Jawbreaker

It's been ten years since Michael Lehmann's Heathers had its definitively witty say about homicide and high school slut queens. Jawbreaker isn't in that master class, but writer-director Darren Stein, 26, does add merrily and maliciously to the conversation. From the moment that Rose McGowan - who should become the star she deserves to be after this - opens her trash mouth as Reagan High's ruling bitch, Courtney Shayne, Jawbreaker announces itself as a deliciously depraved delight. McGowan's boyfriend, Marilyn Manson, billed as Brian Warner, even shows up for a droll cameo in which he fucks her from behind while the camera discovers a dead girl under the bed.

Ah, the dead girl. That needs some explaining. She is Liz Purr (Charlotte Roldan), the hottest chick in the Reagan henhouse, which includes Courtney, Julie Freeman (Rebecca Gayheart) and Marcie Fox (Julie Benz). Liz's three friends have tied her up, gagged her with a jawbreaker and duct tape, and put her in the trunk of a car. No harm intended; the girls are fond of doing unconventional things like kidnapping each other for their birthdays. How could they know that Liz would choke on the jawbreaker and expire? ''She's dead, OK. Do you know what this means?'' says Courtney. ''That you're a shoo-in for prom queen,'' says Marcie. A concerned Julie wants to call 911, but Courtney figures that the only sensible thing is to drag Liz back to her bedroom and make her death look like the result of a kinky S&M thing.

The fly in the ointment is Fern Mayo (Judy Evans Greer), the school wall-flower who discovers the scheme. There's only one way to stop Fern from finking to detective Vera Cruz (the ever-cool Pam Grier). That's right - a makeover. Fern is soon the vivacious Vylette and ready to take on Courtney.

Stein mixes every teen genre, from horror to musical, with sly dexterity and casts actors who appeared in those movies. There's William Katt and P.J. Soles from Carrie, Jeff Conaway from Grease and Carol Kane from When a Stranger Calls. Stein also enjoys tweaking gender stereotypes. Courtney asks a boy toy to suck on a popsicle to show her how he wants his dick licked. Basically, he's giving himself head. Jawbreaker is only Stein's second movie, but his roguish talent for sweet carnal candy is unmistakable and addictive.

From The Archives Issue 807: March 4, 1999