Michael Lehmann’s Heathers

I wasn’t prepared for what a pitch black, unapologetically dark comedy Heathers really is. I’ve always known about this film and always meant to see it because I love Winona Ryder, Christian Slater and all things 80’s but man does this thing have some teeth! High school satire has never been this ruthless as we see Ryder try and escape a popular clique trio of bitchy brats all hilariously named Heather with the help of sociopathic, extremely destructive bad boy Slater. Her character is interesting because she’s like the Daywalker of high school cliques, able to blend in as both the good girl and snotty popular girl crowds and as such comes across as an individual rather than a caricature. Her and Slater are adorable together onscreen, both in full on nubile brunette mode and they have cutey pie chemistry that supernovas when he goes kamikaze and decides he not only wants to commit multiple murders on campus, but eventually blow up said campus with a giant brick of C4!! This all sounds perfectly horrible and of course the subject matter takes on dark, ominous new portent when we look at all the tragic school shootings these days but somehow this film, besides being very much of it’s time, manages to play off all these fucked up elements squarely for laughs, albeit of the darkest kind. The corrosive script by Daniel Waters (Hudson Hawk, Demolition Man, Batman Returns) is an impossibly witty, bitterly sardonic yet refreshingly playful cocktail of deprecating cynicism, punishingly pointed social satire and so many jokes I had to compartmentalize how long to laugh at each before the next one piled on. Ryder is lovely here and this might be one of her most engaging, impressive and attractive onscreen roles, she has a grand time with the dialogue, her chemistry with Slater’s lovably dangerous, misanthropic outsider almost singes the celluloid and you can tell overall that everyone involved is just having so much fun. I’ve made darker films before about the kind of subject matter you’re not sure if you should laugh or wince at and they are the best kind of sets to be on, if everyone is in on the joke and willing to ‘go there.’ It’s evident they all were here, and they’ve made one hell of a great film.

-Nate Hill

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