Heathers: A Throwback Thursday Film Review
I can recall only a few times that movies have genuinely shocked me, not with a plot twist in a mystery or thriller, but with pure audacious, in-your-face moments. Those moments make an impact. They don’t bruise; they scar. They brand an image or a quote into my memory that rests there forever. Heathers delivers a handful of these moments within its first 20 minutes. You can attempt to describe this movie anyway that you like, be it satirical, provocative, hilarious, wild, etc. One thing is certain about Heathers, you will not forget it.
Heathers is a disturbingly dark comedy dripping with hyperbolic satire about high school life. Every character is exaggerated. The kids are either sadistic or secretly psychotic or both. All the adults are clueless, so of course they handle each conflict with incompetence. Yet somehow the plot makes the characters appear by comparison, which is say that things get pretty crazy.
This drastically sensationalized world of high school (littered with great quotes) makes Heathers a genre-defying classic.
Boldly exploring the world of teen social life in a way for more daring and original than “16 Candles” or “The Breakfast Club” (oh, these kids are more than just their stereotypes? I never knew), Heathers takes us behind the scenes of the most popular clique in school, called the Heathers. The three founding members, all named Heather, insist on referring to each other by first name only which creates some cute confusion in the opening minutes. The film takes an abrupt dark turn shortly afterward.
The leader, Heather Chandler, needs only to utter a few sentences to reveal herself as one of the most shockingly cruel and timelessly quotable teen characters in cinema history. So shocking are her lines that they still drop jaws in 2016. I wouldn’t dare spoil the great quotes from Heather or the ones from Heather or any quotes for that matter, but suffice it to say that you will never think about mineral water, brain tumors or chainsaws the same way again.
As we witness the appalling ways of Heather as she mentally mutilates the less popular, we also observe the apathy with which her actions are met. Only Veronica seems phased by how her best friend (who she hates) treats people. Since she’s the only sensible character in the movie, Veronica comes up with the only sensible way to solve the Heather problem: kill her. “Accidents” ensue leading to a perceived suicide epidemic throughout the city. In death, the tormenters become martyrs celebrated for the giving lives they did not actually lead. Despite the phony praise passed onto the dead, virtually everyone’s reactions to the suicides are laughably deadpan or selfish. Some seek attention by accepting blame. Others worry only about canceling school. The school’s lower class students notice the glorification of suicide and view it as their best chance at popularity.
The comical take on murder/suicide is dicey. But viewers should understand it as an attempt to mock the allure some bestow on suicide. Even if this bold effort ruffles some feathers, the film presents a moral statement: all people should be treated with decency.