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Michael Lehmann
Winona RYder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker
Writing Credits:
Daniel Waters

In order to get out of the snobby clique that is destroying her good-girl reputation, an intelligent teen teams up with a dark sociopath in a plot to kill the cool kids.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $17.97
Release Date: 11/18/2008

• Audio Commentary with Director Michael Lehmann, Screenwriter Daniel Waters and Producer Denise Di Novi
• “Film Fast Facts” Subtitle Commentary
• “Return to Westerberg High” Featurette
• “Swatch Dogs and Diet Coke Heads” Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Heathers [Blu-Ray] (1989)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 16, 2016)

Funny how our opinions change over the years. When I became aware of Heathers back in 1989, I thought Winona Ryder was absolutely gorgeous. In fact, I think I rented the movie just to get a look at her. At the time, I didn’t realize she’d played the Goth teen in 1988’s Beetlejuice; Ryder seemed to really grow up during the brief interim.

I don’t recall when I started to think less of Ryder. Despite her shift to blonde hair in 1990’s Edward Scissorhands, I still thought she looked great, so that wasn’t the beginning of the end.

Maybe when she became the patron saint of weepy chick flicks like 1994’s Little Women I shifted away from her. All I know is that when I saw Heathers, I didn’t much care for the movie, but I felt Winona looked good.

Flash forward decades, and I long ago lost my fascination with Winona Ryder. As I watched Heathers for the first time in years, I thought she was attractive, but I couldn’t figure out why I felt so enamored of her back in 1989.

On the other hand, I also changed my mind about the movie. Originally I didn’t much care for Heathers, but upon reappraisal, I don’t know what I was thinking. This was a fairly terrific little black comedy.

How black? Heathers is the kind of film in which one character intentionally burns herself with a car cigarette lighter, and another uses her wound to ignite his smoke. Not only does Heathers have the guts to present such a questionable sight, it goes on a limb and offers it as a funny scene. Damned if it doesn’t work, though, as Heathers provides one of the most giddily nasty and cruel comedic experiences I’ve encountered.

Heathers focuses on the students at fictional Westerburg High in Ohio. Three babes named Heather form the dominant clique: Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty), Heather McNamara (Lisette Falk), and leader Heather Chandler (Kim Walker). In addition, brainy Veronica Sawyer (Ryder) belongs to the group, though she seems like a somewhat unwilling participant.

Into this highly dysfunctional pit of high school factions comes JD Dean (Christian Slater), the prototypical cool loner. He instantly impresses Veronica, and the two embark on a relationship that goes down dark paths.

If you check out the supplements on this disc, you’ll learn how tough it was for Heathers to get made, and that should come as no surprise. In fact, I’d guess that in today’s environment, no one would take a chance on a story like this. While movies can push some boundaries that were off limits in 1988, this subject has constricted further. This dark take on high school cliques and teen suicide pushed the edge back then but probably wouldn’t see the light of day now.

That would be a shame, for Heathers offers one of the most incisive and wicked experiences I’ve seen. It’s real enough to pack a punch, but it also clearly exists in a hyperbolic fantasy world. I suppose skittish studio exists worried that it’d warp fragile young minds, but anyone who can’t see it for the deft satire it is already has their own problems.

Frankly, it’s hard to find too many flaws with Heathers, though one major complaint generally surrounds the movie’s ending. As you’ll discover during the disc’s supplements, the filmmakers originally intended a different finale. After I learned of the script’s conclusion, I wasn’t quite sure that was a bad thing, but I can understand the criticisms of the released ending, as it does seem like a bit of a cop-out.

The movie’s acting uniformly appears solid, though I still don’t know whether I like Slater’s heavily Nicholson-influenced take on JD. Also in the supplements, some folks try hard to convince us that Slater didn’t put on an act and that he really talked that way naturally.

I don’t buy it, if for no other reason than I’ve seen Slater in many projects since Heathers and he didn’t sound nearly this much like Jack in any of those. I suppose it’s possible he was natural in Heather and altered his patterns for other flicks, but that seems unlikely.

As it stands, Slater does a fine job as JD once you got past the voice, though that can be hard to do. The performance comes across like such a forced impersonation that it can become distracting. This doesn’t overtly harm the movie, but it takes away from some of its luster.

However, that’s only a slight problem, as the vicious energy and wit of Heathers more than compensate for any flaws. It still seems amazing that this thing ever got made, as it offers such a gleefully nasty and virulent take on teen life. Though not for the easily offended, Heathers remains a terrific piece of work, and it should be happily digested by those of us warped enough to take a bite.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

Heathers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect a decent but dated transfer.

Sharpness looked passable. While the movie never seemed terribly soft, it didn’t come across as particularly detailed or accurate, either. This left us with reasonable delineation but nothing more.

I discerned no problems related to jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes created no distractions. Only a couple of small specks appeared, so this was almost always a clean image.

Colors varied from pretty good to rather indistinct. Although not way off base, the latter designation applied to a lot of the movie’s hues. The colors could look clean and vibrant, but they also came across as somewhat dense and messy at times. Reds caused the most problems, while the other tones simply seemed a bit bland.

Black levels also appeared moderately murky, with shadow detail that presented somewhat excessive opacity at times. Some scenes looked fine – like the post-coital scene between Veronica and JD – while others were hazier. This was a watchable presentation but it showed its age.

I thought the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Heathers also seemed dated and mediocre. The soundfield betrayed a pretty strong forward emphasis. In the front channels, I heard decent but unspectacular stereo separation for the score, and effects also emanated moderately from the sides but they didn’t create a very lively presence.

The tilt was toward general ambience more than any specific sounds, and that attitude affected the surrounds as well. If any distinctive unique audio cropped up in the rears, I didn’t note it; those speakers seemed to offer little more than vague atmosphere.

Audio quality was acceptable but lackluster. Dialogue came across as consistently intelligible; the lines weren’t especially natural, but they appeared fine. Music was a bit dense but showed decent range.

Effects seemed similarly average. Some elements - such as explosions and gunfire - displayed reasonable bass, and overall accuracy was passable. This wasn’t a bad mix for its age, but it didn’t seem memorable, either.

How does the Blu-ray compare to the DVD from 2001? Audio showed a little more oomph and visuals added greater clarity, but not by a ton. Both were restricted by the limitations of the source material.

The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras. We open with an audio commentary from director Michael Lehmann, producer Denise Di Novi, and writer Daniel Waters. All three were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track. From what I understand, this piece originally appeared on a 1996 laserdisc release of Heathers.

Waters dominates the commentary; Di Novi and Lehmann definitely add a lot of good details, but Waters offers the voice heard most of the time. That’s fine with me, as Waters contributes a frank and entertaining presence.

Actually, all three seem solid, and the commentary tosses in a slew of great details about the production. We learn about alterations made along the way, problems with the studio, and dealing with the actors among other things, though they mildly sidestep the issue of Shannen Doherty’s infamous bad attitude – Waters does compare her to Mussolini, but that’s as far as it goes. The participants even address touchy issues like the casting of Martha Dumptruck. Overall, this turns into a compelling commentary that I really enjoyed.

New to the Blu-ray, Fast Film Facts provides a subtitle commentary. It gives us basics about the production, cast and crew. Some of this becomes redundant but the “Facts” cover the movie in a reasonably efficient manner.

Created for the 2001 DVD, Swatch Dogs and Diet Coke Heads lasts 30 minutes, one second as it involves Lehmann, Di Novi, Waters, director of photography Francis Kenny, editor Norman Hollyn, and actors Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, and Lisette Falk.

Overall, “Swatch Dogs” provides a solid look at the movie, mainly via the interview snippets. All of the participants remain enthusiastic about the project and they relate a lot of compelling information about the flick.

We learn about the difficulties getting the project off the hand, the actors who almost starred in the movie, the original ending, possibilities for Heathers 2 and a bunch of other facts. My only complaint about this entertaining program relates to its length; at just a half an hour, it’s way too short.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a new featurette called Return to Westerberg High. It runs 21 minutes, 21 seconds and involves Waters, Di Novi and Lehmann. The show looks at the script and its path to the screen, cast and performances, and the film’s release/legacy. After the other features, “Return” can be redundant, but it’s still informative and interesting.

While clearly not for everyone, Heathers offers a wickedly incisive and daring look at the viciousness of teen life, and it does so with vicious glee that makes it consistently entertaining. The Blu-ray brings us acceptable picture and audio along with an informative set of supplements. This ends up as a mostly good release for a timeless movie.

To rate this film, visit the DVD review of HEATHERS

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