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Back away from Heathers: an open letter to the people rebooting 80s films


With the TV series of cult 80s film Heathers gathering pace, contributing editor Amy Swales writes a balanced, considered and not at all OTT response to the popularity of remakes, reboots, sequels and prequels of 80s and 90s favourites.

Dear the people in charge at Hollywood,

You there. Hollywood type. You’re rich. You’re fancy. So rich and fancy that every day is a struggle to know what exactly to spend your mountains of movie cash on. What do you like the look of today, rich and fancy? Another home in the Hills? A replacement convertible for Hollywood Type Jr to write off? A new course of injectable poison to ensure those eyebrows stay where they’re goddamned put?

How about steamrollering over a generation’s precious memories with wild abandon, cackling as you throw dollars at people too weak of will and small of bank account to refuse your whims?

You’ve got away with too much for too long, and now you’re inching toward Heathers. Heathers!

Please tell me – precisely – just what is your damage?

You’ve ordered a pilot of the 1988 film, to be set in the present day. What did we ever do to you? We, the Ryder fans, the Slater fanciers, we the lone and the awkward. You want to come in here with your reboots and your remakes and take Heathers from us?


Winona Ryder and Christian Slater in Heathers

Oh, it’s just a pilot. Oh, it’s for TV. It’s completely different and isn’t a proper remake. But this is only the beginning, we know. This is the first step in a walk that will end off a cliff, end in a feature-length reimagining starring Zac Efron and Chloe Moretz and that just won’t do.

How often these things are messed up by being made slicker (Carrie), being utterly rubbish (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), how often you cry and wail on your beds made of banknotes, in your baths of Champagne, why, oh why don’t we love the things we loved back then in this shiny new film full of money, oh why?

Because you can’t recreate context, dead-eyed film-makers, that’s why! You can’t recreate the space and time of a particular decade and a point in your childhood, the exact moment in life when school makes you feel as lonely as Martha Dumptruck, when Angela Chase says everything you’re thinking and when you’re confused because you know you’d let the Goblin King kidnap you but you’re not really sure why, and did that feel like a sneeze only better?

Read more: Are you ready for the new Dirty Dancing film?

We love these films and we watch them now but they’re firmly in the past. Did you think that because we loved how different and cool Sex and the City was in 1998 that years later we wanted two whole films of Carrie banging on about the same old shit and a TV series about how she came to be so bloody selfish and whiny in the first place? (NB that’s what it’s probably about, though there’s no public record anyone has been able to bring themselves to watch it to check.)

You rampant pirates with gold shining in your eyes, you shamelessly plunder all that’s pure and true, and the most painful thing is that’s it’s probably our own damn fault.

We watched those terrible SATC films out of curiosity. We’ll check out the Dirty Dancing remake because we’re aching to sing along. You’re cashing in on our insatiable appetite for nostalgia and it surely can’t long before the whole thing eats itself with ‘Remember these toys you loved yesterday?’ and ‘See what the stars of Stranger Things looked like 10 seconds ago!’ (spoiler: THE SAME) and ‘THIS FILM THAT HASN’T EVEN BEEN BORN YET WILL MAKE YOU FEEL OLD’.


You remind me of the babe. What babe? The babe with the power. What power?

This must stop before the truly sacred is messed with. Are we trundling toward rebooted Willow set in space? Labyrinth, complete with a Jareth who can handle his own glass balls rather than very obviously employ a man to do it for him just out of shot? What fresh hell awaits Mannequin, for the love of God?

So hear this plea from a woman on the edge, a woman clutching her sad DVDs (cough VHS library cough) to her sad chest and softly wailing, “Mine, all mine, yes I know Little Shop of Horrors was a remake itself but that doesn’t count”.

To those like me, those who fear the changed and the new and the iPads in Tossed, I say this: films slated for remakes in the next few years include The NeverEnding Story, Flight of the Navigator, The Craft, Jumanji and Short Circuit. And Heathers, my friends, is a shot across the bow. By creeping along with a TV show, they’re gearing up for an all-out attack.

We must join together, an army of grumps. We must stand. And we must fight.

Remember: WE are the viewers. WE are in control. WE are the ones who wear the red scrunchie. (Except only I do because only there’s only one, sorry.)


Amy Swales

PS. If you need me, I’ll be playing Barbies with Betty Finn.

Images: Rex Features


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