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dir. Michael Lehmann

Heathers, a satirical black comedy directed by Michael Lehmann and written by Daniel Waters, is - to put it bluntly - a weird ass film. Or so it seems as the movie opens, depicting three girls named Heather batting croquet balls at Winona Ryder’s head protruding from the Astroturf.

From that moment on, the film lives up to the promise of those first moments, delivering a strange thrill-ride that posits Winona Ryder’s character - Veronica Sawyer - as a de facto member of Westerburg High School’s most prominent and socially powerful clique, known infamously as “the Heathers.” The Heathers, consisting of three separate girls all named (you’d never guess) Heather, are viciously mean, both to others and to each other, and the only thing Veronica wants more than to punch them all in the face multiple times is to be one of them. This is one of the film’s first and foremost points as it satirizes not only the stereotypical John Hughes-esque teen movies that were startlingly popular at the time of Heathers’ release in 1988, but society and the high school experience in general.

The film quickly gets really dark really fast as Veronica meets and is instantly wooed by Jason Dean, the movie’s stereotypical “Bad Boy” love interest, portrayed by Christian Slater. Though at first it seems that J.D. will be the normal misunderstood male lead of a movie like Heathers, Heathers makes yet another jarring commentary as it quickly becomes clear that not only is J.D. not all that misunderstood - he’s actually really dangerous. In a revenge prank gone wrong, Veronica and J.D. not-so-accidentally give the leader (and most vicious) of the Heathers a wake-up cup full of drain cleaner, instantly killing her. To cover their tracks, the two concoct a plan to make the popular girl’s death look like the suicide of a tortured soul, and in doing so set in motion a chain of events that only snowballs.

Heathers was a film wildly ahead of its time, and was only recognized as the biting, often hilarious commentary on society and culture that it is years after its initially disappointing debut. The summary of this entire thing is that Heathers is everything that you wish the oft-quoted comedy cult classic Mean Girls was, filled with darker symbolism, darker themes, darker humor, and a far more interesting voice.

From the highly symbolic red scrunchie that opens the movie to the film’s absurdly intense climax, Heathers is the kind of flick that deserves to be watched a hundred different times for a hundred different reasons.

** As of August 2014, Heathers is available to watch on Netflix Instant.