In a decade when teen drama seems to largely revolve around goofball antics, bottom gags and getting laid, a retrospective viewing of Heathers provides a breath of fresh air.

Veronica (Winona Ryder) is a typical tortured and artistically inclined teen who becomes an honorary member of an elitist high school clique, comprised exclusively of girls named Heather, with a penchant for colour-coordination. Once in with the in-crowd, however, Veronica discovers that she does, indeed, have to go where they go and do what they do and quickly realises that their brand of calculating cruelty is hard to bear. When loner JD (Christian Slater) arrives on the scene, she hooks up with him and quickly discovers that staying popular really is murder.

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Slater is something of a revelation, proceeding to out-Nicholson Jack himself. On the strength of this performance you would have thought he would become a leading light in the Nineties, so considering his career since, you have to wonder what happened. Ryder, as a relative innocent, and Shannen Doherty, as a queen bitch, excel too.

This is the archetypal Stateside teenage world, where being slender and cool holds power and being a jock means you can sleep with who you like regardless of your lack of brains. Parents are just an aberation, ineffectual and no help when it comes to the all-important business of growing up. This film is dark as night but great fun, taking teen issues by the scruff of the neck and holding them up as the rather unpleasant exhibits they are.

While Heathers slows in the back quarter, seemingly unable to shuck off that teen need for a sassy, yet neatly tied-up, ending it is still a very powerful and witty piece of satire which leaves many of the current decade's offerings looking anaemic and juvenile by comparison.

Reviewed on: 05 Apr 2002
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Being in with the in crowd may prove deadly for high school student Veronica.
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Jennie Kermode *****

Director: Michael Lehmann

Writer: Daniel Waters

Starring: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker, Penelope Milford

Year: 1988

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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