Heathers (1988) – Film Review

Heathers (1989) – Film Review

Director: Michael Lehmann
Cast: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty
Certificate: 15

By Sarah Morgan

What would a teen movie directed by Stanley Kubrick have looked like? He tackled many genres during his career, but that one eluded him.

Perhaps it might have been something like Heathers – the director was apparently who its writer, Daniel Waters, had in mind to take charge of it when he was crafting his screenplay.

Heathers (1990) – Film ReviewAt the time, Kubrick had finished work on Full Metal Jacket but was more than a decade away from making his final film, 1999’s Eyes Wide Shut. Despite seemingly having space in his diary to direct Waters’ project, the honour eventually went to the writer’s friend, Michael Lehmann.


It was the debut big screen outing for both of them, and was a critical success – it’s now viewed as a cult classic, a blacker than black antidote to the rather more sweet-natured teen movies being made by John Hughes at the same time.

Winona Ryder heads the cast as Veronica, the fourth member of a popular high school clique in which all the other members are called Heather. The problem is, she’s growing tired of her friends’ bitchy ways, so when the handsome, rebellious and roguish JD walks into her life, she’s very susceptible to taking part in his pranks and schemes.

However, what she doesn’t initially realise is that JD is a psycho who has big plans not only for the fellow students he hates, but Veronica too.

Ryder, just 16 at the time, delivers one of her customary offbeat teen performances that she practically invented in the late-1980s and early-1990s. She’s matched all the way by Christian Slater as JD, a clearly James Dean-inspired rebel with a cause; the actor claims he was actually channelling Jack Nicholson’s performance in The Shining throughout filming.

Heathers (1988) – Film Review

“Brilliantly cast”

But it’s the smaller parts that are key here, from the trio playing the Heathers – Kim Walker, Lisanne Falk and a pre-fame Shannen Doherty – through the sexist jocks (Lance Fenton and Patrick Labyorteaux) and beyond that really make the film work. They’re all brilliantly cast (hats off to casting director Julie Selzer, who is interviewed among the special features), each as memorable as the other thanks to a quirk or two.

Waters’ dialogue is also as sharp as can be, with Lehmann keeping the story ticking over nicely.

Alongside the Selzer interview is a raft of other fascinating special features involving cast and crew. No sign of Ryder or Slater (apart from in a documentary made during filming), sadly, but anecdotes from the production designer, Falk and both Lehmann and Waters, are essential viewing.

  • New restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative by Arrow Films
  • 4K (2160p) Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
  • Original 1.0 mono, and optional stereo 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sound
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Audio commentary by director Michael Lehmann, producer Denise Di Novi and writer Daniel Waters
  • Lehmann’s Terms, an interview with director Michael Lehmann
  • Pizzicato Croquet, composer David Newman and director Michael Lehmann discuss the music of Heathers
  • How Very: The Art and Design of Heathers, production designer Jon Hutman, art director Kara Lindstrom and director Michael Lehmann discuss the look of Heathers
  • Casting Westerberg High, casting director Julie Selzer discusses the casting process for Heathers
  • Poor Little Heather, an interview with actress Lisanne Falk
  • Scott and Larry and Dan and Heathers, an interview between screenwriting team Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, The People vs Larry Flint), and Heathers screenwriter Daniel Waters
  • The Big Bowie Theory, an appreciation by the writer, actor and comedian John Ross Bowie
  • Return to Westerberg High, an archival featurette providing further insight into the film’s production
  • Swatch Dogs and Diet Coke Heads, an archival featurette with the cast and crew featuring Winona Ryder, Christian Slater and writer Daniel Waters
  • The Beaver Gets a Boner, Michael Lehmann’s student film from 1985 made at the USC School of Cinematic Arts
  • Original trailers
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Robert Sammelin
Heathers is released on Limited Edition 4K UHD by Arrow

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