Happy Fiendish Flicks Friday my fine, freaky friends. I don’t know about you, but in my mind there is little in this world quite as scary as the cruel politics of High School. That is the subject I bring to the table this week, with 2 movies that put the horrors of High School in darkly comedic perspective.
So let’s start with the 1988 cult classic Heathers, starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater.
Long before the days of regular school shootings, bully intolerance, and geek pride, there was this little gem of a flick, that exemplified the much defined roles that each student was forced to play. The age of the clique, where you were a jock, a prom queen, or a nerd (Zod forbid!), and no you couldn’t have varied interests! Are you insane! You had to know your place my Dears. Movie after movie in the 80’s regurgitated this notion, from Revenge of the Nerds to The Breakfast Club. Actually, just throw in everything that Director John Hughes made in that decade. Though as gruesome as the notion of surviving High School was, the setting alone doesn’t qualify as a Fiendish Flick, no sweet things, you need a body count. Heathers provides all the elements required, character assassination, murder pacts, death by drano…all served up with a side of witty dialogue. In fact, that dialogue is one of the reasons why Heathers has a place close to my little black heart and holds it firm to my favorites list for regular re-watching.
In it Winona Ryder plays the acerbically witty Veronica Sawyer, who exchanges a high IQ and personal ethics to fit among Westerburg High’s most popular, which are comprised of 3 girls all named, you guessed it, Heather. The Heathers, who are played by Kim Walker, Lisanne Falk, and Shannen Doherty, make Veronica’s existence bearably unbearable, that is until she meets newly transferred maniacal bad boy J.D.(then, teen heart throb Christian Slater). That’s when the real ‘fun’ begins, why assassinate the character when you can assassinate the girl? I think the movie is best summed up in a quote:
Veronica Sawyer: “I just killed my best friend.”
J.D.: “And your worst enemy.”
Veronica Sawyer: “Same difference.”
Heathers is a fantastic satire about the hypocrisy of the teenage years. We are told that High School is the ‘Best time of your life’, but to be so you must be popular. Conformity leads to popularity, popularity to misery, but that’s far better than individuality which could lead to being alone.
Up next is the movie Jawbreaker (1999), that I like to think was an homage to Heathers. It bearing stark similarity in theme, though lacking in the same lyrical canter. The one major contrast is that the head of this clique was nice…was being the operative word. In fact, miss nice and popular gets to be nice and popular for about 5 minutes of screen time. No fear though, a school can’t exist without someone to rule it, can it?
The plot is simple, accident happens, accident is covered up, accident is discovered, but instead of offing the discoverer…let’s make her popular! That makes waaay more sense than coming clean and risking not being able to go to prom. The teen clique in this flick is comprised of Rebecca Gayheart, Julie Benz, Judy Greer and on screen sex kitten/ice queen Rose McGowan. The story is familiar, like all angsty teen movies, showing courage of conviction will get you cast down, but in the end also saves the day. Pam Grier and McGowan’s then real life boyfriend Marilyn Manson even make cameo appearances. (Having your boyfriend cast I see as the acting equivalent of tattooing a lover’s name on one’s body, doom da doom doom doom).
As Fiendish Flicks go, Jawbreaker is colorful and overall entertaining, though the twists in plot are at times a bit contrived (case in point, the evidence), even for the Teen Scream screen. I would still say it’s worth a watch if you like to see the mighty fall, like many of us that barely survived high school do.
Jawbreaker is a fun reminder that what is supposed to make you happy (like popularity), could just as easily kill you. Making the viewer ask, what would you be willing to do to be accepted? And of course, “What is a friend anyway?”