The Flowers in the Attic movie did not get the best of reviews when it first came out in 1987. A lot of people criticized the movie for the drastic alterations that had been made to the plot in an attempt to avoid some of the controversial elements found in the book. There are often differences between books and the movies that are based on them. In this case it may be best to forget the comparisons and concentrate on the finished product—the Flowers in the Attic movie—and like it or hate it on its own merits. I liked the book, but I like the movie as well. It can be a little depressing at times, but is nonetheless, a dark masterpiece that should appeal to viewers of all types.
Flowers in the Attic is the story of a happy family that is torn apart when the father dies and leaves them not just broken hearted, but broke. Fortunately (or unfortunately) the mother, Corinne Dollanganger, comes from a wealthy family and heads on home to her old mom and pop and that huge old mansion of theirs, where she gets a frosty welcome from mom and finds that pop is languishing on his death-bed. If Corinne’s reception is frosty though, the welcome her four children receives is positively arctic, and their grandmother locks them up in one of the house’s many bedrooms while Corrine goes about the arduous task of trying to work her way back into her parents good books and—in particular—her father’s will. Nothing quite like a family reunion is there?
So, what is the problem in this unhappy little family? Apparently Corrine and her husband were related and—as dear, old Gran takes such delight in telling them—the children are the product of sin.
Chris is the eldest of the four children and he hopes to be a doctor one day. If he were not kept under lock and key in grandma’s house he is certainly intelligent enough to fulfil his ambitions. Cathy is the second eldest. She was her father’s favourite and she hopes to be a dancer. The two remaining children, Carrie and Corey, are much too young to be thinking so far ahead and, it must be said that Corey—with his angelic face and curly, blond hair—looks like anything but a product of sin.
Corinne visits the children less and less, but she tells them of a secret passage that leads up into the attic. The children then spend a lot of their time up in the attic, but with no fresh air and a poor diet their health begins to suffer.
Grandmother walks about brandishing her Bible as if it provides an excuse for her barbaric behaviour. She is a hard taskmaster with many rules for the children to follow and woe betide the child who crosses this mean, old bitch. Of course the children do get on the wrong side of her from time to time and her punishments include starvation and, in Cathy’s case, a new hairdo courtesy of grandma’s scissors. She couldn’t have made a worse mess if she’s used a hedge clipper.
One of the most startling things about the Flowers in the Attic movie is the way the children’s complexions alter as the story progresses, and they change from being normal healthy kids into grey-skinned shadows of their former selves. Chris sticks up for his absent mother as much as he can but his sister Cathy is quick to say: “Mother has forgotten us.” Forgotten might not be the right word, but it is fair to say that some of grandmother’s bitch has rubbed off on her and it is not until the end of the movie that the viewer gets to see how far each of them are willing to take their talent for bitchdom. Meanwhile the groundsman is digging four big holes in the woods and I don’t think he’s looking for moles.
When I watched the movie, and saw the servants going along with everything that was happening in the house, I found it scary because something like this is conceivable in real life. You can tell yourself that it is not, but you will be telling yourself lies. Who knows what secrets a big house in its own grounds could hide? And if all the servants in the house have sold their souls for a big ol’ pay check, like the one in the Flowers in the Attic movie, then who is there to tell the outside world what is happening?
Victoria Tennant … Mother (Corrine Dollanganger)
Marshall Colt … Father (Christopher Dollanganger)
Kristy Swanson … Cathy Dollanganger
Jeb Stuart Adams … Chris Dollanganger
Ben Ryan Ganger … Cory Dollanganger
Lindsay Parker … Carrie Dollanganger
Louise Fletcher … Grandmother (Olivia Foxworth)
Nathan Davis …Grandfather Foxworth
Brooke Fries … Flower Girl
Alex Koba … John Hall
Leonard Mann … Bart Winslow
Bruce Neckels … Minister
Gus Peters … Caretaker
Clare Peck … Narrator