The Place of Torment: The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

Do you know where you are, Bartolome? I’ll tell you where you are. You are about to enter Hell, Bartolome, HELL!… The netherworld.The infernal region, The Abode of the Damned… The place of torment. Pandemonium. Abbadon. Tophet. Gehenna. Naraka. THE PIT!… And the pendulum

Do you like Edgar Allan Poe? I do and you know who else would? Catherine Morland. She would be a major fan of his books and the films based off them.

And I’ve decided to choose this EDgar Allen Poe film which also checks off our annual Vincent Price film!

Not only is this a Vincent Price film, but because of its Gothic nature it is also going on my recommendation list, Catherine Morland’s Viewing List Part I & Part II

This is the second of the 8 Poe adaptation films that our director, Roger Corman, made and one of the 7 Vincent Price starred in. I’m 1960, the previous year, The Fall of the House of Usher came out and was a giant hit, catapulting Corman to stardom and making everyone eager to have another Poe film, this the creation of The Pit and the Pendulum

Due to the success of The Fall of the House of Usher, Corman had a larger budget and was able to use CinemaScope for this film instead of black and white. I personally think the film would have been stronger in black and white as I think the color takes away from the dramatic content.

The film is adaption of the Poe story but it doesn’t directly follow it as the short story doesn’t have enough to make a feature full length film. Instead the writers wrote their own script for the first 2/3 of the film (trying to make it as Poe-like as possible), with the last 1/3 of the film to be about the Pit and the Pendulum.

The film is set in 1547 and while most of the actors are fine in the period owned, I have always felt that John Kerr was not suited to this dress. He looks a bit odd. Period costumes are not suited to everyone.

Now this isn’t my favorite of the the eight adaptions, in fact the film moves really slow in the beginning and a lot of the actors do not connect with the scenes. But, I do recommend it for Vincent Price as he gives the best performance out of everyone. Is he evil? Is he murderous? Is he misunderstood? Is he insane? But once we move to the latter third of the film, it really picks up and is grabs your attention never letting go.

We are in 1547 Spain and John Kerr’s character, Francis Barnard, has traveled to see his sister Elizabeth. When he arrives at her home he learns from her husband, Nicholas Medina (Vincent Price), that Elizabeth is dead.

Francis is shocked, angry, and wants answers as to why his sister died when she was so healthy, and why did no one inform him?

Nicholas struggles to talk about it and Francis turns to Nicholas’ sister Catherine (Luana Anders) for answers…and because he has the hots for her. After questioning the two the only answer Francis is given is that Elizabeth had a blood disorder.

Hmm…suspicious

Francis isn’t happy with this as a blood disorder doesn’t run in his family and she was perfectly healthy when she married. He suspects they are hiding something from him and declares he will not leave until he finds out the truth.

One night at dinner when Nicholas’ best friend and doctor, Dr. Leon (Antony Carbone), visits, Francis questions him. He discovers that Elizabeth did not die of a blood disease but that she “died of fright” as she had massive heart failure. Armed with this knowledge he forces Nicholas to tell him the truth of what really happened and show him where Elizabeth died.

Nicholas takes Francis the to “forbidden part” of the castle, a torture chamber that features multiple torture devices along with the titular pit and pendulum. Nicholas shared that Elizabeth had become obsessed with everything in here and started to become “unbalanced”. One day she locked herself in the Iron Maiden. When they took Elizabeth out she said the name Sebastian and died.

From The Wolf Man (1941)

Having grown up with a sister that was the extreme opposite of the type of person described, Francis doesn’t believe Nicholas and starts suspecting that he murdered his sister. Did Nicholas murder Elizabeth? Or is he telling the truth? With a Poe based film you’ll never know for sure until the very end.

Hmmm…

It doesn’t help Nicholas’ case that he acts so guilty and as if he is at fault for the murder. When Francis questions his behavior, Catherine reveals that her brother has a lot of trauma from when he was young. Their father was Sebastian Medina, a notorious agent of the Spanish Inquisition. When Nicholas was young he explored the forbidden room and witnessed his father torturing his mother and his father’s brother (as they were having an affair). Dr. Leon further explains the trauma as he shares that Nicholas also witnessed his father entomb his mother while she was still alive and heard the cries of agony as she was bricked up.

Creepy…

Nicholas is worried that the same fate happened to Elizabeth (which is interesting as it appears he doesn’t fully trust the doctor, and his best friend), and that her vengeful spirit is walking the home and torturing him-trying to make him insane.

The thing I enjoy about this performance is it reminds me a lot of Rebecca, when Joan Fontaine’s character sees Rebecca everywhere and in everything.

But weird unexplained things begin to happen. Loud noises are heard from Elizabeth’s room. At night her harpsichord is heard being played and she is the only one who knew how to play to. Elizabeth’s room is also ransacked and her portrait slashed! Nicholas starts going crazy, but is he really crazy or is that all planned to hide his earlier murder?

Hmm…

Francis thinks the latter and accuses Nicholas, while I don’t think Francis is wrong to be suspicious, as we all know I would be, the way he goes about it is setting himself up for failure. Every time I watch this I’m like you need to take a step back and reevaluate your questioning.

Nicholas insists they exuhume the body and when they do it is revealed from the position that Elizabeth is in, she was alive after she was interned and was in fact buried to death.

Everyone is upset and Nicholas is on the verge of insanity. I have always found it interesting that no one is concerned with the fact that Dr. Leon can’t tell is someone is alive or dead? It makes me think of that Sherlock Holmes scene.

Nicholas is on the precipice and it doesn’t look as if his sanity will win out-he’s hanging by a single thread. Then he hears Elizabeth call to him and follows her down to the tomb, where she rises from her coffin, reanimated and chases Nicholas. Nicholas is frightened and falls down the stairs.

Elizabeth laughs and is joined by her lover and confederate, Dr. Leon. I knew that guy was suspicious-either he helped in the plot or was just an extremely bad doctor.

Dr. Leon and Elizabeth are ecstatic that they drove Nicholas to insanity and plan for do away with him and keep the castle and money (not quite sure how they plan to do that as Elizabeth is still “dead” and they still have Nicholas’ sister Catherine to contend with). But to their surprise Nicholas has lost his mind and believes himself to be Sebastian. Has he truly has a psychotic break? Or has he really been possessed by his dead father’s spirit?

Nicholas siezes Elizabeth and throws her in the Iron Maiden repeating history; along with throwing Dr. Leon in the pit.

Francis hears his sister’s scream of distress and follows them to the the torture chamber. There Nicholas/Sebastian is continuing his craziness and believes Francis to be Sebastian’s brother; grabbing him and placing him under the pendulum.

Catherine arrives just in time to save Francis, but when they try to help Nicholas, he fights them and won’t let them take him, being thrown into the pit as well. Catherine takes Francis out and decides the room is to be locked and sealed, to never ever be opened again. We end on one final shot, Elizabeth trapped in the Iron Maiden, doomed to be buried alive. Serves her right!

I really enjoyed, and if you like Poe, Price, and gothic fiction; you are sure to as well.

For more Vincent Price, go to Ship of Ghouls: The Love Boat (1978)

For more On Edgar Allen Poe, go to Catherine Morland’s Reading List: The Tell-Tale Heart

I’m A Ghost With the Most: Beetlejuice (1988)

I’m the ghost with the most!

I grew up watching Beetlejuice secretly as my mother hated the titular character. I did watch the TV show, as she didn’t mind that as much but I haven’t seen the actual film in a very long time.

So I was thinking, what better way to start off Horrorfest than to cross off a “Tim Burton” film off my list of things to review with Beetlejuice (1988).

We start off the film with Adam Maitland (Alec Baldwin) releasing a giant spider outside. How is he not freaked out? It’s GIANT! So weird .

Anyways, Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam Maitland are a couple happy to spend their vacation fixing up their country house (to each their own). Barbara’s cousin Jane comes to visit and is trying to sell their home as she has had some really great offers from a city couple but Barb and Adam say no. Really Jane?

If Jane was my cousin we would no longer be on speaking terms. I can’t believe she’s actually sending photos of her cousin’s house to people to try and sell it; that’s right selling a home she doesn’t even OWN! Then she gives a mean dig about Barbara’s miscarriages. RUDE!

As I was watching this, I started thinking cousin Jane reminds me of someone…but who? Then it hit me! Cousin Jane is so much like Mrs. Elton from Emma. I mean think about it: believe she knows everything, makes little dogs to others, writing to find Jane Fairfax a position when she was asked not to! Cousin Jane is Mrs. Elton!

Later the Maitlands go out driving to pick up more supplies for their model town. As cousin Jane clunkly inferred, the Maitlands have tried to have a child to no success and Adam has made the model town his “baby”. When they are driving home they swerve to miss a dog that runs into the road and find themselves dead.

They two don’t realize they are dead at first, until Adam tries to leave the house and they discover that if he does they will be killed by sand worms. They then discover some other odd things like the fact that they no longer have a reflection and a copy of The Handbook for the Recently Deceased. At first they choose to ignore it and try to continue their lives but the house has been sold to a new family, the Deetz Family. Charles Deetz (Jeffrey Jones) is a former real estate developer; his wife Delia (Catherine O’ Hara) is a sculptor; and Lydia (Winona Ryder), daughter from his first marriage, is a goth and an aspiring photographer.

The Maitlands try to scare them out as ghosts do, but Charles and Delia don’t even blink and eye. The Deetz family has their own issues. Charlies recently suffered from a nervous breakdown, his anxiety is off the charts; Delia and Lydia snipe at each other at every turn, and no one seems happy.

Current mood of the film (from a Series of Unfortunate Events TV show)

The Maitlands hang out in the only space that the Deetz can’t get to, their attic. But after Jane stops by to drop off a skeleton key, that’s the first place Lydia wants to head to. She tries to get in, but they keep pushing her out.

The actor who plays Charles, Jeffrey Jones, usually plays terrible characters, but this is the first one I can think of that I actually liked and connected to. He wants to relax, wishes everyone would give him peace, tries to birdwatch but stops as birds are terrible (I don’t like birds), and instead starts looking at everyone’s houses and using his real estate agent eye to inspect them.

Hmm…

Meanwhile, the Maitlands having finally started reading their Handbook for the Recently Deceased, (which contains an ad for Betelgeuse) have crossed over to the afterlife and find it to be a DMV of a horror waiting room. I love all the different “deaths” of the characters waiting. It’s like a mini A Thousand Ways to Die with every “death” you can imagine. The special effects, prosthetics, costumes, etc. are amazing. They really deserved winning that award.

In the afterlife all their who are the DMV-esque caseworkers are those who die by suicide (as seen the Miss Argentina who slit her wrists, the guy who stepped into traffic, and the man hanging). The Maitlands discover that they must haunt the house for 125 years, or else, and return home to try and remove the Deetzs. The Maitlands want to try and hire Beetlejuice, but their caseworker Juno warns against him as he’s a troublemaker and tells them to study their book. She also warns them he is hanging out in their town’s model cemetery and saying his name three times will summon him.

The Maitlands try to do the work and scare the Deetz family but are not at all successful as Charles just thinks Lydia is messing around, Delia is knocked out on Valium so it doesn’t even register to her, and Lydia thinks the “haunting” is her dad and stepmom trying to roam the house in sheets as some kind of weird sex.

When Lydia does realize they are real ghosts she isn’t scared at all, as a goth girl she has seen a ton of horror films and is not easily frightened. Instead she charges full speed ahead at this supernatural spooky phenomenon, remind you of anyone? (Like Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey?)

Adam: Well, how is it you see us and nobody else can?

Lydia: Well, I’ve read through that handbook for the recently deceased. It says: ‘live people ignore the strange and unusual”. I myself am strange and unusual.

But seriously, Lydia and Catherine Morland are so similar. They both love gothic and spooky things, their parents don’t understand them, they are both a bit naive, and they like trying to investigate (Catherine Mrs. Tilney’s room and Lydia the attic).

I love how nerdy and not scary the Maitlands are. Like when Alec Baldwin calls the two “ghoulish creatures” it is so hard to not laugh at him. Ghoulish? Really?

The Maitlands decide to “cheat” and try to hire the bio-exorcist to remove the humans, Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton). They say his name three times and find themselves transported to the model town Adam built and dig Betelgeuse up. It’s pretty amazing how they take someone as handsome and charming as Michael Keaton and make him so perverted and oafish. To me Betelgeuse is the equivalent of having to spend your time with Mr. Wattlesbrook from Austenland.

Keaton originally didn’t want the role as he didn’t understand what exactly was asked of him. He only agreed after Tim Burton took him to see Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. I imagine he said he wanted a crude and pervy Pee-Wee. (Ironic as how a couple of years after this film pervert would be used to describe Pee-Wee).

Betelgeuse is extremely gross in his behavior. He also looks very odd as if he is a man out of time. Apprantly Michael Keaton came up with not only 90% of the dialogue but much of the character’s look himself; he told the makeup department he wanted a moldy face, electric shocked hair, and clothes from all different time periods.

Like I mentioned before Betelgeuse is an extremely gross individual, basically a human fart and Barbara does NOT want to have him in their house or around Lydia. Barbara decides to send him back home and comes up with her own idea to get rid of the Deetz family. The two possess a Deetz dinner party and force them and their guests to sing and dance to “Day-O” by Harry Belefonte. It is a truly strange and fantastical scene. At the end their plate of shrimps reach out as arms and and grab everyone’s faces.


Tim Burton thought this scene wouldn’t go over well, but turned out to be wrong as it is one of the most remembered scenes from the entire film.

Instead of scaring the away the Deetz family, all this does is make Charles want to turn the house and town into a supernatural tourist trap. In fact all at the dinner party enjoyed it and see it as entrainment not fright.

The Maitlands are at their wit’s end and decide they need help and bring Betelgeuse into play. He decides to step up the scaring and we have one of the creepiest scenes in the whole film, Betelgeuse becomes a snake. It is truly terrifying, those eyes! This scene had been filmed before Michael Keaton was cast as Betelgeuse, so some additional film was shot for the scene using a layer to make it look more like him.

From unknown.

Lydia gets mad at the Maitlands as she saw them as friends and them hiring Betelgeuse has broken her trust in them.

The Maitlands are angry as they don’t want Betelgeuse to hurt the Deetzs, they just want him to scare them away. They say his name three times again and send him back to the model town that Adam built in the attic. Betelgeuse is really upset with their criticism, but decides to party and heads to a strip club in town. I do not remember that scene at all and Adam doesn’t even remember making it.

The Maitlands get called to the DMV and Juno reads them the riot act. They have seriously screwed up as ghosts; befriending Lydia, being photographed, losing their handbook, letting out Betelgeuse, etc. Their caseworker made the strip club to distract Betelgeuse until everything can be straightened out. Juno won’t let them return home until they show her their creepy plan, this scene was always the one stamped in my brain. Terrifying!

Back at the house, Charles starts second guessing his decision to move there and even his plans for the tourist town. Lydia is really depressed and contemplates suicide. Before she takes her life, Lydia goes up to the attic to talk to the Maitlands and finds Betelgeuse who tries to convince her to free him by saying his name three times. I remember my friends and I would do this all the time and we were always disappointed when nothing would happen. Lydia is stopped from freeing him by the return of the Maitlands who dissuade her from trying to commit suicide. They also have decided to give up scaring the Deetzs and try to live in harmony.

Charles tries to pitch his idea of a horror town, but his boss is not impressed. But even without “real ghosts”, I’m with Charles! This is a money maker idea! There are so many that would love to go to a Horrortown. I know I would.

Charles’ boss demands proof and they have Otto (the interior designer) perform a seance, but unfortunately he actually starts exorcising them instead. As they are fading away, dying forever this time, Lydia is heartbroken to see the only people who really “get her” “dying” and begs Betelgeuse for help. He agrees, but only if Lydia marries him.

Now why would a centuries old ghost want to get married to a 14-year old? Its not because she is a little girl, but because he wants to be tethered to the mortal world. If he married a mortal, then he will not have to go back to the afterlife but can remain above ground forever. Seeing it as the only way to save her friends, Lydia agrees.

So this next scene wben Betelgeuse comes with the Carousel head and the arms that stretch I’m pretty sure one of my friends had that toy. Like it was crazy how much merchandise there was after this film came out. I think the TV show helped with it, but it was literally everywhere.

To be fair even though Betelgeuse is totally rotten, at least he honors his business contract. He saves the Maitlands and gets rid of all the interlopers. He also changes to a snazzy red suit, gets Lydia a gown, ties up her parents (but brings them to the wedding), and brings in a monster minister.

Time for a wedding!

Keaton is just a phenomenal actor in this, with exaggerated lines and true comedic timing, just perfect.

All try to stop the wedding, but Betelgeuse stops them. But no matter what, Barbara keeps trying. Like he zips her mouth shut, she opens it. When Betelgeuse bolts it, she tries to remove the bolt. When Betelgeuse sends her away, Barbara comes riding in on a sandworm that consumes Betelgeuse and sends him back to the afterlife. Barb is the real MVP.

Time passes and the Deetz family and the Maitlands live in harmony; Lydia loving her new extended family, the Maitlands love having a child to parent, and Charles finally gets the peace he’s been after.

Betelgeuse having “died” again must wait his DMV turn, getting his head shrunk when he tries to cut in line. Oh that Betelgeuse!

So after watching this post Jane Austen I have concluded cousin Jane is totally Mrs. Elton, Lydia is Catherine Morland, and Beetlejuice is Mr. Wattlesbrook. Agree? Disagree? Comment below!

Also with the Austen connection, I guess this should go on my Non-Austen Films for Austen Fans and Catherine Morland’s Viewing List? What day you? Yay or nay?

For more Tim Burton films, go to Peculiarities, Monsters, and Time Travel.: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

For more Winona Ryder, go to I Just Killed My Best Friend. And Your Worst Enemy. Same Difference.: Heathers (1988)

For more Michael Keaton, go to A Man Dressed as a Giant Bat, Psychotic Deformed Man Wrecking Havoc, and a Zombie Cat Woman…A Batman Christmas: Batman Returns (1992)

For more ghosts, go to Ghosts or Madness?: Turn of the Screw (2009)

For more Non-Austen Films for Austen Fans, go to You Have Thirteen Hours in Which to Solve the Labyrinth, Before Your Baby Brother Becomes One of Us…Forever.: Labyrinth (1986)

For more from Catherine Morland’s Viewing List, go to A Legendary Jewel Goes Missing, A Country Manor Full Of Secretive People, Which Guest is the Thief?: The Moonstone (2016)

The Return of the List: Catherine Morland’s Viewing List, Part II

I year ago it was Friday the 13th and all I could think about was watching scary movies. While I did I started thinking what movies would Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney like if they were real and lived today? I decided to put together a list of 30 film recommendations that our girl Catherine Morland or boy Henry Tilney would most certainly love!

This is a continuation from the original, Catherine Morland’s Viewing List and will be another great 30 Gothic films or films with Gothic components. For those who are wondering what classifies something as a Gothic, here is the definition.

Gothic fiction, which is largely known by the subgenre of Gothic horror, is a genre or mode of literature and film that combines fiction and horror, death, and at times romance.

Any films I have already reviewed that fit for this list I will just list and link here, while any future film I review I will add a little note as to why it belongs on this list. I have 10 years worth of horror film reviews from my annual October Horrorfest, but I’m not sure how many of those will be on here. For now I’m going to put on the ones I have recently re-edited, and then will be adding more as time goes by. If you are looking for recommendations, be sure to check back later, and if you have a suggestion be sure to comment below!

I Bid You Welcome: Dracula (1931)

Even a Man Pure of Heart: The Wolf Man (1941)

Because I Am Mad, I Hate You. Because I Am Mad, I Have Betrayed You: Gaslight (1944)

If Only It Was the Picture Who was to Grow Old, and I Remain Young: The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

What’s Your Favorite Scary Movie?: Scream (1996)

That Video…is Not of This World: Ringu (1998)

For more movie lists, go to Non-Austen Films for Austen Fans

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)