By Brad Laidman | October 24, 2000

“Did you hear? School’s been cancelled today because Kurt and Ram killed themselves in a repressed gay suicide pact!”
I’m actually pretty truly shocked that you can still rent this film after the Columbine massacre. When kids started lying in rows down the stretches of teeming highways in homage to a scene in “The Program,” Disney blinked and edited it out of the movie. Gone. Like it never existed, even though the scene was responsibly depicted and crucial to the tone of the piece.
Angry students kill their enemies as a result of clique warfare. That’s basically the plot of both “Heathers” and the Harris-Klebold suicide pact. I’m still shocked people aren’t trying to lynch director Michæl Lehman. Maybe it’s because “Heathers” is so eerily right-on-target it amounts to a fulfilled prophesy.
The Three Heathers and Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) are the top of the clique hierarchy. Veronica, is bright, attractive, caring and knows she has sold her soul for popularity and begins to not only dislike, but despise her friends. Along comes Jack Nicholson’s illegitimate son, cool walking, cool smoking JD (Christian Slater — read James Dean/delinquent). JD makes a big first day impression. He makes eyes at an impressed Veronica from the back of the lunchroom, and when he gets hassled by the football team he pulls out a loaded gun and fires…blanks.
From here on things get complicated, as JD hooks up with Veronica and tricks her into killing Heather Number One. They pen an impressive suicide note, mix and stir. The dead Heather is more popular than ever; her death has given her substance. Pretty soon two football players are dead. Veronica burns her hand with a cigarette lighter, and JD uses her hand as a light. “Our way is the way. We scare them into not being a******s!”
Amazingly enough, it’s hard to shed a tear. The Heathers are truly vain, cruelly sadistic and immaculately dressed, though not particularly happy. The death of the top Heather merely induces a class struggle for reorganization in the new world. Believe it or not, the guys are worse. They use the girls for sex, pick on their lessors, and are generally concerned with nothing but themselves. Everyone here is stupid and crass, and they live to prey on each other’s weaknesses. The kids petition for the homeless and the starving, but they can’t even be humanly decent to each other. I dare you to watch this and not rejoice when they start popping off. I haven’t even mentioned the hippy teacher who uses the deaths to promulgate her odd fascination and delight at the tragedies.
This is an amazing black satire filled with vicious biting words that snap like firecrackers. You have to figure slang like “What’s your damage” and “Get crucial” are far too ingenious not to have been written by writer Daniel Waters. Veronica’s parents have the same conversation with her every day and the scenes are filmed like a lost episode of Ozzie and Harriet. The look of the movie is beautifully colored and staged. How can you resist a movie whose high school is named after Replacements’ singer Paul Westerberg? “Heathers” wants a kinder gentler world…it just has no idea how it’s going to happen. The wonder isn’t that this movie might have been imitated, it’s that it’s creators went on to make “Hudson Hawk” and “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane”.

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