Winona Ryder, Shannen Doherty, ... | BIRDS OF A HEATHER Mean Girls in the '80s played croquet

By the late ’80s, John Hughes’ brand of happily-ever-after high school comedy had run its course. After all, what was there left to say after Ally Sheedy got her detention makeover, Molly Ringwald wore pink to the prom, and Matthew Broderick’s day playing hooky was done? Well, it turned out, quite a bit. For a lot of kids, high school wasn’t a place where nerds like Anthony Michael Hall got the best lines. It was a prison camp run by pretty bitch queens, with scrunchies, named Heather. Just reissued on Blu-ray, Michael Lehmann’s bruise-black comedy Heathers (1989, R, 1 hr., 46 mins.) is the arsenic-laced missing link between the feel-good Brat Pack flicks of the early ’80s and more recent and self-aware entries like Mean Girls (Lindsay Lohan’s peak) and Easy A (which launched Emma Stone). It also may be the most nihilistic mainstream teen comedy ever made, which may explain why it tanked when it came out. In the role that crowned her as America’s alterna-sweetheart, Winona Ryder is untouchable as Veronica, a newly anointed popular girl who knows she’s sold her soul to hang with the nasty Heathers. And Christian Slater, doing his karaoke version of Jack Nicholson, is brooding perfection as the rebel without a conscience, J.D. Together, they joke about killing off the school’s superficial cool kids and homophobic jocks…until they’re no longer joking. Soon, the homicidal hipsters are cleaning up crime scenes and penning phony suicide notes while their small town misinterprets the deaths as peer-pressure cries for help. To be honest, I have no clue how a satire as delightfully mean-spirited as Heathers ever got greenlit. All I know is, Lohan and Stone should be thankful it did. B+

  • Movie
  • 103 minutes