All the Heathers You Need

Every few years, I start to doubt whether Heathers still holds up.  And every few years, I break out my latest edition of it - because I have been keeping up - and... yeah, mostly.  On the one hand, this is a softer, unofficial remake of Massacre At Central High that loses some of its edge in its attempts to play to a mass teen mall cinema audience.  But it's got an amazing cast and it's full of brilliant, witty writing that's wholly unique to this film, even if the basic premise isn't.  It's hard to find a film about teenage characters that doesn't make you feel like you're too old for its trite messaging on high school drama, but Heathers' pointed satire of how the surrounding adult world handles teenage suicide is still as adept as any film I've ever seen.  The cast is perfect, from Winona Ryder, Christian Slater and Shannon Doherty, right down to the bit players.  It looks great, the soundtrack is impressive.  But I wish they'd had the balls to keep the darker, "stabby" ending.
As a bit of a pop/ mainstream cult film, Heathers has had a very healthy release on home video.  Anchor Bay first released it on DVD in 1999, and then again upgraded to anamorphic with a 5.1 remix THX edition in 2001, which is the first one I ever bought.  That one was also available in one of AB's famous limited edition tins, where the "limited" meant 15,000 copies.  In 2008, they released the film as a 20th High School Reunion Edition on both DVD and blu.  There was also a Limited Edition Locker DVD/ BD combo pack that came with all sorts of swag like a T-shirt and magnets.  Then the right changed hands to Image, and they released the film as a surprisingly barebones DVD and blu in 2011.  And that's not to say anything of all the alternate covers and "Livin' In the 80's" triple feature movie collections Heathers was included in.  But Arrow changed the game in 2018, releasing the film on an all new special edition blu with new features and a fresh 4k scan of the original camera negative.
1) 2001 Anchor Bay DVD; 2) 2008 Anchor Bay BD;
3) 2011 Image DVD; 4) 2018 Arrow BD.
For starters, Anchor Bay's DVD is anamorphic, but since I left the negative space around the first set of shots, you can see it's slightly window-boxed, leaving the framing at 1.81:1.  The most notable thing about it, though, is just how soft and under-detailed it looks.  It feels like an even lower res image blown up 480, though I'm not saying that's actually what's happening there, but it sure looks fuzzy.  We move on, then, to AB's blu, which is framed better at 1.84:1, revealing more picture on the sides and even along the bottom.  It's also considerably sharper and clearer now in HD.  You might've expected the 2011 DVD from Image to essentially look like AB's blu but in HD, but no.  They make some curious choices, including framing it at 1.78:1 and really blasting the saturation.  Heathers is clearly supposed to be a colorful film, with a cartoonish bent and broad primary colors representing each of the main characters, but everybody's skin colors look burnt orange for chrissakes.  So Arrow's blu is a real revelation, looking markedly better than everything that came before it.  It's finally framed at exactly 1.85:1 while still revealing more image that the previous discs - even Image's 1.78.  And now the colors manage to be more bright and colorful than AB's without the crazy blow-out of Image.  And despite Heathers sometimes gauzy look, Arrow's new 4k scan is sharper, more finely detailed, and with a natural, strongly encoded grain structure that the old blu only hints at.  It is a very substantial upgrade.

Both Heathers DVDs present the English audio remixed to 5.1, but I can't say I notice a big difference in their touted THX encoding.  AB's DVD also gives us the original stereo mix, but not their blu, although that at least gives us the 5.1 in TrueHD.  Only Arrow has the original mono and stereo tracks in lossless LPCM, plus that 5.1 in DTS-HD.  And every disc offers English subtitles except, surprisingly, the Image DVD.  Oh, the AB blu also throws in Spanish subs.
When Anchor Bay first released Heathers, it had a 21 minute featurette called Return To Westberg High and the trailer.  But for their 2001 disc, they put in more effort.  It includes a lively and engaging audio commentary by the director Michael Lehmann along with his producer Denise Di Novi and co-writer Daniel Waters.  And they cooked up an excellent, half-hour retrospective documentary called Swatch Dogs and Diet Coke Heads.  It stands out because it includes interview clips from the films biggest stars who don't appear in any of the other extras.  All that was included on their 2008 BD, too, plus they brought back Return To Westberg.
The Beaver Gets a Boner
When Image gained the rights to Heathers, that apparently didn't include AB's original features, because their 2011 was barebones apart from the trailer and a couple bonus trailers.  But Arrow gains most of it back.  Disappointingly, they dropped Swatch Dogs, but they kept the commentary, trailer, and Return To Westberg.  And that disappointment wanes once you start to dig into all the new stuff Arrow came up with.  There are a series of on-camera interviews featuring: Lehmann with composer David Newman, Lehmann with production designer Jon Hutman and art director Kara Lindstrom, casting director Julie Selzer, actress Lisanne Falk, screenwriting duo Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, My Name Is Dolemite) with Daniel Waters, and an appreciation by the writer/ comedian John Ross Bowie.  Some of these extras start to get a little repetitive, but there's a lot of great new insight here.  They've also restored Lehmann's student film The Beaver Gets a Boner, and included the alternate European "Lethal Attraction" trailer Lehmann talks about in the commentary.  Arrow's release also features reversible artwork, and the first pressing included a booklet with essays by Bidisha Mamata, Anna Bogutskaya and cinematographer Francis Kenny, and came in a slipcover.
Before I leave off, you may be wondering about an Image/ RLJE (RLJE is Image, rebranded) 30th Anniversary 2-disc blu-ray steelbook that was released in the US in 2019.  It has all the old US extras, some of the Arrow ones, and some brand new stuff: an audio track with commentary by the composer, Lehmann and Waters along with isolated score, plus new on camera interviews with Waters, Lehmann and Falk.  But, sadly, it still uses the same old Anchor Bay transfer every blu except the Arrow has, not the 4k remaster.  You might still want to pick it up for the exclusive special features (although all of those people are already extensively interviewed on the preexisting extras, and the artwork is heinous), but the Arrow release is the definitive presentation of the film.  And better/ cheaper than buying the 30th steelbook for the additional extras, I'd suggest just laying out a couple dollars for a used DVD with Swatch Dogs.  Although die-hards may feel they need absolutely everything, and most fans will find the Arrow package more than enough in itself.

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