If you have seen one High School movie about teenage girls you have seen them all. And you can predict exactly what is coming right down to the catty comment. Somewhere along the line an unpopular student is going to upset the status quo by either becoming more popular than the Queen Bee, by dating the love of a popular girl or simply cause all-out war, girl style, on the clique. And since the dawn of time, that system has gone extremely unchallenged. Hell, even Mean Girls, as popular and hilarious as it was, didn’t waver too far from the product (as self-aware as it was.) That being said, meet 1989 movie Heathers and see what happens when fight for social status and power goes a little bit awry in this cult classic.
Starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, Heathers s about a group of high school popular girls called, well, Heather. Even in their group there is hierarchy; the most popular and leader is Heather Morris; the wearer of the red scrunchie. At the bottom of the group is Veronica desperately trying to cling on to her popularity. When school loser, burn out and alternative bad boy J.D comes to school and pulls a fake gun on some bullies, he intrigues the attentions of Veronica. However, after speaking her wishes to see Heather Morris humiliated, she soon finds herself covering up murder and unwillingly becomes a pawn in J.D’s murderous rebellion against the school.
In the wrong hands, Heathers could tragically become a one note horror movie we’ve all come to know and loath. However, director Michael Lehmann and writer David Waters, create a wonderful dark comedy that is filled to the brim with stunning image, witty dialogue and a punchy plot. Right from the get go we are immersed in a colourful world. An homage to Alice in Wonderland starts the film as a croquet game sets up ho is in charge (Veronica buried head deep as the target shows how bottom her rung is.) And from then on, the unique and surreal movie sets it’s mark as a great teenage film.
What is great about the movie is the social commentary on high school and popularity. When news of Heather Morris’ tragic “suicide” hits the school and similarly the “homosexual jock” suicide that J.D forces Heather to commit, the school is awash with grief and sorrow forgetting that these students were tyrants against the student body; they bullied victims, spread rumours and caused hell. In death, they were martyrs; innocent, pure and naïve. And when Martha “Dumptruck” an overweight and bullied student actually attempts suicide and fails, she is ridiculed as trying to be popular and follow the trend. This dark world is ever critical of schools, students and popularity. And we feel sorry for Veronica as she struggles with trying to keep to the status quo, trying to exact her revenge and torn against her conscious. After all, J.D is a living embodiment of High School revenge all the alternative and “forgotten” children dreamed of doing.
Unfortunately, due to studio heads demanding a change in ending, Heathers becomes a bit cheesy at the end and doesn’t sit right against the rest of the movie. But there is enough here to relish in the unforgettable Heathers.
Heathers returns to cinemas Friday 10th August!