Very few high-schoolers are really true loners. Even the freaks belong to some kind of clique. The rich and the beautiful all hang around together, have the best clothes, the best haircuts, go to the best parties – their rich and beautiful parents are just the same; they have the best jobs, frequent the same Masonic lodge… you get the picture. The fuck-ups are just the opposite, more comrades than just mere acquaintances, united in the honour of being a born loser, their bonds stronger… true friends, one could say. They hang around behind what was once the bicycle sheds – now they’re half-burned, half covered in obscene graffiti, puffing on fags – maybe something a little stronger, speaking the filthiest language, the girls quickly gaining reputations as “slags” and the boys, still virgins but how could they admit it? revelling in their stories of they got up to with the local boy-racers last night. I was one of the latter, but I have to admit that sometimes I wanted to be one of the beautiful people… Their birds were miles fitter than our slags…
Veronica (Winona Ryder) is part of the “Heathers” clique – that is, three girls called Heather and herself; all rich, all beautiful, all envied by the other kids. The Heathers get their kicks by being total bitches. They use their authority to effectively torture their fellow pupils with a series of nasty pranks, demeaning words and good old-fashioned bullying. Veronica doesn’t like it. She wants out. Sometimes she wishes they were dead, and that wish comes true with the arrival of a new pupil, lone rebel JD (Christian Slater). After poisoning Heather No. 1 (there is a hierarchy) with cleaning fluid, which results in her puking herself through a glass coffee table, the two embark on a campaign of murdering popular kids and making their deaths look like suicide. Suddenly, teen suicide has become vogue.
Make no bones about it, Heathers borders on being something close to a classic. As a witty, intelligent comedy, it’s hilarious, mainly due to director Michael Lehmann’s ridiculously exaggerated stereotypes. The fashionable rich-bitches with their pathetic attempt to be part of the in-crowd (I particularly like the way they use the word “very” instead of cool: That is so VERY!), the meathead jocks with their retarded ways, Veronica’s boring, ultra-conventional, typically suburban parents, the geeks with their oversized Elton-style specs, the stoners puffing away on crack-pipes. It’s school as you really remember it!
And the dialogue in Heathers is, quite simply, hilarious. Barely a minute goes by without some ludicrous statement providing a full-on belly-laugh. Try this for size – “Jesus God in heaven, why’d you have to kill such hot snatch!” or “I love my dead gay son.” Or how’s about ,“Did you have a brain tumour for breakfast?” And a particular favourite of mine, after sensing a fake love-letter to the aforementioned Martha in a particularly cruel prank, “That should give her shower-nozzle masturbation material for weeks!” (Speaking of masturbation material, did I mention Winona Ryder starred in this?)
But as a satire, Heathers also makes a pretty strong statement about teenage popularity and conformity. Sure, the girls are dumb, the jocks are too, but their deaths suddenly make suicide seem so cool (or should that be, so very). Even the school’s obligatory tub of lard, Martha Dumptruck, has a go in an effort to leave behind some sort of legacy – but like everything else she tries, she fails. And the shallowness of today’s youngsters is also explored here- to most of the kids, the deaths of their peers are merely a day off school and something to gossip excitedly about. And on another level, Heathers is also a kind of morbid fantasy, a dream coming true for society’s former victims. C’mon, can you honestly tell me you don’t wanna see more dead jocks here? You know I’m right!
Aka Fatal Game, Lethal Attraction, Westerberg High