Cult classic ‘Heathers’ touches on serious topics with off-brand comedy
‘Heathers’ is a 1989 thriller comedy starring Winona Ryder. Like almost every other movie starring Winona Ryder, this movie is considered a cult movie and later led to a musical and a strange Instagram ad campaign for a TV show.
Here’s the basics: Three girls, all named Heather, adopt a nobody named Veronica into their friend group. Though all named Heather, each of them indicates their identities as different people with the use of power colors. Veronica’s friendship with the Heathers is cemented through her skills in forgery and ability to make the football guys talk about doing lewd things to her.
The Heathers use Veronica’s sub-human forgery skills to write letters to Martha Dumptruck, a girl who in modern day would be disliked solely for having a mullet. As Martha Dumptruck’s life begins to fall apart in the foreground, the school’s local trench coat-clad creep sits and watches Veronica with his borderline sinful gaze.
Our trench coat friend, named J.D., is basically every edgy teen’s wish fulfillment character. He has no friends and needs no friends, sits in the background of every shot, and threatens the football players by firing a real gun.
It’s all right. He’s firing blanks and it’s the eighties.
After Veronica just sort of glosses over the fact that he whipped out a gun on school property, she meets the boy again at a convenience store.
Veronica decides to low-key ask him about why he whipped a gun out, to which he explains, “Extreme always makes an expression.”
Veronica goes off to a college party with the head Heather (indicated by her mean-girl blonde hair and red power color), where Heather proceeds to yell at her for not having sex with an older man.
Veronica goes home utterly upset at Heather.
J.D. literally sneaks into the home of a girl that he has met twice and begins to climb in through her window.
I repeat: begins to climb in through her window.
And Heather is all about this. This is the true height of her life. Some guy comes in through a window? Make out with him.
Since she has had a fun night with this creepy boy, she decides to take him to Red Heather’s house and concoct a disgusting hangover cure.
Veronica suggests milk and orange juice, J.D. wants draino.
The most disturbing part about this is that Veronica decides to take this random strange guy into her close friend’s room while she is sleeping.
Red Heather dies from draino poisoning. Veronica realizes that she has killed her best friend.
The mental breakdown begins.
At first, the school thinks that it shouldn’t become a big deal, but then the counselor decides to create an impromptu therapy session which leads to the students projecting their insecurities on Heather.
We see J.D. and Heather watching their classmates being interviewed on the screen.
J.D. proves himself to be even creepier by talking to his father as if he was his father, referring to himself as son. It proves to be enough to make almost any girl bolt, but Veronica is played by Winona Ryder and therefore never dissuaded by the creepy.
The greatest line of the movie comes at Red Heather’s funeral, in which a football player wonders why god is killing such hot babes. Feeling rather depressed, the football players decide that some light hazing and cow tipping are the proper ways to deal with the loss of a babe. Veronica partakes in said cow-tipping.
J.D. shows up to rescue her from the cow tipping double date and tells her the most resoundingly creepy statement he has made this whole movie, “Our love is god.”
Eventually, J.D. and Veronica decide that revenge is in order after the football players spread the rumor that they had some passionate grief touching with her.
Since J.D. is the most trustworthy person after murdering her best friend, she decides to trust him when he states that they’re going to shoot the two boys with “tranquilizer bullets” and make them look like they were in a relationship with each other.
Yeah, this movie didn’t age well.
Football guy one and two show up to the woods to have a threesome with Veronica but instead get murdered by J.D. and his superior trench-coat based running skills.
Veronica finally opens her eyes and realizes that this guy is a bad person. Instead of taking the normal steps and reporting him to the police or stopping the large amount of time she spends with him, Veronica decides to spend larger stretches of time alone with him.
Anyway, J.D. decides to say a bunch of creepier serial killer-esque things and reveals that his father murdered his mother for trying to leave him.
Veronica finally decides that this is too much and that she must end it. So, Veronica ghosts him.
Literally ghosts him.
She pretends to kill herself and then the real point of the movie comes in, which is how J.D. is going to murder everyone for making him upset.
I’m not going to go into details, especially with a TV show coming on soon, but J.D. without Veronica is just as psychotic as you think.
“Heathers” is one of my favorite movies, but I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that it’s perfect.
It’s a dated 80s movie that has not aged well in any social capacity and only lightly touches on the issue of suicide.
Veronica is unable to understand the consequences of her actions throughout the movie and only near the end is able to realize that J.D. is a sociopath in the making. She fails up until the ending of the movie to take her life into her own hands and often follows the movements of others around her. Veronica hates her friends, but instead of doing something about it she decides to stick with them and continue their cruel actions because at least then she’s popular. Veronica doesn’t want to kill anyone, yet after J.D. murders Red Heather she doesn’t discuss the incident much further or bother to think that staging a “fake” suicide with J.D. likely won’t end in it being fake.
It’s also hard to understand why Veronica Sawyer would want to be with J.D. after he proves time and time again that he is a really off-putting guy. J.D. is practically a wish fulfillment character for every person who thinks that they’re too edgy for school. He’s got an array of trench coats, a smart mouth, and a gun. He beats up football players, solves the bullying problem and so forth. But overall, he’s just not someone who you can really imagine anyone wanting to spend time with. It makes no sense how he is proven to lie to Veronica time and time again, show no remorse, and openly mention his psychotic tendencies; And she’s just fine with this.
The movie also falls into the typical tropes: the distrust of all authority figures, stereotypical high school bullies, and the overly intelligent young person. The plot just sort of glosses over incidents and doesn’t allow us the full reactions of the characters, which is supposed to be funnier. But in a movie about suicide and murder amidst a teenage population, it comes across as concerning.
What I enjoy about this movie is the way that it is framed and the closer to life portrayal of high school climate. I like that it’s not entirely serious and takes a darker comedy approach, but I wish it had handled the harder topics of people actually trying to commit suicide in the movie with a different approach than the fake suicides.
It’s not hard to see why it was chosen as a cult movie, nor why it was selected to be a musical. It is a genuinely good movie with an air of comedy and interesting characters.
Overall, I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5.