The vicious 80s black comedy classic turns 30, and it's still scathing, relatable and oh so very
Three teenage girls play a sedate game of croquet to the lilt of Que Será, Será (Whatever Will Be, Will Be). Something isn’t quite right. They all address one another as Heather. And their outfits correspond eerily to the colours of the croquet paraphernalia. As the camera pans to take in the fourth girl, Veronica (Ryder), we realise she can only watch, helplessly, on account of being buried up to her neck in an otherwise perfectly manicured lawn.
This exquisite and surreal opener is a fitting analogy for Veronica’s toxic friendship with Heathers one, two and three, who form the most powerful clique in school. Lunchroom bullying and life-scarring quips are the order of the day for these mean girls. “How very” is their nonplussed reaction to anything deemed worthy of remark at all.
But popularity is losing its lustre for Veronica, who finds herself harbouring only contempt for the head Heather (Walker). It’s enough to snag the attention of troubled transfer student Jason (note: not James) Dean, played by a feline, smirking Christian Slater. In the throes of teenage angst, his nihilistic embrace strikes Veronica as an appealing setting to indulge her revenge fantasies. But while Veronica merely means to teach the cool kids a lesson, JD’s intentions are altogether more insidious.
Heathers takes place in an alternative version of reality, where emotion is all-consuming and adults flail ineptly at the fringes, failing utterly to get a handle on things. In this fantasy realm, identity can be constructed as easily as a hastily scrawled suicide note, and power wielded in the unassuming form of a red scrunchie. It is a near-perfect simulacrum of any high school.
At 30, Heathers is still scathing, pitch-black and relatable. Be warned: its searing one-liners lampoon everything from suicide to eating disorders (“bulimia is so 87”). In today’s age of hypersensitivity, it may leave a bitter taste; at least it’s anything but bland.
Released by Arrow Video
Heathers is also on rerelease in the UK, with a new 30th Anniversary 4K Restoration print screening in selected cinemas from 10 Aug