★ ★ ★
Knowing of the cult status of this film for some time, I’d long had a certain level of curiosity as to what it was all about. Not finding anything else interesting on Netflix Instant Watch last night, Maddie and I decided to give this film a go. The first 20 or so minutes were a bit concerning as to where the film was going, if anywhere, but, eventually, the movie smoothed itself out for an interesting and enjoyable viewing experience.
In a nutshell, this is a surreal and bizarre analysis of the cliques and daily interactions of high school life, and when I say surreal and bizarre, I mean very much so. Veronica (Winona Ryder in her first leading role) is a newly initiated popular girl with her friends, the three Heathers (Kim Walker, Lisanne Falk and Shannen Doherty, respectively). They wreak havoc on the unpopular kids and do the usual things that stereotypical “sassy” popular high school girls would, but Veronica is more disenchanted with their behavior than the others. After meeting the mysterious new kid, J.D. (Christian Slater), they form a relationship and, subsequently, a pact to dissolve the school of the tortures of high school societal pressures by systematically killing the culprits (i.e. jocks, popular girls, etc.). As time goes by, however, Veronica realizes the wrongs they are committing are worse than the day-to-day life of high school hierarchy, so she cuts things off with J.D. Yet, this only fuels his need to “show them all,” leading to his magnum opus to blow up the school and commit such a huge disaster that it will set precedence in high schools across the country. Though a dark comedy at heart, watching this after the atrocities at Columbine and other schools in America over the past 15 years, the scenes play out a lot more eerily than originally intended.
Every scene of this film elicits a dream-like, spooky feeling; the camera movements, lighting, direction and acting all add to this disjointed mood. I think it helps keep the point of dark comedy in perspective, as too realist a handling of this subject matter would just be macabre. Structurally, the film suffers from some unevenness and doesn’t fully pull off what it is trying to achieve I don’t think, but it does clean itself up in the last half and, as mentioned earlier, provided an enjoyable, though not completely satisfying, viewing experience.