Jane Austen Children’s Stories: Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen Children’s Stories #5) by Jane Austen, adapted by Gemma Barder

If you’ve been following me, you know that I love to brainwash share my love of Jane Austen with my nieces and my friends’ children.

So any time I spot a children’s book that has to do with Jane Austen, I try and purchase it to gift to them and hopefully influence spark a love of Jane Austen in them.

One day I was on Amazon when this Jane Austen Children’s Stories series came across my book recommendations. This series takes the text of Jane Austen and adapts it for children who are reading on their own and want something longer than a beginning reader, but not quite ready for a thick chapter books. Each novel has easy to read text, illustrations, but at the same time still retain the plot of the original novels.

The recommended age for this series is 7-10 years old. The series has adapted Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Love and Friendship. You can buy them individually at ~$7 a paperback (hardcover is ~$12 per book) or in a set of all seven in paperback form (plus a journal) for ~$27.

Northanger Abbey was the first of Jane Austen’s books to be written and is a parody of gothic novels and a satire on society. In the story Catherine Morland is a minister’s daughter who loves to read and has an overactive imagination. She is asked to accompany family friends to Bath and while there her life becomes a bit like a novel as she meets the mysterious Tilney family, and the. delightful and handsome Mr. Tilney. She also has another less moral man vying for her affections, Mr. Thorpe. She is later given an opportunity to stay with the Tilneys in their home, Northanger Abbey, and while there wonders if there is a dark secret on the premises. Catherine begins investigating but is there really a mystery or has her overactive imagination just struck again?

I thought the adaption was very well done as it reminded me a lot of the Great Illustrated Classics series I used to read when I was a child, but geared for a slightly younger age. They kept the plot of the book, but removed some of the language or plot points that would sail over a elementary aged child’s head.

I also enjoyed the illustrations, well…except for the men’s outfits, they were not accurate.

I love the way they drew General Tilney. Look how sour he is, there is no doubt that General Tilney is an unpleasant man. Just look at his face.

I really enjoyed it, and I’m hoping my 10 year old cousin, who I purchased it for, will love it as well (fingers crossed). If you are looking for Jane Austen for an elementary schooled child in your life, then I definitely recommend giving this series a read.

For more Jane Austen children’s books, go to Jane Austen (Little People, BIG DREAMS)

For more on Northanger Abbey book adaptations, go to Jane in Love

For more on Northanger Abbey, go to What’s a Girl To Do When Your Parents Won’t Allow You to Live Your Gothic Dreams?

What’s a Girl To Do When Your Parents Won’t Allow You to Live Your Gothic Dreams?

I love Northanger Abbey and I have mentioned it multiple times before that I think it is really sad it isn’t as widely known as Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma.

Some of you might know this but for those who don’t, Northanger Abbey was written to be a play on the Gothic genre, and I personally feel specifically on novel The Female Quixote or The Adventures of Arabella.

When you read Northanger Abbey there is such wit in the words; along with little allusions and digs at other Gothic works-if you know what they refer to they are absolutely hilarious, but even if you aren’t a big fan of Gothic fiction it still remains a fun book to read.

Gothic Fiction

For example, the beginning of Northanger Abbey sets up our protagonist, Catherine Morland as the complete opposite of a gothic heroine as she has no trauma propelling her forward. She comes from a complete family: no broken familial bonds, no separation between her parents, no hatred in the marriage, and unfortunately both her parents are alive and she regrettably was not placed under the household of a horrible relative.

To make matters worse, not only are both of her parents alive but they also treat her and her siblings well! Her father “was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters”, her parents don’t hide her away from society, they feed her proper meals-it is all disheartening.

And her family isn’t even poor, but well off! Oh my goodness, what’s a girl to do with this lot in life?

Now this is all written sarcastically and said in mock fun, (just like how Jane Austen wrote it), but this was a prevalent theme in gothic fiction. Most of the the time our hero or heroine is placed in some type of traumatic situation or surrounded by abusive people that propels them forward into the plot.

Catherine luckily gets her tale, and while going on ups and downs, she has her happy ending with the most well-adjusted man in gothic literature.

Like I’ve said before, if you haven’t read Northanger Abbey you totally should. It is so funny and just plain enjoyable.

For more Northanger Abbey, go to Have You a Stout Heart?: Northanger Abbey (1987)

For more on the text of Northanger Abbey, go to Did Jane Hate a Richard?

Have You a Stout Heart?: Northanger Abbey (1987)

Happy Halloween Everyone!

So every year I have been trying to find a way to include Jane Austen in my Horrorfest posts. I lucked out with Death Comes to Pemberley as that gave me two years, (I posted in between as three years seemed a really long break.); and I was also able to review the Midsomer Murders episode “Death by Persuasion“. Then last year I came up with one of my better ideas:

Last year I reviewed the 2007 adaption (I also watched it with my niece and recorded her thoughts), but this year I decided to take a look at the 1987 adaption:

So Northanger Abbey is probably my favorite Jane Austen book as I just love Catherine, she’s so me.

I haven’t seen this adaption in over ten years. When I first read Pride and Prejudice back at the age of 16 I then went on to read the rest of Austen’s works and then watched every adaption I could my hands on. I remember not really being into it, there’s a lady with a heavily painted face and mole (why she is focused on I don’t remember), and that is about it.

So let’s see how this rewatch goes. And also joining me is my sister (R), my mom, and my 25 year old male friend (N).

So what is up with this music? It’s a weird dramatic rock opera. With some weird chanting going on.

We start off with Catherine in a tree reading a book.

She acts out the parts of the books, making different voices, but then imagines herself in the book. It was cute, but there are way too many of these scenes in this movie. It made it feel really, really dragged out. I like that the 2007 version kept that in, but made sure to do less and have them mostly be when she is dreaming instead of just randomly all the time.

This actress, Katharine Schlesinger, has really pretty eyes but she tends to just have them go dead.

I think she was trying to go for a wide eyed innocence look, but it comes off creepy, desperate, and shark like at times.

Here I am!

So Catherine gets asked to go to Bath and on the way we have another “imagination” scene where she is captured (again) and tied to a bed (again). My friend N who had never heard of Northanger Abbey was really shocked at this.

“N: She’s got an active imagination. She’s probably into bondage.

In his defense they have showed her being tied up in a majority of her imaginings. I guess the director was trying to go for sexy gothic fiction, but it was weird and it was Harding to have the film interrupted like every 10 minutes (it was probably more time between).

One thing that is really odd about this film is that on the way to Bath they have Catherine ass Northanger Abbey and is told about. I really didn’t like this because first of all why is Northanger Abbey down the block from her house? And secondly, her knowing of Northanger Abbey before meeting the Tilneys makes her seem like a gold digger as she already knows if their wealth and is enamored of the abbey. It’s a really weird choice to make and I’m not sure why they decided to do that.

As they pass by they also play this creepy horror music that is really out of place. It also makes it sound like vampires live there.


Me: What is with this music. Definitely sounds like a vampire is in there.

N: Might as well come out Vampires, they are playing your music.

We then get even more shots close up in her face. I really, really, really don’t like it. They are too big, too unblinking, and the director gets too close.

So they wait a day to go out as they needed to get more clothes. When they do go they meet Mr. Tilney and no offense to Peter Firth but he is no JJ Feild. I mean look at JJ Feild:

And now Peter Firth:

Me: He looks…kinda…weird.

My Mom: He looks an elf.

N: He looks like a creep.

To make things worse, this Mr. Tilney is pretty stiff and lacks charm. He also likes to philosophize a lot which didn’t bother the others viewing but it made me really uncomfortable as I felt that he was insulting and trying to educate Catherine to his way of thinking; instead of getting to know her. Maybe I’m off base but that’s how I felt about it all.

The next day they can’t go out because it is raining and Catherine stares out the window angry-again looking super creepy. She looks like she wants to burn the city down.

Salt and burn it

Like she looks crazy!

It’s the eyes!

James arrives with John Thorpe and it feels like they are just flipping through this book. John Thorpe arrives and there is a clown horn sound effect, I’m not sure what it is and how it is made in the Regency era, but if that doesn’t fully encapsulate John Thorpe than I don’t know what does.

N: Here comes the Mad Hatter

R: He looks like a leprechaun.

N: He looks like a creep.

And to add to the creepiness of this scene the director decided to do lots of closeups on the face, filling the screen with them. I’m like can we back away please and give them some space.

The Thorpes are interesting characters. John is oozing creepiness and gives off that vibe of that one guy that is obsessive and controlling. Isabella is all smiles and it is all the same smile, 24/7. I think the director or actress was trying to have it be her facade, hiding her true nature; but to me it was unnerving to see her smiling all the time.

After this the two go on a ride in the gig, Catherine not being super into it, with the boys splitting up to be alone with their girls”. This scene is also weird as John Thorpe asks a few awkward questions to find out if she is rich or not but it is really strange way of questioning and he sound slike he suspects her of being a good digger. Which is odd because he IS one.

The other thing that is odd about this film is that it has been missing the Tilneys. Where are they?

The next day Mrs. Allen discovers that Mr. Tilney is there with his sister. She gets all happy that Mr. Tilney is single and goes into another fantasy.

N: Oh no, not again! Here is another bondage fantasy.

This fantasy/daydream is pretty gross as it shows a woman sewing her fingers together. Ew!

The next day Catherine and Isabella (or as the actress calls her, Isabeller) are spending time together and Isabella shares that she and James are in love and he went to ask his parent’s permission. Isabella is a little worried because her family doesn’t have money, and thanks to John Thorpe’s running of the mouth, they believe the Morland’s to soon-to-be wealthy, as they will inherit Mr. Allen’s wealth.

Catherine Morland: James and I think marrying for money is a very wicked thing to do.

My Mom: That’s because you are poor.

The next day they all go to the baths and everyone was surprised by the little wooden boards around their necks. I thought they held like bath salts or something, everyone else thought it was food. Does anyone know exactly what those are? I did a quick google search but didn’t find anything. I plan to go into more research later.

N: I like the snack tray hanging around their necks. I think it’s cool they have a little charcuterie to get their snack on.

So this scene is really weird as she hasn’t been introduced to Eleanor and just goes up to her and starts talking. It’s very much like when Mr. Collins approaches Mr. Darcy at the ball. It comes off very desperate and the in my opinion, if this film wasn’t based off a beloved book that I had read I would have thought that these people need to get a restraining order or something as Catherine comes off sooo crazy and almost obsessed with them.

So Eleanor and Catherine made plans to go walking and Mr. Thorpe does not want that at all. He wants to keep her with him, as does Isabella as they think Catherine is set to be an heiress. Catherine does not want to go with him, but he decided that would not do and cancels with the Tilneys for he. This John Thorpe is an extra creeping creep! When Catherine tried to leave he grabs her arm to force her to stay. Like he gets completely crazy

John Thorpe: I like a girl with spirit.

No, run Catherine! Run! She does, thank goodness, but when she runs she holds her skirts up really high that her knees are showing. I’m like girl, what are you doing?She runs all the way to the Tilneys and just barges in their house into their sitting room where they are together babbling about the walk and how she wants to be with them. She looks and acts crazy.

She meets General Tilney and while Eleanor explain the situation, Mr. Tilney low key tries to get an invite. Like this Mr. Tilney is trying to be sarcastic and silly, but something seems off. Like he’s a bit too grandiose and flamboyant in his interactions to me.

I really do not like this Mr. Tilney as everything he says is too mean spirited or the way he talks to Catherine feels as if he is mansplaining/talking down to her. The words aren’t bad, but the delivery he is just out there and there is no charm or chemistry between them. They share the same space but they don’t feel like they are inhabiting the same world.

So unfortunately I have not been able to finish transcribing my review from my notes. As I have to go to work I will pause her, and continue with part II tonight.

Part II

Sorry for that brief intermission. I am going to try and finish up what I can while on my lunch and then everything else tonight. Although it won’t be much as the power went out 15 minutes into my lunch and just came on.

So I have been thinking about this all day and I really think the reason why I don’t like this portrayal of Mr. Tilney is that he is too much like Mr. Collins and Mr. Elton. He has grandiose manners and a interacts (body language) like Mr. Collins and then his way of talking and uppityness (although he’s supposed to be making fun of people) is too reminiscent of Mr. Elton. One of the reasons Mr Tilney is so enjoyable is that he is different from the other Austen characters. I really feel this actor did not understand the character he is supposed to be playing.

So everything is going well, but then Captain Fredrick Tilney enters the picture. My friend N had a few thoughts about him:

N: He [Frederick Tilney] looks like the guy from Pirates of the Caribbean.

Me: Norrington?

N: Yeah

I don’t think so, I mean they both wear a wig. That’s about it.

Oh well…

N: [Talking about Captain Tilney] I can’t believe these cheesy lines.

Me: He’s like that frat guy who has his set of lines that he uses and just goes down the line of girls until it works on someone. Plus he’s the first son and rich.

N: So he’s a Regency frat guy?

Me: Hmm…basically.

Ugh…this guy

Catherine watches Frederick and Isabella together and is worried. She wants Mr. Tilney to do something but he won’t as he has tried before and his brother won’t listen. I guess if I had to choose one thing that this adaption does really well is that I like how it shows the brother’s relationship. Although, while it shows their relationship well, it doesn’t show his and Eleanor as well as the 2007 adaption. He and Eleanor have a few scenes together, but he talks more about her than spends time with her.

Catherine and Mr. Tilney then have what would have been a cute scene, Mr. Tilney sarcastically echoing her words from before telling her that Isabella has a choice and Catherine giving it back to him, except she peters out and ends her sentence with dead eyes.

She convinces Mr. Tilney and he goes to his brother where they both take snuff! Snuff! No wonder Mr. Tilney is acting so weird, he’s been up on cocaine.

You are crazy

Catherine gets invited to go to Northanger Abbey and is super excited as she thinks it will be just like in her novels she has been reading. But what is sad is that Catherine Moreland wishes she was in a gothic novel, but Eleanor is trapped in one. She’s in a dreary old home with an abusive father, stuck there alone until she gets married. She’s had a wealthy life but an emotionally poor one, in contrast to Catherine who grew up not with riches but with parents who cared more about her than what they could broker with her.

So they get to the Abbey and Catherine is told that General Tilney is very particular about time and to not dilly dally. She reads her book and is late, later getting lost/exploring the abbey. These scenes were probably the best in the film as it was nice to see her wander through the mysterious manor.

She then goes to a random room and we have the weirdest exchange I have ever seen. So Catherine is looking at a canary in a cage when Mr. Tilney comes upon her. She’s looking at a bird in the cage and Mr. Tilney tells her that it is a canary. Catherine remarks how sad it is that it is in a cage and then Mr. Tilney tells her that’s all it has ever known. He then asks her if she has a stout heart or can handle being stuck her in a really, really creepy voice.

This scene is so creepy! Mr. Tilney sounds like a psycho! Like the way the scene is done with the cage it makes it sound like he is planning on making her a permanent fixture, and not in a good way-like buried in the walls or locked in the attic. N said that he thought he was playing up the gothic points but even he agreed with me this whole scene was creepy. If I was in this situation I would run and that is what I would tell Catherine to do.

You know an adaption is bad when it makes you afraid Mr. Tilney is going to murder Catherine.

Creepy…

That night at dinner General Tilney is super controlling and gets angry when his son doesn’t propose to him over the soup.

There is a definite shift in characters when leaving Bath for Northanger Abbey. In Bath Catherine was acting all crazy, while in Northanger Abbey it is Mr. Tilney. We also have the general shifting from genial to controlling, uncouth, and rude.

N: I don’t understand why they have such a big table for just a few people.

Me: That’s because you’re poor .

N: [Laughs] You’re right, that is something a poor person would say.

That night Catherine is in her room looking through the writing desk for clues when she hears Eleanor and Tilney outside her room, Eleanor having a breakdown. I know they want to give character development, but it seems odd that they would do this outside their guest’s room.

They also sound like they are planning to murder General Tilney, it’s like Northanger Abbey became the murder house or something.

General Tilney acts like a vampire. Like I forget at times what he is saying as he looks like he wants to suck her blood.

Catherine also is super insensitive in this adaption. When talking to Elinor about her dead mother she refers to Mrs. Tilney as “the corpse”.

The Tilney have a party and Mr. Tilney sings in a flamboyant way with another girl. He looks silly and horrible, but Catherine looks worse as her eyes bore into the woman and she looks as if she would like to murder her.

The other guest is, Marchioness de Thierry, who shares the same backstory as the real life person, Jane Austen’s sister-in-law Eliza de Feuillide.

The makeup and costuming is ghastly and this character doesn’t even really add to the story.

N: She [Marchioness de Thierry] looks like Dr. Frank N. Furter.

Then we have the weirdest scene. A little servant boy leads Catherine outside during the performance WHERE HE DOES CARTWHEELS and she has another fantasy/daydream. Like what is even happening?!!

So later the General invites Catherine out riding. She agrees but after questioning the maid decides she would much rather try to investigate Mrs. Tilney’s room, she and Elinor had tried to see the picture earlier but failed. As soon as all have ridden away she snoops to the mother’s room and looks around.

Mr. Tilney interrupts her as he wanted to check on her. Again, he really creeps me out in this scene as he is angry, but says everything calm, quiet, and over the top. He makes me think of Hannibal Lector when he talks to Clarice. It also doesn’t help that he has a riding crop and blocks the door, giving even more creep vibes.

SUPER creeped

He leaves and Catherine, sad, goes to her room and destroys the book by ripping it up and throwing it in the fireplace. NOOOO! NOT THE BOOKS!!!

Catherine cries the day away and falls asleep. She is awoken by Eleanor who falls asleep. She is awoken by Eleanor who brings a letter from James? Catherine’s brother. He shares that Isabella had broken their engagement for Captain Tilney. Catherine is upset but then Eleanor shares that her brother will not marry Isabella.

Apparently, General Tilney has gambled all their money away and needs his children to marry rich people (even though Eleanor is in love with a poor man and seeing him secretly.) I felt this weakened General Tilney as a villain as him being rich and still a money grabber was worse than a degenerate gambler.

Catherine’s trip ends with General Tilney returning home and sending Catherine packing. This scene wasn’t bad but they didn’t really show the fear and the danger of her going home alone.

Then we have the “romantic” end scene. This weird ‘80s music chanting plays as fog rolls in. Mr. Tilney rides in on a dark horse, and says:

Mr. Tilney: “I promise not to oppress you with too much remorse or too much passion, but since you left us the white rose bush has died of grief.”

Not only did we all go huh, but Catherine Morland does to. Like what does this mean?! I think he has been taking too much snuff that his brain is is not connecting right.

So I think they were trying to do a storybook/gothic ending but because there are so many fantasy/daydreams it really just feels like one. I guess the director could have been trying to do her fantasy has come to life but it didn’t really work. I also did not like the freeze frame ending. As a whole, I did not like this film

Wrap UP:

Costumes: The wigs and hair are really bad. Like hardly anyone has a good one. It’s really bad. The costume colors are as well, they are accurate pieces but not as nice as in the later adaptions.

Actors: The only actors I really enjoyed was Googie Withers as Mrs. Allen and Ingrid Lacey as Eleanor Tilney. Robert Hardy as General Tilney was good but a bit inconsistent in his manner. Peter Firth as Mr. Tilney was too stiff and Katharine Schlesinger as Catherine Morland was very inconsistent as at times she was animated but other times like a sleepwalker and she had those dazed/dead eyes.

Set: I liked the set design a lot. I really enjoyed when they were in the Abbey and wish we spent more time there. I just wish they had utilized better lighting and angles.

On a while I did not enjoy this adaption, but prefer the 2007 version instead. Although this one did have a lot more horror elements as Catherine had creepy stalker vibes and Mr. Tilney gave off murder-y vibes.

For more Northanger Abbey, go to North by Northanger (Or, the Shades of Pemberley)

For more Northanger Abbey (2007), go to Storybook Ending: Northanger Abbey (2007)

For more Northanger Abbey variations, go to Rational Creatures: Catherine Morland, Eleanor Tilney, & Lady Susan

For more films based on Jane Austen, go to Sense and Sensibility (1995)

For more Jane Austen variations, go to The Matters at Mansfield (Or, The Crawford Affair)

Ghosts or Madness?: Turn of the Screw (2009)

No Twilight Saturday? Yep, no more Twilight! We finished that on Thursday as I had to post this on October 30th. Why? Well today is the 210th anniversary of Sense and Sensibility!

At first I was really bummed because Sense and Sensibility doesn’t have a gothic/Halloween adaption for me to review to honor its anniversary. I also already have reviewed Dead Again which was the catalyst for the 1995 Sense and Sensibility adaption. I was at a loss of what to do when I watched this film:

So every October, I see people posting on Instagram about The Turn of the Screw. Every year I tell myself I should read it or watch an adaption, and last year I finally did (both). I really wanted to see the Colin Firth adaption, but it was no longer available on Amazon, so instead I watched the 2009 version with Dan Stevens. That of course ties in perfectly with today as today is the 210th anniversary of Sense and Sensibility. Of which in the 2008 adaption Dan Stevens plays Edward Ferrars.

This film was okay, in a lot of ways it reminded me of the book Alias Grace. But after reading the story, I think the production did the best they could with an uneven source material. The original story doesn’t even have a real end, it starts with someone reading the governess’ recollections and then just ends, about them passing on the story or anything like that.

But as this is a gothic story I also am adding it to Catherine Morland’s Viewing List.

We start off the film with former governess, Ann (Michelle Dockery) in a sanitarium. She speaks to Doctor Fisher (Dan Stevens); and yes they both were in Downton Abbey. How funny, right?

Anyways, Doctor Fisher is trying to find out what happened with Ann and try to get to the cause of it all.

Ann tells our story in a flashback. She was hired as a governess by a wealthy man who inherited his brother’s children along with Bly Manor. He wants nothing to do with them or any problems that arise. He also seduces Ann and she travels out the country with hopes that their fling will grow into something more.

Ann goes to the house and everything feels sad and dark. There is only female staff, as all the men left to fight in WWI. They are all cold and standoffish to her as well.

Ann meets Flora, her pupil, who is kind and sweet and easy to teach. But those quiet days are interrupted when the other charge, Miles, is sent home from boarding school for saying something so dreadful to another student, a male student.

Ann starts wondering about it and when she finds a note from Miles’ boarding headmaster, she is so horrified she destroys it. She can’t believe that what was written could be true as Miles is such a sweet and tender boy. They all have a wonderful time together, and Ann dreams of the Master coming and then becoming a family together.

Ann finds out that her predecessor, Emily Jessel is buried in the church’s graveyard near the house. It turns out that Jessel had committed suicide.

Then things start turning weird…Ann begins to see the figures of a man and a woman. But no one else sees them. She sees them around the kids, but they keep denying it.

Ann starts questioning the staff about who the man could be, but no one will talk to her except Carla. Carla tells her about Peter Quint, now deceased and former steward of the house. The master was best friend with Quint and liked to “raise hell” with him. Peter harassed and sexually abused all the girls, Emily being the one who actually formed a relationship with him. He spent a lot of time with Miles, Emily, and Flora.

Ann keeps seeing the figures of the man and woman and after hearing the descriptions of the Emily and Quint, she realizes they are who she is seeing. But are they ghosts or is Ann just going mad?

Ann sees Quint push Carla off the roof, but everyone says she must have imagined him as he is dead.

But it doesn’t stop, Ann keeps seeing Emily and Quint together everywhere in violent, passionate, sexual acts. Then she sees Flora and Miles acting like them. She thinks the two, who were so very close to them, were groomed by them. It turns out that Miles repeated something that Quint had said to Emily to a male student. They never tell you what, but as Quint was a rough, crude, and abusive man-I’m sure you can imagine that it was bad.

That’s not good.

Ann decides she must do something, at first she was going to leave but she cares too much for the children. She returns and finds the two having rough play by the lake, Miles trying to drown his sister. Ann saves Flora and hits Miles repeatedly, stopped by the housekeeper.

After that Ann decides to confront Miles and sends everyone away but him. There they wait and have a showdown with Quint. This is interesting as Quint possesses Miles, he demands Quint leaves, and Ann hugs him-the next scene him being dead. Did Quint kill Miles as that was always his intent? Or did Ann kill him when she hugged him? He’s a small thin child, it would have been hard for her to strangle or crush him? Was it ghosts or madness on her part?

Hmmm…

The next day they return to find her with Miles’ dead body. She is arrested and we return to the present. The Doctor believes her story, but she is still sentenced to die.

The film wasn’t bad, I just wish they hadn’t so obviously pointed toward ghosts/possession. I wish they had made it a bit more suspenseful and had the audience question her sanity. This easily could have been added in if they had a mention she had seen ghosts before or something. Like I said it was okay, not terrible but not the best film I have ever seen.

For more gothic stories, go to No Haunt Me Then!…I Know That Ghosts Have Wandered On The Earth. Be With Me Always…Drive Me Mad, Only Do Not Leave Me in This Dark Alone…I Cannot Live Without My Life! I Cannot Die Without My Soul.: Wuthering Heights (1939)

For more ghosts, go to All Right, We Got No Choice. Call the Ghostbusters.: Ghostbusters 2 (1989)

I Just Killed My Best Friend. And Your Worst Enemy. Same Difference.: Heathers (1988)

I just killed my best friend.

And your worst enemy.

Same difference.

This is a movie I love but I also have a hard time watching it as I am Veronica. I too was swayed by a crazy guy who tried to kill me. Luckily for both of us, we survived.

Heathers is a film that to be honest is weird to summarize. If you tried to give a synopsis to someone who has never seen it you would sound crazy. You like a film where they end up killing people and making it look like suicide? And it is a comedy? It is definitely odd, but like Mean Girls there is just something about it that pulls you in. The writing is great, the characters understandable and so relatable in its teen angst.

This film also deals with a lot of harsh issues and is not for everyone. It covers suicide, abuse, bullying, shooting, etc. if any of those things might be a trigger for you, it would be best not to watch this film.

Although, now as an adult watching this film I’m like Veronica you are a junior, why are you freaking out? You only have two years left in school and then you can go any where and do anything you want! Her family is rich and if her dad puts up with her calling him an idiot every day I’m sure he will pay for whatever she wants to do whether it is college, seeing the world, or moving to the City and trying to make it on her own doing whatever. I mean if she was poor, wasn’t the best student, or was stuck in her place, I would be more sympathetic.

The other thing I love about this film are the clothes, the ‘80s really could go over the top. I love that these girls are always wearing blazers, giant hats, ostentatious outfits, bright clothes- Veronica even wears a monocle. This juxtaposition of wealth and color with the sad dark themes of suicide works so well in ways I don’t fully understand. There’s just something about Heathers.

The film starts off with this crazy dream sequence, the three Heathers playing croquet, and Veronica (Winona Ryder) is buried up to her neck. She’s unable to move but finds herself at the will of the Heathers. She talks to them, being sarcastic and making cutting comments, but no change occurs as the Heathers ignore her words and she is still stuck in the same place.

“Heather McNamara: It’s your turn Heather.

Heather Chandler: No, Heather, it’s Heather’s turn. Heather?

Heather Duke: Sorry Heather

As I’m sure you can tell, the symbolism runs deep. The Heathers run the school with Heather Chandler (Kim Walker) as the Queen Bee, Heather McNamara (Lisanne Falk) as her yes-man, and Heather Duke (Shannon Doherty) is treated better than the rest of the school, but still the one Heather C. likes to kick around.

Veronica is in a weird place, as she’s not the doormat Heather D. is, but she’s also not as cemented in the group either. She’s still very much an individual, not a minion like the other two Heathers, but at the same time still goes along with all they do-even though she may voice a concern or complain about their activities-she still does it. Just like in her dream.

The film starts off with Veronica noticing the new boy in school, J.D. (Christian Slater). He’s got the bad boy look down pat, long hair, and wearing a trench coat. Very cool and the type of guy every girl falls for at least once in their life.

He’s a bad boy

They ask him the question of the day which is “what would you do if you won 5 million dollars but only have one day left on Earth because Aliens are going to destroy it?” He gives a pretentious answer, but Veronica eats it up.

Christian Slater has stated that his performance was heavily inspired by Jack Nicholson and I believe it as he is creepy! But he also is much better looking than Jack Nicholson and does that eyebrow thing we all love.

Oh, wow…

Veronica’s fallen for him, but gets dragged away by Heather as J.D. is not their crowd. Two football players Ram and Kurt don’t like him trying to move up into another stratosphere and run over to try and bully him. J.D. listens to their insults and pulls a gun out and shoots them.

Later, the girls are talking about the events and all the Heathers think J.D. is insane! But Veronica-poor Veronica is blinded by her crush on the bad boy defends him as “it was just a joke and blanks”.

Veronica no!!! NO NO NO! This is a big red flag, but Veronica doesn’t see it. Poor, dumb, in love, Veronica. Not only has her crush on J.D. blinded her from this scary, crazy event that has happened, but she actually likes what J.D. did. She never liked Ram and Kurt and thinks they should be taken down a leg or two. In her mind J.D. isn’t insane, but a vigilante, a Robin Hood against high social hierarchy.

This makes me so sad as this kind of thing happened all the time with women, and men. They meet someone who exhibits insane and dangerous behavior, but in their mind they make excuses, they reinvent it so it’s then staid go up against something, maybe “protecting” someone or something. But all it is, is a red flag that should be warning you to stay away-but so often it just draws people in.

Veronica is going with Heather C. to a Remington Frat Party, but on the way there they stop at the connivence store, where Veronica runs into J.D. She zooms in on him as she is fascinated by how different he is and wants to be with him. Veronica is an interesting character as she becomes “different people” depending on who she is around. With Heather she’s the popular girl with a slightly better moral code than the others-with J.D. she can rebel, be wild, and free.

J.D.: Is your life perfect?

Veronica Sawyer: I’m on my way to a party at Remington University… No, my life’s not perfect. I don’t really like my friends.

J.D.: I… I don’t really like your friends either.

Veronica Sawyer: Well, it’s just like – they’re people I work with, and our job is being popular and shit.

J.D.: Maybe it’s time to take a vacation.

Now I understand what Veronica is going through, high school can feel like a tremendous pile of crap while you are going through it, but at the same time I’m like Veronica it isn’t your job. You only have a year and a couples months left and then you can do whatever you want. Try not to take it so seriously.

I also love the outfit Veronica wears in this scene. I would love to own it.

The two separate with Veronica going off with Heather to the party. There none have a nice time as Heather C. Is pressured into things she doesn’t want to do to keep up with the college crowd and Veronica’s date only cares about sleeping with her and doesn’t like the word no. Veronica spends the rest of the night getting drunk and then throws up in the alley. Heather C. yells at Veronica, with Veronica finally standing up to her. Heather declares everything is over for Veronica.

That night Veronica gets out her monocle and really let’s her feelings fly in her journal-she especially shares all about her hatred of Heather.


Veronica Sawyer: [writing in diary] Betty Finn was a true friend and I sold her out for a bunch of Swatch dogs and Diet Coke heads. Killing Heather would be like offing the wicked witch of the west… wait east. West!

Veronica is interrupted by her musings when J.D. climbs through her window. I’m like Veronica, here is another red flag. You didn’t ask him over, he searched out where you lived, waited for you to come home, and climbed through your window without permission. Like it would be one thing if he got her attention or had asked her address or phone number-but he never did. It doesn’t matter how many times I watch this, I’m always like Veronica no! Even though I know what will happen next.

The two play strip croquet and Veronica confides in J. D. about her hatred of Heather. Veronica was really just trying to vent, but too bad she doesn’t realize her newly acquired boyfriend is a psycho!

The next day Veronica and J. D. break into Heather C.’s house as Veronica plans on making her a fake hangover cure and getting her semi-revenge. J. D. pours draino into a cup, but Veronica ignores him as she thinks it is just a joke-Veronica this is like the fourth red flag!

Veronica makes an orange juice and milk mixture and the two hawk some loogies into it. Afterwards, J.D. tricks Veronica into taking the draino one by kissing her. Everyone says it is an accident, but I think it was done on purpose. It is such a weird time to kiss her so to me it seems like a distraction, but then again he is a freak. He does almost warn her, but changes his mind so it could have be an accident turned into an opportunity. Either way they go into Heather’s room and basically double dog dare her to drink it, she does, and dies.

Veronica is freaked out and doesn’t know what to do, and says these iconic lines (one of my favorite parts)

Veronica Sawyer: I just killed my best friend.

J.D.: And your worst enemy.

Veronica Sawyer: Same difference.

Now Veronica is unsure what to do and wants to call the police, but J. D. convinces her to hide it by writing a suicide note. She’s so upset that she goes along with him. Again, another red flag Veronica.

The suicide note is an sensation. School shuts down for the cheerleader, they have a funeral service, and everyone talks about how lovely the note was, how Heather had such a poetic soul.

Veronica is amazed at how this whole thing has turned Heather into more of a “goddess” at school as all are worshiping her. At first she laughs about it, but then the worshipfulness starts getting to her. Later, she meets J. D.’s father and he and his father’s relationship is weird. Even more so when he shares how his mother died, she stayed in a building that his father was going to demo, committing suicide. The way his dad is I’m not so sure it was suicide, I’m thinking it might have been murder! Or it might have been the only way she could be free of him.

What is even more upsetting with Heather gone, Veronica hoped life would be better but Heather C. is still everywhere and Heather D. has stepped up to take her place. That always happens, Queen Bs are like Hydras, cut off the head and there will always be one to take their place.

After the funeral, Heather M. asks Veronica to help her out as she needs someone to go on a double date with her as she is going out with football player, Ram. Veronica insists that she is dating J. D. and she doesn’t want to go out as the guys will just want to tip cows. Heather continues to beg and Veronica agrees only to have a horrible night as the boys get drunk, tip cows, and when Kurt tries to make a move Heather goes off with J. D. (who just happened to show up another red flag). Kurt collapses drunk in a field and in the background you can see Ram date rape Heather. I forgot how disturbing this film can be.

The next day Kurt and Ram spread a story about Veronica that she was with both of them and this makes Veronica and J. D. furious. J. D. wants to get revenge and decides to use some German guns that use “blanks”. He asks if she she knows German, she says no, and then he gives the guns a German name, words which mean he is lying. Veronica is so mad at the guys for spreading lies she goes along with his plan to “kill” them, thinking she is using blanks. I’m like Veronica no! Another red flag, but J. D. is kryptonite to her common sense as he can tell she wants to be a cool, rebellious, person of action-and totally plays into it. Plus he is hot. Unfortunately, attractiveness can really blind you to faults.

The next morning Veronica is happy and giddy to play their prank. She watches as J.D. pulls out all the evidence to make it looks as if they were gay lovers who decided to commit suicide. Again, it is so easy to be like Veronica how can you not see what is happening-but J. D. has really manipulated her. They go to commit their act, Veronica having the guys strip, before they “rip her clothes off”, and when they are in their underwear, they shoot. Ram dies with a bullet in the head, while Veronica misses Kurt. J. D. yells at her and shepherds Kurt back to their suicide circle and Veronica shoots him. They finish setting up their little scene and take off as they hear police, jumping in the car and pretending that they were out there making out.

They go to school and this is one of my favorite parts when Veronica has seen what is happening and realizes she doesn’t want this life. She didn’t really want anyone dead she was just being dramatic and upset, but she’s no killer. The two argue with her going did not (meaning she did not want them to die) and J. D. saying did too. The remaining Heathers see her and think they are just having an argument about their relationship.

She should not have gotten involved with him.

Everyone in school finds out about the football players and their note. All are shocked and the two become martyrs for the lgbtq+ cause. Again Veronica is amazed at how such horrible people could have their whole personality changed by death and an eloquent suicide note.

Heather M. is having a really hard time-she’s a follower and her leader killed herself. She poured her sorrows into this new relationship with Ram, who raped her, and then it turns out he’s gay? And he killed himself?! She’s really lost and confused and traumatized-poor girl.

Meanwhile, J. D. has some plans and blackmails Heather D. with fat camp pics of her and Martha “Dumptruck” Dunnstock to get people to sign a petition for Big Fun to come and play at the school their hit song “Teenage Suicide (Don’t Do It!)”. Heather goes along with it, lying about everything in order to get people to sign it. But what is he planning?

Veronica decides it is time to cut all the toxic people out of her life. She dumps J. D., fights with Heather D. over her wanting to wear Heather C.’s scrunchies and take over Heather’s spot, and tries to rekindle her old best friendship with Betty Finn, a real true friend she traded for the Heathers. The two go to play croquet, but the happy afternoon is ruined by Heather D.

Heather D. shares that Martha tried to kill herself only to fail when she didn’t get hit running into traffic. Heather D. makes fun of Martha trying to be cool and failing again. Heather D. and Veronica fight, with Veronica slapping Heather for her cruel words.

Veronica and Heather make up and again we see Veronica has a way out of this, but she doesn’t take it. Instead she goes along with Heather D. as they listen to a radio program Hot Probs, and listen as Heather M. calls in and complains about her perfect life. Poor Heather, she is just trying to figure out what is going on. The next day all the kids in school are making fun of her, and she starts thinking about committing suicide. Veronica notices her leaving class and goes out saving her.

“Veronica Sawyer: If you were happy every day of your life, you wouldn’t be a human being. You’d be a game show host.”

Veronica starts to unravel at the chaos she has created. Heather D. rules the school, J. D. tells her parents that she is planning on killing herself (laying the foundation to kill her and hide it as suicide), she finds a hanging doll in her room (courtesy of J. D. and she is full of strange nightmares that highlight the guilt she feels over the killings. Like Veronica should try and seek out help about J.D. or get a restraining order. He won’t give up until she is dead.

After she has a nightmare about J. D., she decides it is time to take control of her life. She pretends to kill herself, hanging so that when J. D. visits that night he reveals his whole plan to blow up the school. The next day Veronica finds him and takes him out, this is such an awesome scene. A fantastic scene!

Veronica Sawyer: You know what I want? [shoots J.D] Cool guys like you out of my life.

After the bomb goes off and kills J. D. we have a smoking Veronica who comes in for the 1-2 punch; first she takes out Heather being the new Queen B, and then she invites Martha to be her friend.

Veronica Sawyer: Hey, Martha. My date for the prom kinda flaked out on me. I was wondering, If you weren’t doing anything that night, maybe we could rent some new releases and pop some popcorn.

Martha ‘Dumptruck’ Dunnstock: I’d like that.

Veronica Sawyer: Yeah. Me too

Such a great ending to this film. It’s weird as it has seriously dark moments, comedic moments, is very sad, but also extremely enjoyable. It’s just one of those films.

We threw a Heathers themed croquet party where we served spaghetti with lots of oregano (Veronica’s favorite). Two dressed as Heather Chandler (red Heather), one as Heather Duke (green Heather), one person came as J.D., and I was Veronica, because I am Veronica.

Looks pretty close, right?

Also our Facebook cover

So with today’s topic, as J. D. is a horrible person and October being national domestic violence awareness month, I felt compelled to share this.

I Am a Survivor of Domestic Violence and I Know Help is Out There:

Are you being abused?

It’s abuse when someone who should care about you does or says things that hurt you or make you feel afraid, helpless or worthless. Here are only a few examples:

  • Slapping, hitting, punching, choking, grabbing, shoving, kicking you or your kids, your pets
  • Threatening you, your kids, friends, family or pets
  • Hitting, kicking, slamming walls, doors, furniture, possessions
  • Forcing you to have sex
  • Calling you names, swearing at you, yelling
  • Controlling all the money, even money you earn
  • Blaming you or your kids for everything
  • Putting you down, making you feel like nothing you do is ever good enough
  • Treating you like a servant or slave
  • Controlling where you go, what you do, what you wear
  • Controlling who you see, who you talk to
  • Humiliating you in front of other people
  • Refusing to let you leave the relationship

It can also look like the below cycle

If you are in danger call 911, a local hotline, or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224.

For more Winona Ryder films, go to Once, There Was Even a Man Who Had Scissors for Hands: Edward Scissorhands (1990)

For more horror comedies, go to Dirty Deals, Murder, Mob Goons, and a Kidnapping: Men at Work (1990)

For more ‘80s films, go to Father Knows Best: The Stepfather (1987)