discuss the music of Heathers
- How Very: The Art and Design of Heathers, production designer Jon Hutman, art director Kara Lindstrom and director Michael Lehmann discuss the look of Heathers
- Casting Westerberg High, casting director Julie Selzer discusses the casting process for Heathers
- Poor Little Heather, a new interview with actress Lisanne Falk
- Scott and Larry and Dan and Heathers, a new interview between screenwriting team Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, The People vs Larry Flint), and Heathers screenwriter Daniel Waters
- Swatch Dogs and Diet Coke Heads, an archival featurette with extensive cast and crew interviews providing an in-depth look at the making of Heathers
- Return to Westerberg High, an archival featurette providing further insight into the film’s production
- Original trailers
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Robert Sammelin
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Bidisha, Anna Bogutskaya and an archival interview with cinematographer Francis Kenny