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Anchor Bay presents
Heathers (SE) (1988)

Veronica: This may sound like a stupid question.
J.D.: There are no stupid questions.
Veronica: OK, you inherit five million dollars the same day that aliens land on the Earth and say they're going to blow it up in two days. What do you do?
J.D.: That's the stupidest question I've ever heard.

- Winona Ryder, Christian Slater

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: December 07, 2001

Stars: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannon Doherty
Other Stars: Lisanne Falk, Glenn Shadix
Director: Michael Lehmann

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: R for (violence, language, themes)
Run Time: 01h:42m:00s
Release Date: September 25, 2001
UPC: 013131140590
Genre: black comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+C+B- B+

DVD Review

Heathers is one of those movies that is the very textbook definition of a cult-film. Not a wild success, but one that's given reasonable critical acclaim, but then finds its nicheamongst a very specific and devoted audience. That audience, I suppose, would be justabout anyone in high school at the time. It made its way into the word-of-mouth, homevideo circuit shortly before I myself was about to enter high school, and all the joyscontained within. After spending some time in the delightful world there, MichaelLehmann's wonderfully cynical look at the world of school politics and itsvictims was the perfect exit for me and many other people. It was a wicked fantasy abouttaking all those people who made your life miserable in school, and quite simply, killing them. I say this, knowing that it's now many years later, in a totally different age. An age where,unfortunately, something this dark and politically incorrect would likely never make itout of the planning stages.

Set in the fictional Westerburg High School, Heathers starts life as a typical1980s teen comedy: a lighthearted portrayal of a clique of girls known as the 'Heathers.' The girls, in a sense, rule the school's policy of social acceptance, and run themselves likea political party. The story moves into darker territory, however, when newcomerclassmate Jason Dean (Christian Slater) stirs up some controversy at the school by beingone of its most unusual inhabitants and we learn that the 'Heathers' are extremely nastypeople. One of the 'Heathers Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) is intrigued by J.D., andwould rather spend time with him than attempting to be on top of the social pile. AsVeronica grows more and more upset with what her social group has become, she andJ.D. wind up accidentally murdering one of the girls. It turns out to be a blessing indisguise, and J.D. and Veronica go on a sordid quest to rid Westerburg of its jerks andsocial dictators by sabotaging their lives and, if needed, killing them.

While obviously violent and grim, Heathers is actually a spot-on satire of theworld of high school. It's not so much the story itself, but the subtlety in which the writerand director manage to latch on to that sense of unreality that is so ridiculous it reallycould only happen in school. The most brilliant aspect of Heathers, though, is the wonderful attack on the pretentious attitude that so many schools take on when dealing with the emotional problems of its students. Most of the deaths in the film are faked as suicides, and theresult is a conscious awareness of teen suicide. Rather than take it as a serious issue, though, the response is to make suicide the "in" thing by turning it into an icon—a song on the radio, or a picture in a yearbook—making nasty and vile people into martyrs and heroes simply for offing themselves, yet still ignoring the root problems. Here, though, the kids are the central characters; no parent or teacher comes out of the woodwork to offer some piece of infinite adult wisdom.

It's a heavy topic, but one that is dealt with in such bad taste that it's hard not to accept itas incredibly funny. It is the anti-"after school special." Rather than a dreamy, fictionalenvironment where the outsider child is triumphant because he joins the ranks of everyoneelse, there is a darker message here. Unlike the average teen drama, the central charactersdo not "win" by being liked, they win because they buck everything else and literally killtheir enemies. That sounds awful, especially in today's political climate, but it's true. As aresult, this is a black comedy strictly for those with a broad sense of humor. My onlyproblem with the film has always been its rather compromising ending. As it turns out, itwas yet another case of studio interference, and while Heathers is still a grandexperiment, it would have been nice to see the complete picture.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: In general, I was a bit disappointed with the overall image quality of the disc. It just didn'tseem like the typical Anchor Bay transfer, but was rather extremely soft and blurry. Ahigh level of grain on the image totally obscures many fine details and anything far fromthe camera. While the colors are extremely well represented, they bleed more than anaverage DVD, and there's a "fog" that weakens the whole image. While some of thecinematography is intentionally dreamy and dilated, the excessive blue seems to make itappear more severe. The film is very watchable, and the source print is essentiallyfree of major damage or defects, but this soft, fuzzy transfer definitely takes away some ofthe brilliance expected. On the plus side, however, at least no one applied intense sharpening and edge-enhancement to cover-up the soft image.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Both the Dolby 2.0 and 5.1 mixes are, essentially, the same, with the 5.1 having a fewmore audible moments of using the surround channels for some ambience. Other than afew directional effects, the soundtracks are mainly subdued and, instead, offer a lot ofgood dialogue with sound effects clarity and enhancement to the musical score. It's a nice, richmix that feels theatrical without a lot of massive effects. It could have been a shade better, but as it stands, I have no complaints.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 29 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Michael Lehmann, Producer Denise Di Novi, Writer Daniel Waters
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Screenplay excerpt from the original ending.
Extras Review: Possibly the best feature on the disc is a new, 30-minute documentary entitled "SwatchDogs and Diet Coke Heads", featuring most of the central cast and crew. Throughinterview footage, we see a basic portrait of how the movie was made and the history ofthe writer and director before the project. There's some great footage from an earlystudent film by Michael Lehmann, Beaver Gets a Boner, which was proofbeyond a doubt he was the perfect director for Heathers. A popular running joke(which probably has some truth to it) is that writer Daniel Waters initially was going to getStanley Kubrick to direct his script in order to make an epic, 3-hour version, but insteadsettled for this New World version. It's also a nice feature to be able to see the reactionsof people like Christian Slater to the film nowadays, with some good-natured ribbingabout his Jack Nicholson-like performance in the movie, now legendary in many circles.

There is also a feature length commentary with Michael Lehmann, Daniel Waters, andproducer Denise Di Novi that is worth a listen. Very humorous and laid-back, thecommentary never gets too technical or serious, but mainly serves to re-ignite the funattitudes these people had when making the film. They try to stay scene specific, but oftengo off on tangents.

On top of the trailer and some simple bios, another great extra is an excerpt from DanielWaters' original script, highlighting the his intended ending. As much as I likeHeathers, his original final reel is nothing short of brilliant and it's toobad it never got made, a result of the studio fearing it to be too dark and in bad taste. Thekeepcase insert contains a replica of the original theatrical poster (and the original videocover) and an essay by Jay Marks.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Writer Daniel Waters is actually working on the development of a Heatherssequel project (called Killing Ms. Duke), but the future of it is uncertain. Couldthere possibly be a sequel with the same kind of charm and dark, accurate message? Regardless, Heathers has had many imitators since its release, but there's onlyone original, and it's still as entertaining as it ever was.

 


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