Michael Lehmann’s first film as a director and Daniel Waters’s first film as a screenwriter, this misanthropic black comedy (1989) about the cruelty of high school teenagers succeeds at least in being offbeat, but its inanities and glib pretensions are so thick that it mainly comes across as tacky and contrived. The plot centers on Veronica (Winona Ryder), member of an exclusive girls clique whose three other members all call themselves Heather (Kim Walker, Shannen Doherty, and Lisanne Falk), and her nihilistic boyfriend J.D. (Christian Slater), whose pranks quickly turn into a string of murders made to look like suicides. The dialogue is relentlessly fancy without being witty, and the specious moralizing of the plot looks like it was tacked on to appease square adults; the real narrative force behind this movie is nihilist camp, as in Roger Corman’s 1966 The Wild Angels but without the same degree of filmmaking skill. If you’re in a low mood, you might find it funny in spots.
R • 1 hour 42 min • 1989