Director: Michael Lehmann
Screenplay: Daniel Waters
Starring: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Kim Walker, Lisanne Falk
Country: USA
Running Time: 103 min
Year: 1988
BBFC Certificate: 15

Reapproaching old favourites from your youth can be a depressing experience sometimes. The films you loved largely because they were the epitome of cool can often be a little embarassing a couple of decades on when they’re not hip anymore. I’ve even been worried about revisiting once firm favourites like Pulp Fiction for this reason. One ‘cool’ cult classic I enjoyed as a teenager and haven’t revisited for a long time is Heathers. Arrow Video have recently added it to their impressive roster of titles remastered for Blu-Ray and DVD, so I decided to see if it holds up.

Heathers stars a young Winona Ryder as Veronica, a high schooler who’s part of a clique of nasty rich girls who make life a misery for everyone else in school. Veronica has had enough of being part of this though and longs to get her own back on the central figures of the group, the titular ‘Heathers’ (three girls who share the same name), particularly their ringleader Heather Chandler (Kim Walker). Her chance comes when she meets and falls for new kid JD (Christian Slater). He’s a born rebel with tendencies towards drastic action. At first this just means pulling a gun on the school bullies, but when Veronica opens up about her problems, he helps her ‘accidentally’ kill Heather Chandler and cover it up as a suicide.

This seemingly fortunate incident backfires when Chandler becomes a kind of saint to her peers and Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty), who was pushed around by Chandler, quickly takes her place as the new leader of the Heathers and an equally cruel one. JD sees Veronica’s frustration at this situation and forces her to go along with his plans to eliminate more of her enemies, this time not by accident. She unknowingly/reluctantly goes along with it at first, but eventually realises she needs to put a stop to JD rather than anyone else.

Thankfully Heathers still stands up. It’s notably heightened in all senses and stylised, but at the same time offers a biting and very relatable satire of high-school life. The style is great too – very 80s maybe, but boldly colourful with some interesting shots thrown in now and again. This gives it a comic book feel at times even if the costumes look rather tacky by today’s standards.

The sharp, snappy dialogue is the film’s greatest charm though. It uses its own ‘teen-speak’ (although much is likely borrowed from that of the era) which makes it of its time in one sense, but easy to relate with the similarly abbreviated language of today’s youth. Even if some of the phrases used aren’t familiar anymore, the killer lines are still very funny and endlessly quotable.

In general, much is still relevant too. The central messages (or at least the ones I gleaned from watching) of everyone being innately selfish yet easily led, and the importance of such leaders being good and honest, is especially important in this day and age. After killing one Heather, another one takes her place and, on top of this, Veronica ends up being forced into another problematic lifestyle through her relationship with JD. The film is a “think for yourself” battle cry in many ways and one that’s forever going to be worth repeating.

It’s all a little too hip and cool for its own good at times, glossing over some potentially quite powerful themes, but a couple of sobering moments help ground it just enough to get by. These include a genuine suicide attempt by the overweight and endlessly bullied Martha ‘Dumptruck’ and the opening up of one of the Heathers on a radio talk show.

Heathers was a very early role for Ryder and this, alongside Beetlejuice, helped set her up for stardom. Rightfully so too, as she’s excellent here and makes the offbeat material work a treat. Slater channels his inner Nicholson as usual (not helped by sounding a lot like him), but is perfect for the part, exuding charm yet showing a glimpse of frightening psychosis behind his crafty grin.

Heathers may have aged a little in style and can be too slick to fully empathise with for much of the time, but it remains an enjoyably acidic and heightened spin on the teen movie and offers a clear message that’s as relevant as ever. The dialogue is still a joy to hear fired out, even if ‘teen speak’ has evolved (or devolved depending on your standpoint) over the years. With a bright, bold look to counteract the dark pitch of its comedy and a set of memorable performances backing everything up, it’s a cult classic that’s more than just a nostalgia trip.

Heathers is out on 10th September on Blu-Ray and DVD in the UK, released by Arrow Video. I watched the Blu-Ray version and it looks and sounds fantastic, with rich colours, detailed textures and a natural grain.

There are tonnes of special features included in the set too. Here’s the list:

BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS 

– New restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative by Arrow Films
– 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
– 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

DVD SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
– New restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative by Arrow Films
– Original 1.0 mono and optional 5.1 Surround Sound 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
– 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

It’s a great collection of features. On top of providing an in-depth look at the production and legacy of the film itself, the range of interviews help shed light on the various roles of a film production in general. The pieces are all fairly honest and entertaining too. Particularly good is the commentary which is a lot of fun and isn’t afraid to point out the film’s flaws.

* Please note – the stills used are not indicative of the picture quality of the Blu-Ray or DVD.

Heathers
4.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

About The Author

Editor of films and videos as well as of this site. On top of his passion for film, he also has a great love for music and his family.

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