Sunday, 29 July 2012

23/06/2012: Heathers [1988]

Heathers is once again a movie that surprised me immensely. I had picked it up mostly because it was The Lamb’s movie of the month two months ago, and it had Christian Slater in it. I put it on finally because I wanted a change from the continuous cycle, of James Bond, B-movie, horror movie that I had fallen into that last week or so. I thought hey, let’s get a high school romance movie to lighten the mood, and relive the good old days of cliques and bullies. Instead, I learned just why this had been picked as movie of the month.

I used to wonder a lot about what it would be like to watch a movie without having the slightest clue about what was going to happen. Through word of mouth, trailers that give it all away, and simple plot synopsis’, it seems to be harder and harder to find a movie that surprised me. This summer however, without the internet at my hand, and only a large pile of movies to watch, I’m am finally learning how much a movie can surprise you when you go in blind. The pile of movies I speak of, is the one I accumulated over the winter, picking them up for this or that reason as I became backlogged with things to watch. This summer, I have stopped acquiring so many new movies, and am instead watching all those movies that I picked up, and for one reason or another, didn’t watch when I picked them up. So how big of a backlog do you have? 

Heathers marks, I would say about a third of the 150 or so movies I had to watch this summer. While I’ll admit, I’m still tending to pick out the ones that interest me the most, I do tend to throw on a couple of random things. I mean, there was a reason I wanted to watch it in the first place no? Anyways, while I didn’t get around to watching Heathers when it was TMOTM at The Lamb, I finally got around to watching it. I thought, hey, I’ll put on this high school flick and take a trip down memory lane, as I watch a bunch of bullying popular girls terrorize a school, and our slightly quirky heroine fight them off and fall in love with the misunderstood bad boy. Not like I haven’t seen that movie before right? (I can’t actually think of a movie matching that exact description, but I’m sure it exists, comment if you can name it.)

I lived in the country my entire childhood and never once met anyone who actually did this.
So, expecting a rather stereotypical movie, Heathers surprised me. I mean, I kinda prided myself on the ability to go from watching Cannibal Holocaust one night, and then Heathers the next, yet if you want to really stretch and draw some similarities, you could say they are both social commentaries on society. I see now why this was movie of the month. I want to point out at this point, feel free to stop reading, and just go watch the movie without me spoiling it for you. I wouldn’t say it is everyone’s cup of tea, but I think that, considering it was made in 1988, it still hold some significance today. Jeeze, will things ever change? Someone find me a movie which doesn’t hold up today.

Anyway, what Heathers actually is, beside my stereotyped above description guess, is in fact a rather dark tale of troubled teenagers. At first, we are introduced to a pretty standard story. An unpopular girl has somehow gotten in with the trio of girls (all named Heather, therefore the title), and together they rule the school. We get our typical bullying and cafeteria scene. My first surprise was actually, just some of the rather suggestive sexual references. This wasn’t exactly PG rating it seemed, although let’s face it, everyone did hear much more than that in high school, regardless of what the ratings board may think. Then again, I am very curious what the rating was on Heathers in 1988. Apparently R. However, the movie quickly moves into a surprisingly dark and yet very complex and well done plotline. When Veronica and J.D. stage their first suicide, intentional or not, I could see this movie was going to take an interesting turn.

Be careful, Jesus is watching.
 However, as much as I knew this movie wasn’t going where I thought it would, I still couldn’t figure out exactly where it was heading. I know it should have been pretty cut and dry, but even once Veronica’s teenage angst racks up a body count I wasn’t sure exactly who I was supposed to be supporting, and who was the bad guys. I mean personally, I was all down to watch Veronica and J.D. get revenge on some old high school enemies. (Now you know where I fit in the high school puzzle.) Personally, I think any movie that can take that plot and make me see shades of grey is impressive. If the story had been told poorly, things would have been very black and white (not always a bad thing), but I think it speaks volumes about how well done a movie is if you can blur what is usually so cut and dry.

Most of that ability of course comes from our stars. While, Winona Ryder is our confused and mislead heroine, Christian Slater stands out as the typical misunderstood teenager who might just be a much darker raging psychopath. Personally, I think Christian Slater is a great actor, and while Heathers may have been one of his first roles, he already shines here. Unfortunately, beyond True Romance a few years later, his career never seemed to take off accordingly. Winona Ryder of course, is also a very recognisable name, if not exactly one I can place as the star of too many other movies. Either way, Heathers shows just how good these two could and would be. The rest of the cast, is decent, although none really stood out or had their names jump out at me.
Don't look so down, it will only give you lung cancer.
The coolest element of the movie I think was the colour coding. When you take our original group of 4 girls, you will notice that each of them always wears a specific colour. Their houses also match their wardrobe. Veronica is blue, and you can see that everything she wears and all of the rooms in her house correspond. I think that this touch was fantastic. It adds a really interesting element to the movie, and while not as obvious as the visual style of Sin City or other such movies, works on an similar level. I can’t however, remember much of the soundtrack for the life of me, except for the aptly fitting track: Teenage Suicide. While personally I thought it was a pretty terrible song, it was pretty much made for the movie. I’m guessing that, teenage suicide was in fact a very big problem in the late 80’s. 

I’ve really run on know about all of my favourite aspects of the movie without giving away to much. For a movie I didn’t expect much of in the way of depth it surprised me immensely and the directing and acting in it were impressive as well. Heathers without a doubt deserved its place as movie of the month, and might just be my pick for next month as well. It will undoubtedly be a movie I will recommend to, while maybe not everybody, I certainly won’t have to hesitate to much. Hopefully it will surprise them as much as it did me.


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