Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Film Recaps: Flowers In the Attic (1987)

Happy New Year, readers!

Considering what a cult phenomenon the original Andrews books were at their peak, it amazes me that they only ever had one major media tie-in.  Oh, the idea gets shuffled around now and then--there was a plan to film the Landry Saga as a television series, and the Rain thing happened--but nothing ever seemed to come of it until recently, when, out of nowhere, Lifetime announced the forthcoming remake.

There's a lot of potential factors for this long delay.  Andrews was notoriously reclusive.  Marketing might have forced her to deal more with the public than she cared to.  She also seems to have been as protective of her intellectual properties as she was of her privacy; it's known she demanded script approval and that she went through five scripts before selecting the one that eventually got produced She did not, however, reject the treatment by Wes Craven; that was someone else's bad decision.  You can read the Craven script here, where it is available courtesy of the amazingly vast Complete V.C. Andrews site.   It has incest!*
Finally, the immediate aftermath of Andrews' death was fraught with so much red tape that perhaps no one wanted to touch the mess.

In the end, someone did film an Andrews novel.  Just one.  And it was panned so solidly that no one dared mention its name again.

Warning: this review is very long and very gif-heavy, because give me an avi of FITA and a copy of Photoshop and I just can't stop.

The movie begins with slow lingering shots over the dark and dismal mass that is Foxworth Hall.  A single spooky "ahh-ahh-ahh" vocalist accompanies us as we explore the grounds and statuary (wait, how'd we get to Paul's backyard?), before zooming to the dusty attic.  Paper flowers dangle from the rafters on strings.  We have a voiceover from Adult!Cathy because God knows we couldn't have gotten through this thing without a reminder of Cathy's deathless narration. 

"Grandmother's house," says narrator!Cathy.  "Though it's been many years since I last saw it, I'll always remember that my first impression was one of fear and wonder."  The camera focuses on a dusty family portrait--Chris Sr, Corrine, and the kids--before segueing to the same portrait in happier times.

"My mother and father were the center of my universe when I was young," says narrator!Cathy, "and I always wanted to grow up to be just like Mom."  The camera moves slowly over Corrine, who is staring in a frozen, waxen, entirely unnatural way into a hand mirror (see, because later she turns out to be self-centered! this is all foreshadowing!) while Cathy--played by the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer Kristy Swanson--watches with shining eyes, as if drinking in the secrets of femininity.  Narrator!Cathy tells us that "the whole family was really close."  I'm not sure if that's supposed to be foreshadowing or not.

We cut to Cathy bursting into Chris's room to tell him that their dad's home.  The two older kids rush to snag the twins.  Cathy and Chris seem to be roughly the same age here, maybe sixteen, while the twins could be about six or seven.  Anyway the important thing here is that Cory has the most amazing blond-fro.

The actor who plays him is now 35 and has a Facebook.  He's very attractive.  I'm pretty sure he doesn't want anyone reminding him of this role.

The four kids hide behind the sofa and wait for Daddy to open the door before they all rush out, shrieking and laughing.  The scene is way over-the-top and treacly, which is saying something considering they even left out the horrid "Come greet me with kisses if you love me!" line.

Later that night, Daddy creeps into Cathy's room after the other kids have gone to bed.  Oh stop it, you perves.  This isn't that kind of movie.  It never gets to be that kind of movie, which is part of the reason why it fails on every conceivable level.  He brings her a ballerina music box** that plays the soundtrack.  "Dad never let me forget that I was his favorite," says Narrator!Cathy.

She'll come back to haunt us when I post the review of PIN.
But from the doorway behind daddy and daughter, Corrine watches and glares in jealous disapproval.

More like GLOWERS in the Attic, am I right?

We cut to a later date.  Corrine is laying out the makings of a birthday party when Cathy comes in bearing a chocolate cake, complaining, "Mother, how should I arrange these candles?  I can have six rows of six or three rows of twelve or just one big circle of thirty-six all around the cake."

"What happened to two rows of eighteen?" snarks Chris.  "Couldn't figure that one out?"  Because Chris is consistently a condescending douche, no matter what medium in which his story is told.  Also, Chris is referred to by his full name, Christopher, by all the other characters in this film.  Why? Look, it's a little early to be questioning the screenwriter's decisions here.  That comes later.

Before Cathy can slam Chris's smarmy face into the cake, the twins burst in. The twins are portrayed exactly as they are in the novel, which only demonstrates how unlike real children they actually are.  In incredibly shrill voices, the twins ask if they can taste the cake.  "And give Dad a cake that looks like a mouse has been nibbling on it?" asks Chris.  FORESHADOWING. 

Car lights flash across the window and all four kids rush to the sofa to do their ritual jump-out-and-cheer routine for their father's arrival.  It is, of course, not their father, but the state troopers.  Corrine, stunned, steps out to the porch to talk to them. The children do not hear this conversation, but the haunting music-box soundtrack ominously winds down and Cathy raises her hands, grabs two fistfuls of her hair, and lets out a big dramatic "NOOOOOOOOOOO!"

Also, we are exactly five minutes into this movie.  The book took twelve whole pages to knock off Daddy.  This thing sprints right along!

In the next scene, the house has been swept bare.  Apparently the repo men left nothing but a chair and Cathy's music box.  The movie, at least, is kind enough to imply that Corrine was so overwhelmed by grief that she wasn't able to keep the house going alone, rather than the novel's explanation of her being a useless decorative bitch.

On a Greyhound bus somewhere in the darkness, Cathy asks Corrine why the kids were never told before about their grandparents.  Corrine explains that it was because they were never penniless before.  Now that her father is dying, she is determined to win back his love and make him forgive her for the mysterious thing that caused him to disinherit her many years ago.  "Through me," says Corrine, "every dream you've ever had will come true."

Cathy and Chris, alone in their bus seats, talk about death.  Cathy complains that Mom and Dad never let them have a pet that might have prepared them for the death of their father.  This is basically the same speech she gives in the novel, except that listening to someone say this aloud, especially with Ms. Swanson's overblown dramatics in the mix, makes it tooth-grindingly plain just what a horrible, horrible idea this was.  Even the actor playing Chris looks completely baffled, as if he can't think of how he's supposed to respond to such a blatantly incongruous outburst.

Also Cathy's hat in this scene is incredible.

The family hops off the bus and, under cover of ten in the morning, trudges across acres of lawn toward the previously established dark and dismal mass that is Foxworth Hall, where they are met by the soundtrack, along with about three other people including the groundskeeper (and his watchdogs) and John the Butler.

Wait, John?  John Amos?  John "Bangs the Maid on the Sofa While Spilling the Beans About the Poisoned Doughnuts" Amos?  John "Olivia's Cousin" Amos?  John "Marries Corrine in the Third Book" Amos?  The credits list him as John Hall, but whatever, he's John Amos.

Oh, and I don't mean the butler happens to glance out a window and spot them.  I mean he greets them at the door and Corrine introduces all the kids by name and he carries up their fucking luggage.  Well I suppose this explains how he knew all about the doughnuts.

Cory, at least, is nice enough, or possibly simple enough, to greet John politely in return. Normally I wouldn't mention this, except that the movie's going to try to make it poignant later.


Yes.  Somehow this awful pissdribble of a movie suckered no less than Academy Award-winning actress Louise "Big Nurse" Fletcher into playing the grandmother.  She plays this role with red hair and lipstick and some nicely trim ankles.  My love of Louise Fletcher makes me dearly wish I could tell you that she's the best thing going in this movie . . . but sadly, the best thing going in this movie is still Cory's hair.

Big Nurse leads them upstairs to their room, which is a lot larger and more airy than impression the book left: acres of floor space, well-proportioned furnishings, two double beds, a full-sized dining table .  And a fireplace.  Okay, movie, that seems to be a rather odd thing to have in a room where you plan on leaving four unaccompanied minors on their lonesome for 80% of the time, but maybe they're filming on location and couldn't hide it from the camera?  Whatever, I'll stop nitpicking.

Corrine starts getting the twins ready for bed when Big Nurse shuts her down.  "The boys will sleep in one bed, the girls in the other."  Carrie protests that she wants to sleep with Cory, but Big Nurse tells her to quit her bitchin', explaining that as long as the kids are under this house, they'll behave themselves and not whine or yell, and that when they leave, they're locking the door behind them.  Corrine repeats the instructions in a nicer--and infinitely more nervous--tone, stressing especially that the kids should never ever give their grandmother a reason to punish them.

The last person who crossed Big Nurse.

Also can I just mention that the costuming in this movie is very . . . 80s?  Corrine is sporting some linebacker shoulderpads, lemme tell you.

Chris assures Corrine that they'll be fine, but Cathy is suspicious about why Mom is crying, and also probably because of that warning about not making the grandmother angry.  With one last contemptuous sneer, Big Nurse shuts the door, taking Corrine and John the Butler with her.  Did I mention John the Butler's been here the whole time?  Because he has.  Cathy runs to check the door, which, as promised, is locked.

Chris immediately tries to lighten the mood, telling the kids that this won't be so bad and that Big Nurse can't possibly be as cruel as she seems.  He trots to the windows and opens the curtains (even though they're about to go to sleep) but iron bars prevent him from letting light into the room.  Carrie sucks her thumb while Cory strokes her hair in a preternaturally mature and contextually creepy gesture of comfort.

The next morning later that afternoon the same day--the time transitions are a little weird--John wheels a silver service cart into the kids' bedroom (really, John?  Up four flights of stairs, John?  None of the other servants noticed, John?) followed by Big Nurse and her trim ankles and her Bible.  I can't help but note that there seems to be a pretty nice spread on this cart: three large domed silver trays and a pitcher of OJ and two bottles of milk.  Big Nurse opens the door, waking the kids.  She then walks back outside, leaving the door wide open for any ambitious kid who wants to pull a runner, and wheels in the cart.  After setting out the food on the table--which appears to seat six, just so you know--she sloooooooowly wheels the cart back out to the hall, again with door wide open.  The kids just sit there in bed, tousled and blinking.

About fifteen minutes later, Big Nurse reenters the room and, apropos of nothing, delivers the Grandmother's big "God Sees Everything" speech from the book.  Since the book reports that she repeats this speech constantly, it's nice they got it in here, but . . . at least when she gave it in the book, there was some context?

Closing the door (finally!), Big Nurse asks if the children know why their mother was disinherited.  All Cory knows is that he has to go to the bathroom.  Or in this case, the "baffwoom."  Big Nurse tells him to man up and hold it.  When Cathy protests that he's just a little boy, Big Nurse is all like "Bitch, what did I just say?" and it's kind of awesome.  Big Nurse goes on to tell them that their mother's marriage was a sacrilege, an abomination in the eyes of God, and that the children are the Devil's Spawn.

Cathy runs for the door, screaming that she's going to get her mother, but John the Butler is blocking the door in a rather ineffectual jump-scare.  She meekly creeps back into bed with Carrie.

Big Nurse tells them flat out that their mother married her own uncle and that the grandfather will never be told of the children's existence, since Big Nurse wishes to spare him the final shame of knowing of his daughter's incest-babies.  She then flounces out.  The instant the door shuts behind her, Cory, clearly a man with priorities, literally flings himself over two beds and races to the toilet.  I . . . I think they're actually trying to make Cory the comic relief here.  Boy, that's going to cut both ways when this movie gets around to killing him off.

Elsewhere in Foxworth Hall, we see John the Butler ascending a narrow stair, bearing a black doctor's bag.  In another room, Big Nurse paces while Corrine stands slowly undressing at the foot of the grandfather's bed.  Yes, yes!  This is the incesty goodness this movie demands!  Corrine peels back her blouse, and we cut to a close-up on the grandfather's face.  He's clearly upset, tears standing in his eyes.  Wait . . . what are you doing here, Movie?  Are you trying to pin all these shenanigans on the grandmother and make the grandfather into a mute, helpless, bedridden bystander?  Because as I recall, he was right in there pitching.  Big Nurse opens the black bag and unfurls a bullwhip that looks to be about forty feet long.

We are mercifully spared the beating itself, but for a single crack.  I've already discussed the real0life aftermath of such a brutal whipping in my analysis of this scene in the book.  Suffice it to say, the book parted ways with reality a long, long time ago and it seems useless to hold the film to a higher standard.  Mostly, I'm just trying to figure out how to swing a whip that long in a room that small without knocking over furniture.

Upstairs, the kids are trying to make the best of things--Chris reads, Carrie plays with her rag doll, Cory colors, and Cathy sets her fragile ballerina sculpture precariously on the very edge of the marble fireplace mantel where the grandmother will be certain to sweep it off in a moment of wanton cruelty--when Corrine limps in, weeping.  Squealing, the younger kids jump up and wrap their strong little arms tightly around her bleeding back and shoulders and squeeze just as hard as they can, for they are innocent and cannot see their mother's agony.  Chris and Cathy, however, are sentient enough to realize something's wrong.

Before anything can be explained, Big Nurse slams in and demands Corrine shut the brats up.  The music suddenly gets heavy with portent.  Little Carrie hops down from her mother's arms, balls up her little fists, sticks out her little chin, marches straight to Big Nurse's feet and lets out an ear-splitting shriek.

Big Nurse grabs both sides of the kid's head and picks her up by the ears since that is guaranteed to make a child stop screaming.  Cory drops to the floor, scurries over, and takes a big ol' chomp out of the grandmother's shapely ankle.  The music wants me to believe this is a tense, scary scene, but really, it's hilarious.

Meanwhile Corrine and the older kids stand well out of the way and say helpful things like "no" and "make her stop" and "please".

Once the hellions are suitably cowed and under control, Big Nurse demands that Corrine take off her shirt and show her children what happens to people who bite ankles in Foxworth Hall.  Corrine makes a half-hearted threat of "if you're cruel to my children, I'll take them away tonight" to which Big Nurse replies "lol, don't let the doorknob hit you on the way out" and Corrine relents and takes off her shirt to reveal her horrifying third-rate special effects make-up.  The movie, to its credit, only gave her seventeen lashes, as opposed to the novel's fifty, thus upping the chance that she might have actually survived the whipping, so it's got that going for it.

Let me be clear: this movie, which is so over-the-top I can see five states from its summit, had to tone down the original plot for the sake of believability.  This will not be the last time it does so.

On that chilling note, Big Nurse departs, leaving the kids to clean up the bleeding permanently scarred never-wearing-a-backless-evening-gown-again-not-even-fifteen-years-later mother.  Future Medical Doctor Chris takes Corrine into the bathroom to clean her injuries.  "They hurt you, Mom," he says, in a tone that suggests that he is dissatisfied with the quality of service at his local Subway.  "I hate them for that."

Before leaving, Corrine explains that in the back of the closet is a door to the attic that can be their "special place."  Then she locks them in for the night.  Cathy and Chris stand there a moment, baffled, before Cathy asks Chris the following bizarre and inexplicable question:


Cathy goes into the bathroom and begins undressing, while Chris drops trow in the main room.  We get a flash of Chris's boxer-briefs and a good long lingering look at Cathy in her bra.  This is about as close as this movie gets to the whole incest thing, so drink it in.  As if to underscore it, the kids have a conversation through the bathroom door about what would happen if an uncle got it on with his niece.  The twins are already asleep in one bed, so Cathy and Chris take the other.

Next morning we see powdered sugar wafting down upon four enormous cookies before John the Butler picks them up and puts them on the morning breakfast cart.  And yes, yes, I know, they're supposed to be doughnuts, but my first thought was "wow, those are homemade death-cookies.  I figured they were just some prepackaged shit from the mini-mart, but no.  You actually baked a batch of four cookies specifically to poison these kids.  That's stone-cold right there.  Who bakes just four cookies?  That'd be way too suspicious.  She probably baked a couple dozen and just ate the rest, because you can't bake that many cookies and then put them in a Tupperware boz labelled 'Property of Olivia Foxworth; Do Not Touch' or something.  Anyway if she baked a full batch of death-cookies and doled them out four per day, they'd get stale before she delivered them all.  I guess she wouldn't really care if the kids were eating stale cookies, though.  I mean, with all the lukewarm soup and nasty-ass potato salad she's feeding them already, stale cookies are par for the course.  Also if I ever start a band I'm naming it Death Cookie.  That would rock" and then I realized that my brain was trying to save me from watching the rest of the film by distracting me with death-cookie logic.

By the time Big Nurse arrives upstairs with breakfast and death-cookies, the kids have all woken up, dressed, and piled onto one bed, because incest might be a thing but wild underage sibling foursomes never crossed her mind.  As soon as she's gone, the kids leap off the bed and go to look for the attic stairs.  Cathy grabs some sandwiches to take with them while Cory carefully gathers up the enormous death-cookies one by one in his tiny hands and they are seriously as big as his face.  This are some big damn cookies, is what I'm saying.  No one should be starving with cookies that large.

They reach the attic and are astonished to find that they basically threw the entire prop department up here.  There's creepy hobby horses and creepy statuary and trunks full of antique clothes.  Here, the windows open to let in air and sunlight, but there's still bars on the outside.

We have a short attic-cleaning montage to indicate the passage of time, though it's hard to determine how much time, which is one of the major problem in this movie.  My guess would be a few weeks to a month.  Narrator!Cathy tells us that it's been enough time for Corrine to stop visiting altogether.  They try to focus on the future--Cathy practices her dancing, Chris studies--because it is the only way they can survive.  The Mattress makes a momentary appearance.  I can almost imagine all the fangirls in the theater when this originally ran, sucking in their breath in delirious anticipation when that mattress came onscreen because we all know what happened on that mattress.  This movie has never heard of Chekhov's Gun.

The children sit on the mattress, making their paper flowers to decorate the attic and oh my goodness there's Cory's snail.  LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE HAVE SNAIL  We even get Chris's pretentious little speech about antennae versus feelers and Cathy's reply about how if she and Cory wanted a douchebag, they'd go to the drugstore and it's kind of the best thing that's happened since Cory's hair.

Carrie, who hasn't had a lot to say in this movie, points out that if they went outside they'd have real grass and real flowers and real snails, and wants to know why Mama doesn't like them anymore.  Chris tells them that they have to sacrifice now for Mama's sake, but that later, they'll have plenty of time to live and enjoy.  As he says this, the camera cuts to Cory's sweet trusting cherubic face.  FORESHADOWING.

But the next scene cuts to a disturbingly tight shot of Chris's blue-jeaned ass as he taps on the bathroom door for a conference with Cathy, who's in the tub.  Chris is worried that Corrine may be ill, or that the grandparents have locked her up somewhere the way the kids were locked up.  Cathy says that there's no way to know until Corrine comes back again.  See, this is an odd dynamic--in the novel, Cathy was the one constantly concerned about every strange thing and trying to plan for any possible contingency, and Chris was the one telling her that there was nothing they could do.  Here, Chris is already examining the bars in the attic window to see if there's any way to get out.

Chris leaves Cathy in the bath and goes to move Carrie back to her own bed.  But Carrie wants to sleep with Cory, and Chris doesn't have the heart to say no.  This goes as well as you'd expect the following morning, when Big Nurse arrives with the breakfast cart to find incestuous bed-sharing going on all over.  Instead of pulling out the bullwhip and the bucket of tar, she orders them all out of bed.  She deliberately catches Cathy's eye, then casually flicks the ballerina music box off the mantel in slow motion where it falls to the floor and shatters LIKE CATHY'S HEART.

And Cathy gets her second big "NOOOOOOOO!" of the movie:

And you know what, Movie?  I get you.

Toward the end of this review, we're going to be talking a little about who the audience for this movie--and by extension, all V.C. Andrews novels--really is, and this scene serves as shorthand for that.

V.C. Andrews is for adolescent girls.  I say this as someone who sincerely adores these books.  When these books started appearing the YA section, I was totally not surprised.  Stripped of the bad sex and the bad dialogue and the incest, these books speak to very explicit adolescent fears, particularly the control adults have over children and the primal fear of what happens when the adults are dangerous.  And as someone who regularly personal possessions destroyed or taken away as a gesture of power by some dangerous adults, this scene hits me in the ugly feels.  Removing, and in particular destroying, a beloved object sends a very specific message: I can do this to you too.  I can take away or destroy any part of you that does not suit me.  You will have no pleasures that do not proceed from my good will.  Which, on a practical level, is absolutely true.  Kids own nothing and are entirely dependent on adults.

And yet, we're reading Flowers in the Attic, where adults can and do withhold food.  And safety.  And sunlight.  And where attempting to procure those things for oneself is expressly forbidden and will result in more punishment.  You are helpless and trapped and the only people who can keep you alive are unpredictable and incomprehensible monsters.

But I promised no personal stuff.  Back to the story:

Sometime after the ballerina incident--Chris says "weeks" although it's hard to tell what he's referring to--Cathy and Chris stand at their one open-but-barred attic window..  Chris says he has an escape plan and that tonight, he and Cathy will try to get out, find their mother, and learn what's been going on all this time.   The plan: he and Cathy are going to chip loose one of the iron bars on the attic window, then bend it enough to squeeze through.

Using the rope from Cory's swing, they climb down the roof.  With thunder in the distance, Chris makes his way to the ground, and Cathy starts to follow.  But the groundskeeper, who is . . . somewhere, suddenly throws on the security lamps, and the guard dogs surround Chris, who sprints back up the rope.  The "ahh-ahh-ahh" music bears down as the groundskeeper approaches with a shotgun.

Really bad lightning effects flash dramatically.  I am not nitpicking.  These are the worst lightning effects I've ever seen.  Flashbulbs on a matte painting.  It is seriously one of those things that make you aware that this movie doesn't care at all.

Chris makes it back to the roof, but there's a steep slope across the shingles to the attic window where Cathy is waiting (and helpfully shouting things like "come on!" and "hurry, Christopher!").  Because the movie fails to generate enough tension, we cut to his hands, now struggling to hang onto the slippery rain-soaked rope!  Tight shot of the rope itself, fraying!  It snaps, and Chris slides back down to the edge of the roof, sending a security light flying and the groundskeeper is closer, closer, and the guard dogs are baying.  Chris tosses the rope back up to Cathy, who ties it to some ornamental railing and helps to haul her brother back to safety, leaving the groundskeeper to pick up the broken security light and glare, cheated, as the end of the rope is pulled back up.

Morning breaks.  The camera gives us an establishing shot of the house as if to say, yep, we're still here and HOLY SMOKES THERE'S THE AUTHOR:

And you know what?  I'm not even going to snark on this.  This is a nice gesture.  These books meant a lot to Andrews.  Considering she died before this film was released, it's sweet and a little sad that she got to play even a tiny part in seeing her dream on the big screen.  She ended up a maid in the fictional house that she built.  Read into that what you will.

Corrine tiptoes into the room, looking late-80s glamorous in a silver satin casual dress and freshly permed hair.  Oh yes.  Such things existed in the 80s.  The twins jump all over her and show her what they've done with the attic.  Corrine congratulates Cathy and Chris on how happy they've kept the twins.  Cathy tells her flatly that the twins are happy to see their mother, not happy to be in this attic.  Corrine draws the two older kids aside and berates them for nearly ruining "my plan--our plan" by trying to escape.  This sort of hints that this scene is taking place the morning after the escape attempt, but there's still no way to be sure.

Cathy fires off that the twins aren't healthy anymore.  They need fresh air and sunshine, and they need to be in school.  Corrine gives them a choice: the grandfather won't last the month.  They can leave today, or they can wait a few weeks longer and gain the fortune they've by now earned through their suffering.  Chris thinks this is a fine idea, but Cathy is clearly skeptical.

Meanwhile, Cory captures a mouse in the attic.  For legal reasons, he names it Fred.

Downstairs, Corrine reads Psalms 119 to her father.  He reaches out to brush her hair with tenderness.  But from the doorway, Big Nurse watches and disapproves.  Man, can no one in this movie have a moment with their dad without someone perving on them?

The twin point out that someone put up more bars in a crosshatch over the attic window.  They assume Chris must have done it, but they don't understand why.  Except for the logistics of how someone sneaked up and installed these bars without the kids noticing, I have nothing mean to say about this scene either.  The real implication--that the twins now believe Cathy and Chris are responsible for everything that happens in their small world--is, for once, subtly done and not overly spelled out.

We then cut to . . . Kristy Swanson's body double's taut, naked midriff.  The camera is barely a hand-tremor above her pubic mound.  Oh boy.  Cathy, nude, lowers herself into a steaming bath.  Her legs make ballet positions under the water.  She raises one slick leg straight up and glides her hands down it.  From this imagery plus the narration--adult!Cathy talks about escaping to a hot bath and her fantasies of romance--I believe the movie is strongly implying that she's masturbating.  In which case BAD MOVIE.  BAD, BAD, NAUGHTY MOVIE.  STOP SEXUALIZING THE UNDERAGE ACTRESS. 

Chris taps on the door and slips in to talk to Cathy about Mom.  Immediately, Big Nurse sneaks up behind Chris and barks "Sinners!"  I hope she's talking to the director.

Chris turns on Big Nurse and is all "bitch, where do you get off on calling us sinners?  Do you expect to live day after day in one room and not see each other?" No, but at sixteen years old I expect you to know that BATHROOM TIME IS PRIVATE TIME, CHRIS.  There's living in close quarters and then there's . . . whatever the hell you two do.

But Chris is on a roll, getting right up in Big Nurse's face and backing her out of the room.  "You locked us in!  You want to catch us doing something you can call evil.  Look at you in your black dress and your fancy jewels and your pinched face.  We're not afraid of you.  We laugh at you.  You hear that?  We laugh!  Get out!  Out, out!"

Once Big Nurse is vanquished, Chris sobers up and realizes what he's done.  "Mom won't let her hurt us, Cathy," he says.  "If we have to, we'll barricade the door or hide in the attic."

Cathy, who for the record is still trembling in the bathtub, tells him she's scared.  It's one of those moments where you kind of realize that the movie makes Chris seem the main protagonist.  In spite of being the narrator, Cathy spends most of her time reacting to things Chris does and helping him with his plans.  This was sort of a problem in the books, too, but being in Cathy's head the whole time made it a little less obvious--even if Cathy wasn't doing anything, she was analyzing the situation.  The movie, lacking that interior level, inadvertently turns into being all about Chris, since he's the only one who actually does anything.

Night comes.  We see the groundskeeper headed out into the mist with his shotgun, Big Nurse walking upstairs with her Bible, and Chris awaking to find Cory missing.  He checks the bathroom first since this movie has established that Cory's bladder is thimble-sized.  Finding nothing, all the kids race up to the attic to search.  Eventually Cory is found, unharmed, sleeping in a laundry basket.  "Fwed got out.  I hadda catch him again," he explains.  Welp, there's this film's answer to the Cory-accidentally-locking-himself-in-a-trunk scene.  That was a waste of dramatic music.

But the movie has other plans. 

Cathy heads back down to the bedroom, ahead of the other children, where she is grabbed by Big Nurse.  Big Nurse locks the attic door.  Already this plan has a lot of contingencies.  She had to count on the mouse escaping in the middle of the night, Cory waking in the middle of the night, Cory going up to check on the mouse in the middle of the night, Cory falling asleep in the attic, Chris waking to notice Cory was gone, and Cathy being the first one to leave the attic.

While Chris pounds helplessly on the attic door, Big Nurse flings Cathy to the bed, takes a pair of scissors from the mantel, and hacks off Cathy's hair.  Know why?  BECAUSE NOT EVEN THIS MOVIE COULD EXPLAIN WHY ANYONE WOULD HAVE A BUCKET OF TAR JUST LYING AROUND.  Big Nurse might have been able to carefully choreograph the mouse escape, but the tar was a bridge too far.

Finally, the attic door is unlocked.  Chris exits just in time to see one of two truly effective shots in the film: the grandmother's skirt silently sweeping against the door as it closes behind her.

Cathy is curled in the corner of the bathroom, sobbing.  To be fair, Cathy's response is "Why is Mother doing this to us?" which again, brings the issue back to their mother's failure to protect them, rather than her vanity over her hair, so point to the screenwriter.  And hey, at least it wasn't a frontal lobotomy!

Chris trims Cathy's hair into a sort of Anne-Hathaway-as-Fantine 'do.

As usual, Chris makes excuses for their mother, saying that she couldn't know the grandmother had done this.

Downstairs, John the Butler wheels the grandfather to the dinner table, where, to be fair, Corrine looks completely miserable and uncomfortable.  Big Nurse, on the other hand, is wearing a glittering gown and diamond earrings and basically looks ten feet tall and fabulous.

Upstairs, it's a different story.  The grandmother failed to bring any food that day.  Chris again assures the twins with his sweet, sweet lies that food is on the way, while he tries to glue Cathy's ballerina back together.  By now, the kids are wearing some seriously overdone white pancake make-up.  Like, Paul Bettany in The Da Vinci Code make-up.  Why is it that whenever this movie goes for "dramatic," they always overshoot the mark and end up somewhere in "hilarious"? 
Downstairs again, Corrine receives from her father a pink evening gown with which she is presumably delighted, shortly before the arrival of a gentleman caller.  This is Bart Winslow, who looks . . . kind of like vampire Michael Landon.  Big black highly permed 80s hair and cheekbones like the handles on a sugar bowl.  No moustache.

Big Nurse stands in the background and disapproves, as do I.  Hmph!  No moustache indeed!

In the attic, the children are so weak from hunger that narrator!Cathy is forced to take over:  "Starved for both sunlight and food, our faces became pale and our bodies thin.  When Grandmother stopped feeding us, little Cory became very sick.  Every day we watched him grow weaker and weaker."  And this is why the narrator doesn't work here.  She's narrating stuff we can clearly see.  She's like me, only at least I'm providing a service in that you don't actually have to watch the film.

Watching his baby brother starving and listless, Chris has had enough.  He goes to the bathroom and sterilizes a razor blade over a . . . um.  I beg your pardon, sir.  Who gave you matches?  Who the FUCK gives a bunch of kids with a grudge against their keepers, an attic full of dried and dusty furniture, and nothing to lose a box of matches?   This is almost worse than the chemistry set!  Anyway, he sterilizes a razor blade, slices open his forearm, and gives it to Cory to drink, much to Cathy's horror.

As Cory guzzles his elder brother's life essence like Claudia from Interview with the Vampire--same hair too--Chris tells Cathy that he has another escape plan.  Later that evening, they knock the bolts out of the door-hinges with a screwdriver and a hammer . . . you have matches and tools?  You used a chisel to bust out of the window in the attic earlier!  Did no one think to check the place for potential escape tools or potential weapons before they put you in here?  Look around!  Maybe you'll find a revolver so that the next time you get out, you can shoot the guard dogs and the groundskeeper!  Problem solved!

This movie, y'all.

I'm sorry.  I'll continue.

The kids slip out of the room and down the stairs, though it's a little unclear what they're searching for--a door? a telephone? their mother? maybe just some food?  At any rate, what they find is a regal bedroom.  The camera jumps to reveal . . . the infamous swan bed in all its opulence.

A freaking custom headboard?  Are you kidding me?

Call me silly, but I always imagined that the swan bed was swan-shaped.  As in, it looked like an enormous white swan with an oval bed nestled in its back.  That's the whole point of having a swan bed.  It's supposed to look like something that sailed straight off a carousel.  Observe:

That is a swan bed.  It is huge and gaudy and tasteless and decadent and Lord Almighty how I want one.  That is a bed that screams "I have too much money and not enough principles."  That is the bed you kill your children for.

Chris finds their mother's bracelet lying on a dressing table, confirming that this is indeed her bedroom.  Cathy, plainly furious that their mother is letting her children suffer for a cheap swan-bed knock-off, goes into her mother's walk-in closet, ripping the dozens of late-80s mauve dresses with shoulderpads off their hangers and onto the floor.  Chris gently leads her away, assuring her that Mom will totally have an explanation for all this and all they have to do is find her.

Exploring further along. they mount the narrow stair that leads to the grandfather's room.  The grandfather is lying motionless, propped up in bed.  To confirm, Chris whispers, "It's him.  It's the grandfather."  Cathy whispers back that he's dead and they should get out of here before he sees them, to which Chris responds that he can't see them if he's dead and I'm taking back the screenwriter point from the hair-cut scene for placing that bit of pointless stupidity in Cathy's mouth.

The two slip closer to the grandfather and he's totally not dead, is he, Movie?  Chris creeps closer, Cathy sticking right at his shoulder as he bends and turns his head to listen for a heartbeat and we get it, Movie, he's not dead, but no, we're trying to milk this scene for tension so let's get on with it.  Closer, ever closer they creep, the music mounting.  Future Medical Doctor Chris puts his head on the old dude's chest and Cathy inexplicably does likewise and the music rises and rises until  . . .


Really, it' s like the movie keeps telling me this is scary and I'm like, no it really isn't, but the movie insists that it is until I'm like whatever, hurry up, let's just get this over with, maybe I'll have time to watch a good movie when you're done.  I've had dates like this movie. 

The grandfather makes a grab for the kids.  Chris wriggles free but Cathy is trapped, her head pinned to the grandfather's chest as the old man gasps, "I always loved you the best, Corrine."

This is the only interesting, open-ended line in the film, and the only point where the script does not spoon-feed us an answer.  Is it a haunting callback to Narrator!Cathy saying that she was her own father's favorite, thus explaining Corrine's evil glare during that scene as she recalled her father's fickleness?  Is it, God forbid, an incest reference, real or symbolic, implying the relationship between Corrine and her father had a sexual undercurrent?   The obvious interpretation is that he's mistaken Cathy for her mother, but is it possible that he has recognized Cathy must be his granddaughter and is now calling out to Corrine, berating her for this living proof of her betrayal?   

The movie doesn't know or care, since the kids flee screaming and this scene is never brought up again.

John the Butler appears behind a door for a quick jump-scare, but Chris gives him a good old shove and drags a screaming Cathy along behind him as they run for the front door.  John the Butler, strolling along as if he hasn't a care in the world, walks down the hall and turns on the security system, thwarting the escape, and the kids have no choice but to run back to their room.

In the bathroom, Cathy sits fully clothed in a dry tub and Chris sits in the weird windowseat AND CAN YOU TWO NOT HAVE A CONVERSATION UNLESS CATHY IS IN THE BATHTUB?  Cathy asks, rather contemptuously, Chris if he still loves his mother.  She wants to run now, before it's too late.  Chris objects that if they run, Chris will have to find a way to support Cathy and the twins, because Cathy is female and thus incapable of earning a living.  Corrine must have an explanation for all this, which, to be fair, she totally does.

"Can't you see how different she's become?" says Cathy.  "Can't you see what wanting all that money is doing to her?  I can't stop seeing that bed."  Me neither, kid.  That was a huge disappointment.

The argument ends when Cory pops into the bathroom doorway.  "I hafta fwow up, Cathy."  HE SPEAKS FOR THE AUDIENCE.

Morning.  A hand reaches up to remove an ornate silver sugar sifter.  Powdered sugar wafts down on the four huge honkin' cookies.  So . . . we're just keeping the poison in a shaker in the kitchen cupboard now?  That's going to get awkward if someone wants beignets.

That night (?) Cory lies shivering in bed.  A peal of thunder wakes him suddenly.  Corrine, in a black velvet hood, smiles down on him.  He smiles back in relief.  Corrine turns away a moment, and suddenly it's the grandmother standing there.  Okay, so this is actually . . . Cathy's dream sequence.  I'm less confused by the time-skip now.  With a gasp, she sits up in bed and sees that room service is running again.  Their table is spread with food, cookies included.

Up in the attic, Carrie is taking down all the paper flowers because WINTER IS COMING!

Mentioning seasons only reminds us, again, that we have no idea how long they've been here.  If I were just guessing, it seems they might have been here two or three months, tops,

Chris quizzes Cory on his symptoms while poring through a book, trying to figure out what's wrong with them all, when suddenly Corrine cries out "Darlings!  I'm back!"  She pauses to compliment Cathy's "sensible" new hair cut before gushing on to tell them how happy she is and how happy they'll be when they hear the news.  Meanwhile, Carrie goes back to snipping flowers, Cory goes back to his toys, and Cathy looks like she's about to tear Corrine's face off with her teeth.

Corrine is thrilled because her father is throwing her a welcome-home party tonight to formally reintroduce her to society, prior to writing her back into his will.  He's leaving her everything now, even the house.  However, she still hasn't told him about the kids.

Chris and Cathy team up, hurling accusations: when will she tell the grandfather about them?  Does she know that the grandmother stopped feeding them for over a week?  Does she know that Cory is puking all the time and Carrie has sores all over her body (ew)?  Corrine shuts them down, telling them that as soon as they're ready to treat her with love and respect, she'll come back.  And as quickly as she appeared, she's gone again, making me wonder if Victoria Tennant was being paid by the scene or the hour or what.

Cathy wakes that evening to find Chris jimmying the door with the screwdriver again.  Sooooo . . . you guys can just come and go when you please now, huh?  Good to know.  He wants to see the party, and Cathy tags along.

The kids hide out in . . . a heating vent?  I don't know how that works--while their mother, who not too long ago suffered seventeen lashes from a bullwhip, whirls around the floor in a sleeveless ballgown with vampire Michael Landon.  Vampire Michael Landon presents Corrine with an engagement ring, and they kiss on the dance floor.  Movie Chronology being what it is, she's known this guy for . . . what, a month?  If that?  Back in the attic, Chris cries like a baby while Cathy cuddles him against her stomach.  It's only mildly creepy.

Another day, another breakfast cart, another shot of the cookies because SHOULD WE BE PAYING ATTENTION TO THE COOKIES OR SOMETHING?  DO THE COOKIES HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY IN ALL THIS, SOMEHOW?  HM.  The grandmother enters to find the kids gathered around Cory, who's still lying in bed, suffocating under six layers of white pancake make-up.  Chris tells her Cory is sick and needs a doctor. 

Big Nurse goes to bring back Corrine, who stands in the doorway surveying the situation.  They failed to animate the dollar signs in her eyes but they're clearly there as she weighs her options.  Cathy stands up and demands her mother take Cory to the hospital.

Corrine spits, "Always it's you!" and smacks Cathy across the face.  Even Big Nurse looks alarmed.  But then Cathy backhands her right back and it's glooooorious.

"Damn you to hell, Momma, if you don't take Cory to a hospital right now!  If Cory dies, Momma, you'll pay for it.  One way or another, I will find a way."  Damn straight!  Either she'll push you off a terrace right now or sleep with your husband in twenty years.  She will find a way!      

Big Nurse settles the argument by calling John the Butler from the hallway.  "Take the child downstairs and bring the car around."  She fixes Corrine with an icy stare and says pointedly, "My daughter is taking him to the hospital."  And then Future Medical Doctor Chris goes to the medicine cabinet to fetch his mother a moist toilette for that sick burn.

Cory looks blearily into John the Butler's face as the man lifts him out of bed.  "Hewwo, John."  Aw, because remember how Cory was the only one who greeted John when they first arrived?  They share a bond, those two.  John the Butler bears him away, and Big Nurse shuts the door behind them all.  In a tearful voice, Carrie whispers to Fred the Mouse, "Don't worry.  He'll be back."  Given that the next shot is of the groundskeeper digging a hole in the woods, I highly doubt that, Carrie.

The kids spend the rest of the day pacing.  Yes.  That's what this movie lacks.  Pacing.  Finally Corrine returns, bearing the news we already knew: "Cory had pneumonia.  The doctors did all they could.  There won't be a funeral; he's already been buried."  Carrie gets her own big "NO!"; Chris breaks down in tears, while Cathy, dead-eyed, stares into the distance, no doubt envisioning the far-off day when she'll make a huge obnoxious scene at a Christmas party that will surely make her mother suffer for all that she's done.

RIP, Cory's Hair.  You were the best.

Back outside, the caretaker is filling in the grave we saw before.  As the camera pans to the side, we see three more empty graves, open and waiting. 

A scene I kind of hoped happened:

[POLICE knock on door of Foxworth Hall.  GRANDMOTHER answers.]
COP: Evenin', ma'am.  We were just having a look around and we noticed what looks like three or four graves on your property.  Would you like to explain that?
GRANDMOTHER:  We're installing some septic tanks.
COP:  You're installing four septic tanks?
GRANDMOTHER:  It's a big house.  We poop a lot, okay?

In the next scene, Carrie remarks that there's something wrong with Fred the Mouse.  He won't wake up.  HEY CATHY YOU REMEMBER WAY BACK WHEN YOU WISHED YOU HAD A PET TO PREPARE YOU FOR THE TRAGIC INEVITABILITY OF DEATH?  HOW'S THAT WORKING FOR YOU?  Fred is dead, of course, and in the bottom of his cage, Chris finds a hunk of powdered sugar cookie.

On the bathroom floor, Chris hunkers down with a fifty-year-old microscope and some ninety-year-old medical reference books and a cookie, trying to figure out exactly what went wrong here.  ::sighs::  Oh, I can tell you everything that's gone wrong here.  Believe me.  I watched all of it.  From the look on his face, he is horrified at his findings.  The cookie had traces of arsenic.

Chris make plans to go downstairs tonight to steal whatever money and jewelery he can find.  After that, they'll escape. 

He goes first to his mother room, only to catch her making out with Vampire Michael Landon, who is indeed nibbling on her neck.  Vampire Michael Landon is trying to talk Corrine into bed, but Corrine wants to wait until tomorrow.  "What difference can twelve hours make?" he asks.

"The difference between one ring and two," Corrine purrs.

Chris is understandably pissed and Cathy catches him screaming and kicking the walls in the attic.  He tells her about the wedding, but explains that it's the perfect time to escape, since they can't enforce security when so many people will be going in and out of the house.

In the kitchen, we get perhaps our sixth or seventh shot of sugar falling on cookies, only this time whoever's wielding the sifter is shaking the shit out of that sugar.  The camera pans slowly back and . . .


The breakfast buffet makes its way to the locked room, but when Big Nurse enters, the beds are empty and the kids are missing.  The grandmother goes to check the attic stairs when Chris leaps out of the doorway to the attic and knocks her silly with what looks like a mahogany table-leg.  Cathy stops him just shy of beating Big Nurse's brains in.  The audience is to assume that John the Butler's absence this morning is explained by his being required to stand beside the punch bowl to provide jump-scares for the wedding guests.

Downstairs Vampire Michael Landon greets the guests.  There's a far cry less than the "at least a hundred people" Chris counted on--there's only twenty chairs, for starters--but the door, as predicted, is wide open.  But Cathy wants to go to the grandfather and tell him everything that's happened to insure that Corrine will never see a penny of her inheritance. 

Upon entering the grandfather's room, they find it empty, with his bed disassembled.  Both the older kids realize he must be dead.  Carrie, who, surprisingly, has been paying attention to the plot, cheers that yay! they can be with Momma now!  Chris and Cathy gently explain to her that Momma lied to them: she promised to come get them when her father died, but she never came.

I nearly didn't mention that last small piece of dialogue, but I thought about it, since it seemed a little odd for the movie to reiterate such a major plot point minutes before wrapping up the film.  And the only reason I could come up with, the only reason to include this scene with Carrie--is because the movie wasn't quite sure the audience understood the stakes yet.  That they did this by explaining it to Carrie implies that the movie thinks its audience has the mental capacity of a six-year-old.   

Corrine is impatient to get the wedding going and believes her mother is being late on purpose in order to spoil things, which is an entirely reasonable assumption.  She insists that the minister start without the grandmother.

In the grandfather's room, Cathy finds a wedding invitation that says that today is April 23rd.  Oh now you give us a hard date.  Meanwhile, lying in plain site on a desk on the other side of the room,  just happens to be a copy of the grandfather's will--doubtless there were detailed instructions on exactly how to take apart his deathbed that the servants needed to know--that proves that the grandfather died two months ago.  Chris finds the codicil stating that Corrine will lose her inheritance if it is ever proven she had children by her first marriage.   "She never meant for us to leave that attic," says Chris.

In the chapel, the minister delivers a highly ironic blessing that includes wishing Corrine and Bart many healthy, happy children.  You'd think Corrine would have asked for script approval before that line because, right on time, the kids step into the chapel.  The only person who notices is the flower girl, since she's the director's daughter and he probably promised that her scene wouldn't get cut.  So at least one parent in this movie is capable of keeping a promise.

Cathy barks out "Mother!" and the wedding grinds to a halt, the guests murmuring in vague concern.  Corrine, of course, angrily denies knowing them and wants to know how they got in here.  Bart, who all things considered seems far too nice to be involved with Corrine, asks the children who they are.

"We're the children of the bride!" says Cathy.

Between the two of them, Chris and Cathy shout out the whole backstory from imprisonment to codicil.  When Corrine says there's no proof, Chris whips out a dead mouse, provoking gasps of horror from the guests even though, of itself, a dead mouse really isn't the kind of proof you need for this. 

Corrine denies it all, saying that she'll not have her wedding day spoiled by a cruel, evil prank.  "You're the one who's cruel and evil, Mother!" says Cathy.  She reaches under her sash and produces a piece of cookie.  "Here, Mother!" she said, shoving the cookie under Corrine's nose.  "Our wedding present to you!"
And then we have the one moment this film is known for.  You all know what I'm talking about.  It is so beautiful, so bizarre, that I can't spoil it, I can't comment on it, I can do nothing except allowCathy have her Crowning Moment of Batshit Crazy.  It's lovely and iconic and takes us back to the glory of the novels themselves, a world where anything is possible and nothing is out of bounds except sanity, subtlety, and common sense.

Um, Corrine?  As much as I hate to support you in any way, you could just . . . eat the cookie?  It's only a trace amount of arsenic!  It won't kill you!  The kids have been scarfing them down for months and it only killed off the weak and sick!  Call her bluff!  Eat the cookie!

Instead, she recoils like a vampire from a crucifix.  Cathy drives her onto the terrace, still screaming at her mother to eat the cookie.  At the edge of the terrace Cathy and Corrine struggle, with Bart and Chris watching from a safe distance, until Cathy flips her mother over the side.  Corrine crashes through a trellis.  On the way down, her wedding veil catches on a metal post and her hands go to her throat.  She kicks wildly, then stills, then swings, dead.

In the chaos that follows, the three children sit, numb with horror, while the police are called.  The grandmother is soon discovered, still alive but suffering severe intercranial bleeding.  Bart gently talks to the children, coaxing from them their whole story.  Instead of jail, they are taken to the local hospital, where tests reveal sub-lethal levels of arsenic.

Cathy is taken to trial, but Bart volunteers to act as her attorney.  With his help, she is found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and given a suspended sentence.  She is taken into the care of the state, as are Chris and Carrie.

All the Foxworth assets revert back to the grandmother, who remains in a vegative state for six more months before expiring.  Ironically, the children are the last legal Foxworth heirs.  They inherit millions, all placed in trust for them by the State of Virginia.  In a final act of kindness, Bart guides Chris, now nearly eighteen, through the process of legal emancipation.  Chris takes control of his share of the family assets and sells Foxworth Hall, buying a modest home in northern California.  His sisters are released into his custody.

Bart sent them Christmas and birthday cards for a while, but invariably, his continued presence in their lives became a painful reminder of a past they would all rather forget, and they parted on sad but respectful terms.  Secure, safe, but emotionally haunted, the children gradually built normal lives, made friends, found love.  Looking at them now, you'd never guess what they endured.  But that darkness makes them all the more grateful for a brighter future ahead. 

. . . lol, kidding, they walk out the front door.  Nobody calls the cops in Andrewsland! 

Narrator!Cathy tells us that she took up dancing again and that she put Chris through medical school, which kind of makes me wonder just what kind of dancing she took up--did it involve licking a pole at the Cheetah, Cathy?--but that sometimes she wonders if the grandmother is still awaiting Cathy's return to Foxworth Hall.

Credits roll.

*  *  *

I can see why this movie flopped.

Throughout rewatching this film, I kept wondering to myself to whom was this movie marketed.  The only reasonable answer was "to fans of the book."  You really can't do that.  You adapt The Hunger Games as an action-adventure, to appeal to that entire demographic.  Of course, fans of the books are going to come along for the ride, but compared to the overall number of action-adventure fans, their numbers are small.  Make a movie just for the fans, and you're going to tank.  The fans might love it, but the returns won't be enough to justify its existence.

Flowers in the Attic is at its heart a genre novel, and it appeals to a relatively small, but fierce, demographic of genre fans.  Indeed, V.C. Andrews fans are practically their own demographic.  What the hell genre is an Andrews novel?  It's not romance.  It's not horror.  It has a lot of elements of gothic literature but it doesn't fit neatly within those fairly well-definite strictures.  It's literally its own animal, neither fish nor fowl.  Part of what it was originally marketed on was the fact that it was its own unique genre, a whole new thing: the "children in peril" genre.  Since Andrews was the only one writing in this "genre," we end up with the tautology that "V.C. Andrews fans are fans of V.C. Andrews."

In this movie, we have a problem of marketing a movie for the fans, while trying to draw a mainstream audience, hence a lot of the movie's biggest problems.  Incest presented sympathetically is going to be a turn-off for a mainstream audience, so that can't stay.  A mainstream audience isn't going to accept that the children escaped while their villainous mother got off scot-free, so there has to be a retribution scene, which ended up spoiling any chance of future novel adaptations, at least as we know them.

In that respect, they failed the fans too.  For whatever reasons, they failed to reproduce the aspects that made fans of the novel come to the theaters.  In tone, plot, and substance, they ruined the book.  Even fans of V.C. Andrews tend not to like this movie, which leaves it stranded in the water.

Even separated from its source material, the movie was just bad.  It was badly shot.  The cast was wooden and walked around looking clueless and confused.  Even veteran actors Tennant and Fletcher had nothing to work with.  Trying to reproduce Andrews' fraught, clunky dialogue onscreen only showcases how impossible and unrealistic it is.  There is no one shot that gives any impression of either the overwhelming grandness and secrecy of Foxworth Hall, or of the stifling dangerous claustrophobia between the kids, two elements that, in my opinion, are the hallmarks of Flowers in the Attic.  The pacing was just bizarre, which is the kiss of death when you've got a movie that takes place over the course of several years.

Kristy Swanson stated that she was shown a script of Petals, which she described as "a real sex-fest."  Based on Cathy's last line--that the grandmother is waiting for her return, opposed to their return--and the shot of the grandmother in the window, I suspect the sequel, if it happened, would have made the grandmother into the main antagonist.  It's known there were a lot of troubles on the set that culminated in the producers taking over, organizing the film around a more conventional, popcorn-friendly plot, and the director essentially being driven away from his own film, but even if the director had remained in control, I don't see anything that would have saved the film--not with this script, not with this cast.

What can I say?  It was faithful to the novel in ways that didn't matter (the first half of the film, direct swatches of dialogue, the fucking snail) and unfaithful in ways that most certainly did (softening or omitting some of the most iconic scenes, not to mention that ending).  It relied too much on tension that didn't exist and scares that didn't happen. It wasn't subtle enough to lure you in or over-the-top camp enough to be a Mommie Dearest-style psychobiddy circus.  Watching this movie was like watching a fish die.  It flopped around for a while, then finally gave up. 

I can't recommend this movie.  Not even on curiosity value.  Not even on the so-bad-its-good level.  Because it's not so bad it's good.  It's just boring, visually unappealing, and confused.  It tries to be a lot of things, and ends up nothing much at all.

I have high expectations for the remake.  The very tagline--"The Book You Were Forbidden to Read"--makes it seem like at last, the people behind it have a clear idea of who they're targeting and what that audience wants.  I'll be there, hoping.   

*The script, I mean.  Not the site.  The site is thoroughly reputatble.

**There is kind of an interesting story behind this music box.  It's a small porcelain sculpture on a round musical base, not anything special of itself.  What's interesting is that the following year, an identical music box is featured in a horror film called Pin based on the novel by Andrews' ghost writer Andrew Neiderman.  I have no idea if this was done deliberately or not, but it would have happened around the same nebulous period when Neiderman took over as ghostwriter.


  1. You've got to read this recap of the movie. I think you'll like it: http://ohvcandrews.tumblr.com/post/69329103462/in-which-my-boyfriend-watches-flowers-in-the-attic.

    1. Oh my god, this is great and YES I AM NOT THE ONLY PERSON OBSESSED WITH CORY'S FRO.

      Is this you? If so, may I follow you? I'll be the icon of the chick with purple hair.

      "You made this Blue Lagoon and now we're swimming in it!"

  2. AWESOME review. I first saw it when I was like, 10 or 11 years old? Maybe 9. I swear, I could not stop staring at the slapping gif. Well done.

    1. I would have been 9 when the film came out, but I know I didn't see it in the theaters, so I *might* have been ten when it hit the video stores (VHS, baby!). I remember I had another friend my age whose parents were extremely strict about monitoring all her media, but who had read the book in secret, There was no way she was going to be able to see the film, so I hand-wrote her a novelization in a spiral notebook.

    2. I saw it at my grandmother's house. My uncle had rented it from a video store. It was definitely when VHS was still pretty new, and I know the VCR was still quite a novelty. We must be near the same age, if not THE same age.

      I bet your novelization was great, especially if it's anything like your writing now.

  3. Also, for all these years, I had the worst time trying to picture the swan bed. Thank you for the visual. Now it makes sense.

    1. Oh! and if you do a search for "swan bed," you'll find the big gilded one Mae West owned. IThere's a picture somewhere on this blog too, down in the footnotes for one of the FitA recaps.

      I still haven't been able to figure out how the "wingtips act as fingers" for the bedcurtains, though. Every way I picture that, it ends up with the wings being in the way of actually getting into the bed.

    2. I can see it, if the wingtips extended back slightly so they were behind the bed.

      I always pictured the mattress part shaped like a swan. So, like a round mattress, and the swan... oh forget it. I'll go with your vision. :)

  4. "Damn straight! Either she'll push you off a terrace right now or sleep with your husband in twenty years. She will find a way!"

    I laughed for a thousand years at the line. Oh you are golden fifth dollanganger. How I love your ways. Oh man though. While I hate to admit it I've watched this movie like half a dozen times. I just get the craving to see the novel played out so I resort to this. Though that slap of Cathy's makes it all worth it. AHHH! So excited for the lifetime movie though! Here's to hoping it's better than this <3

    1. I should probably clarify this meaning the movie rather than the recap. Because I love your recaps so much haha.