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Deep or Creepy - Heathers Offers Laughs, Shock and Metaphor

Updated on February 26, 2014

How many times have I seen Heathers? Hmm, five at last count, learning something new each time. The first time I saw Heathers, frankly, I found it disturbing. Released in 1989, Heathers stars Christian Slater, Winona Ryder, and Shannen Doherty. It was directed by Michael Lehmann, who also directed 40 Days and 40 Nights.

The underlying premise is that pseudo-friendship of three girls named Heather who rule the school. The claimed friendship is really nothing more than a popularity clique, kind of a precursor to later girl-clique movies of the late '90s. Winona Ryder portrays a stand-alone student who gets the attention of the erstwhile group of villainous girls when they choose her to write a love letter to as a prank to an unattractive girl. It's an odd relationship that Ryder (Veronica) appears to be a member of the group, but she is not a Heather, and she actually has a conscience and concern for other human beings.

Christian Slater provides a Jack Nicholson character (J.D.) as a dark and mysterious outcast whose difference intrigues Veronica.

The Heathers are intelligent, school-oriented girls who lack humanity. We wonder from the outset why studious and friendly Veronica is connected to this group of ne'er-do-wells to begin with. Eventually, we recognize that the story requires a Veronica to offset the Heathers' evil intent.

The story takes a turn for the worse soon after Veronica's acquaintance with J.D. (Jason Dean). Veronica's introduction begins with a "Greetings and salutations," from the sexy Slater. Slater provides an exemplary performance reminiscient of Nichols' The Shining where his charisma, good looks and charm morph into an intelligently psychotic prankster himself who enlists Veronica in a scheme that topples the Heathers.

Veronica, who is immediately attracted to J.D.'s standoffish behavior and repartee is a vital character who can get away with calling her father an "idiot" in a loving way. She is interesting as a character. Ryder does a great job of bringing Veronica's potential nerd persona into a dramatic state who is popular because she things that is what is expected. She doesn't like her friends and jumps wholeheartedly into the scheme to humble the Heathers, only later discovering that the prank is not a joke. J.D.'s sense of justice is not only dark; it's dangerous.

Though there aren't any moves that can claim relationship with Heathers, there were plenty of late '80s movies filled with teen angst, anxiety and sex. You might enjoy these. I did!

Heathers, a classic, if not comedic, thriller.

J.D. (Slater) and Veronica (Ryder) become disturbing teen killers.

Writer Daniel Waters writes what could otherwise be viewed as just one more clique screenplay. Despite the high school characters with superficial teenage angst becomes a comedy-thriller that draws viewers in from the beginning. The dialogue providers treacherous waters to navigate, and the humor arises from the very malevolence rife with resentment.

Heathers as metaphor is a simple story of dreadful behavior by teens enmeshed in peer pressure turned deadly. The requisite sexy makeout scenes between Veronica and J.D. connects the viewer to the characters. The connections serve only to shock the viewer when the antics begin. Waters' talent for turning two teenage geniuses into psychotic killers is a testament to our society's affection for beauty, charisma and danger.

With a twist, the would-be vigilantes' plans are thwarted when their suicide murders go awry when the suicide notes they write serve to make people relate and feel sorry for the previously hated antagonists of the story. Twist and turn, societal issues turned into a dangerous prankster movie.

This is a movie with flash, one not to be missed. Though it is from 1989, do not be fooled. Heathers transcends time. Teen bitches never go out of style because they continue to exist in reality. Watching teen queen bitches get their comeuppance is also a time-honored tradition. I highly recommend spending a evening with Winona Ryder, Christian Slater and The Heathers!


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    • Sensuintell profile image

      Sensuintell 3 years ago

      @shay-marie: You're right, it is underrated. I first saw the movie in the early '90s sometime. I wasn't sure about it the first time; I was kind of disturbed, actually. However, I have seen it multiple times since then. I learn something new each time. Thanks for commenting.

    • shay-marie profile image

      Shay Marie 3 years ago from Southern California

      Heathers is an underrated 80s movie. I didn't see it until a few years back - I didn't know what I was missing. I've shared this on Google+!