Flashback: Heathers

Heathers is a teen comedy as if made by David Lynch. The surrealistic tone is set in the opening credits when we see a croquet match, shot in dizzying day-glo colours, that has a human head for its peg. It’s a weirdness that permeates the film reaching its zenith in JD’s bizarre relationship with his demolitions man father, who refers to his son as dad and vice versa and appears to have at some point blown up his mother.

But it’s Daniel Waters’ screenplay that really ratchets Heathers up into being something special. Not only did it invent the self-aware, sophisticated style of adolescent dialogue that Kevin Williamson would lift wholesale for Scream and Dawson’s Creek but it had a central theme of teen suicide, usually treated with po-faced concern by anxious adults. Indeed, one of the movie’s comedic highlights is Miss Fleming (Penelope Milford), a hippie dippy teacher for whom the mounting student body count is manna from heaven as she organises communal outpourings of faux grief and passes the suicide notes around class («Are we going to be tested on this?» one teen wonders). «Before a teenager decides to kill himself, there are a few things he needs to know. After all, this is a decision that effects all of us. And there’s only one chance to get it right,» she solemnly pronounces.

-- Adam Smith, Empire