Monday, May 16, 2016

Swatch Dogs and Diet Cokeheads, or Thoughts on Winona Ryder in Heathers

A dark comedy about high school shootings, bomb threats and teen suicides?  There’s no way this movie could be made today, it would have been boycotted before it was released and gone directly to video.  But fortunately for us Heathers came out in 1988 and starred Wynona Rider, the original 80’s maniac pixie dream girl, before anyone even knew what that was.  A dark and moody goth alternate to Pamela Anderson and Molly Ringwald, she was Tim Burton’s first muse, and starred in Beetlejuice (1988) and Edward Scissorhands (1990) before becoming one of the biggest stars of the 90’s.
Heathers refers to the three popular girls named Heather and Veronica Sawyer, as played by Winona Ryder.  Veronica supplies the narrative exposition as she writes in her journal.  A young Christian Slater plays Jason Dean or JD, doing his best Jack Nicholson impression.  He fires a handgun in the school cafeteria and gets suspended for two weeks; the 80’s were a different time and place.
JD, who’s actually a charming homicidal sociopath, manipulates Veronica into helping him murder one of the Heathers and a couple stereotypical jocks/bullies/date rapists.  They make the killings look like suicides, which sparks media attention and a rash of copycat suicides all over the high school.

 Heathers predates the original version Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1992) by 4 years but explores similar themes; what Veronica calls "teen angst with a body count".  Buffy killed vampires, but Veronica got to kill the actual demons that are tormenting the school.  Heathers also starred Shannon Doherty and Glenn Shadix, who you may remember as Ortho from Beetlejuice, as Father Ripper.