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February 10, 2012

Movie Review: Heathers (1988, Blu-ray)

There is a small shelf of movies on DVD and Blu-Ray in my home that sit separately from the rest of them. Admittedly, I have been shrinking my collection of films recently and keeping those that I find are essential or that I cannot get easily from a number of streaming sources… but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the small shelf set aside from the rest, as I’ve said, that holds an eclectic mix of odd little films, genre classics and hard to find ghoulishness. I call that shelf the “How to Make a Me” shelf and those are the films I plan on showing my young niece as her interest and age allow. We’ve watched Dark Night of the Scarecrow and Night of the Living Dead already (not to mention Star Wars… the real one) and we’ll watch the rest eventually. Every title on that shelf helped to shape me into the filmmaker/writer/artist/whatever I am today. They were instrumental in shaping my artistic worldview. Adding to the aforementioned titles, the small (but glorious) group includes Xtro, Bloodsucking Freaks, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism and many more. Thanks to Image Entertainment, add Heathers to that list. The dark comedy of the 1980s, Heathers reaffirmed for me that the things I found funny were weird… but I wasn’t alone. The anti-Hughes movement began, in all reality, with Heathers and anarchists and dark comedic professionals, like myself, haven’t looked back.

Buy Heathers on Blu-ray

 Heathers was unlike anything that had come before it in the mainstream. Of course there were independent, and darkly comedic, oddities like The Baby or Who Slew Auntie Roo? that played to a small (but well-informed) audience. Daniel Waters script, though, made the rounds in Hollywood, impressed the right people and history was made. The film, starring Christian Slater and Winona Ryder is a testament to pushing boundaries, defining what comedy is for one’s self and is fully aware that it revels in its own nihilistic take on suburban teenage life. In a nutshell, because everyone on this site is probably already familiar with the story, Winona Ryder joins a group in high school called The Heathers who are all snobby, elitist rich girls. The new boy in town, Christian Slater, catches Winona’s fancy. He is dark, brooding and dangerous. Together, they challenge what the Heathers stand for, how high school power struggles should go and, ultimately, begin a war for their own salvations (Slater’s through destruction resulting in rebooting the entire hierarchy and Ryder’s through preserving the status quo, which causes her to reboot the entire hierarchy).

Importantly, this was a reactionary film. It was created in direct contrast to the John Hughes films that featured nauseatingly cute protagonists in sickeningly sweet situations. Hughes fans will tell you that those movies dealt with ‘real issues’ that ‘the youth of the time’ were going through. Bull shit. I was the youth at the time. Sixteen Candles was a romantic fantasy… Heathers was closer to real life. Even as absurdist as some of the content was, Heathers dealt with issues that we were all going through. It wasn’t a manufactured sort of plight either. Nostalgia has forced many of us to accept the Hughes films as indicative of how it really was. Those people are weak.

What’s your damage, America?

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