FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC **
BLU-RAY REVIEW - Directed by Jeffrey Bloom. Starring Louise Fletcher, Victoria Tennant, Kristy Swanson, Jeb Stuart Adams, Ben Ganger, Lindsay Parker, Alex Koba, Nathan Davis. Horror/Thriller, USA, 91 mins, cert 15.
Released in the UK on Blu-ray by Arrow Video on 12th March 2018.
Based on the 1979 novel by V.C. Andrews, 1987s FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC is a bit of an odd choice for cult movie specialists Arrow Video to be adding to their catalogue, mainly because it is a fairly stagey and lightweight affair but also because it feels more like a mainstream melodrama compared to its source material. Had legendary filmmaker Wes Craven (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET/SCREAM) been chosen to direct the movie after submitting his script ideas then maybe FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC would be a more comfortable fit in Arrow’s roster, but there’s no benefit in wondering what could have been (although just think about it...).
As it is, FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC was directed by Jeffrey Bloom, a filmmaker with a few low-key TV movie credits to his name, and is the story of a family devastated by the death of the father. With no money left mother Corrine (Victoria Tennant – INSEMINOID) and her four children – teenagers Chris (Jeb Stuart Adams – THE GOONIES) and Cathy (Kristy Swanson – DEADLY FRIEND), and younger twins Cory (Ben Ganger – ED WOOD) and Carrie (Lindsay Parker – SHOCKER) – sell up and move back to Corrine’s family home where her wealthy father is dying and her plan is to get back in his good books after a falling out many years before and have her name put back in his will so money will never be a problem again. However, Corrine’s religious fanatic mother Olivia (Louise Fletcher – EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC) is less than pleased to have her daughter back, especially with children in tow as she reveals that the children are the result of an incestuous relationship, their father being Corrine’s uncle. She also reveals that her ailing husband knows nothing of their existence and would definitely cut their mother off completely should he find out about them and so the children are kept locked in the attic while Corrine desperately tries to win back her father’s affections. The thing is, as she succeeds in winning her way back into high society her visits to her children locked away upstairs become fewer and fewer until, in desperation, they make their move.
A story rich in subtext and nuance, FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC is a movie that feels very restrained when it could have been something a lot more exciting and disturbing. The idea of locking up teenagers in a confined space when they are at their most vulnerable is open to all sorts of trashy depravity that the novel details but here the scenes of incest between Chris and Cathy were cut, instead using lingering cameras and a couple of suggestive moments open to interpretation should you want to go there. Obviously the producers wanted a PG-13 certificate and so anything defining and not open to interpretation was cut out; actor Jeb Stuart Adams confirms in the special features that scenes of his character kissing his sister were filmed and despite not showing anything graphic they were axed. The film also has other suggestive incest plot points, most notably a line uttered by the ailing grandfather when Cathy sneaks into his room and also a creepy scene involving Cathy receiving a gift from her father that likely isn’t supposed to be anything more than a father giving his daughter a present but given the underlying themes of the story and the way it was shot it does add a little spice where producers decided the movie shouldn’t have any. And if Corrine’s husband is supposed to be her uncle, that makes it one hell of an age gap between him and his sibling (Olivia or her husband – it is never made clear) when you consider the family are about to celebrate his 36th birthday at the beginning of the film and Olivia and her husband look old enough to collect a pension.
Regardless of intent on the part of the producers or the director, FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC as a concept is fairly terrifying and despite the limitations of the production there are a few moments that stir the emotions. The child actors are pretty good and make their characters likeable so that when the really bad stuff starts to happen it does have the desired effect, again thanks to those little touches like having young Cory address the house servant John (Alex Koba) by name when they first meet only to have it pay off later on. Louise Fletcher makes an impact by playing Olivia as a stern and matronly type, although it would have been fun to have seen her play it up a little more, a la Piper Laurie in CARRIE, just to add a bit of colour to what is too often a drab and featureless set.
The picture quality of the film is fairly tidy without being overly sharp, which doesn’t really matter that much as FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC isn’t an effects movie although the obvious wig that Kristy Swanson wears in the second half of the film is made all the more glaring by the cleaner image, as is the pale face make-up the children wear. Extras include interviews with cinematographer Frank Byers, production designer John Muto, composer Christopher Young – who also scored HELLRAISER around the same time and the two scores do sound remarkably similar – and actor Jeb Stuart Adams as well as the original ending that was rejected by test audiences and reproductions of the shooting script and Wes Craven’s unproduced draft so some interesting nuggets for hardcore fans but nothing earth-shattering for anyone else. Which sort of sums up FLOWERS I THE ATTIC as a whole – a few interesting set pieces and ideas in a watchable but fairly bland movie.
FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC **
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FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC**