Anchor Bay // 1987 // 92 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // May 18th, 2001
From the shocking international bestseller by V.C. Andrews.
Flowers in the Attic was a bestseller by V.C. Andrews, a suspense writer who passed away in 1986. In 1987, her most famous novel was turned into a feature length film, Flowers in the Attic . Starring Victoria Tennant (L.A. Story), Academy Award-winner Louise Fletcher (One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest), and Kristy Swanson (Buffy The Vampire Slayer), Flowers in the Attic is no rose garden. Filled with weeds and thorns, Anchor Bay digs up Flowers in the Attic for a widescreen DVD presentation.
A happy family. A bad accident. An evil secret. What's this all spell? Flowers in the Attic!
After a tragic accident takes the life of a family's father and leaves them penniless, the mother (Tennant) and her four children (Swanson, Jeb Adams, et cetera) are forced to take refuge in their grandmother's house. The plan is that the mother will win back the love of her dying father who disowned her years ago, hoping to be put back on his will and inherit all his possessions. There is, however, a hitch. Once they arrive, the Grandmother (Fletcher) demands that the children be locked in a room and kept a secret, as they are "bastard children." The mother apparently was married to her uncle and, surprisingly, the Grandmother wasn't thrilled (I can see the introductions now: "Mom, I'd like you to meet my suitor. I think you remember Uncle Bob.").
The grandmother is an evil and conniving woman bent on keeping the children in line. Or, as I'd call her, my freshman year math teacher. The children are only allowed to play in their bedroom or the attic. Severe punishments are doled out when rules are broken, such as sleeping in the wrong bed or seeing each other in their nightgowns. Though the children hate this, they are willing to put up with it until the mother has won back Gramps' love and the inheritance.
Soon days turn into weeks, and weeks into months. Mother shows, but not very often. The children start to look pale and sickly. And, as the back of the DVD case reads, "the children must survive a nightmare of brutal cruelty, forbidden passion, and a final shocking discovery that will shatter their innocence forever."
I can tell you what that final, shocking discovery is: that Flowers in the Attic was even produced.
My guess is that halfway through the shooting of Flowers in the Attic, someone must have put their head in their hands and wept. It might have been an actor, it might have been the director, or maybe even one of the gaffers. Either way, I am sure one person showed this emotion during production.
Flowers in the Attic lumbers along like a drunk sailor. It has no real direction. The plot has all the consistency of tissue paper, and the acting is equally as thin. The first time I noticed this was about three minutes into the film. Each time the father would return home, his children would hide behind the couch, jumping up to greet him with shrieks and hugs of happiness. Now, I had a great family growing up. Wonderful parents, loving siblings. However, we never greeted my father like this. None of my friends greeted their fathers like this. The Pope didn't greet his father like this. If MY children ever greet me like this I will projectile vomit, as I will realize they apparently ride the "twinkie" bus to school.
The acting in this film is terrible beyond belief. Kristy Swanson apparently slept her way into this role. I have no other explanation for why she was allowed to be put on screen. Louise Fletcher as the Grandmother carries herself so stiffly that she looks as if her skeleton might collapse from the pursed pressure she exerts when she enters a room. Victoria Tennant plays the exact same character in every film, an anal import who looks as if everything American annoys her. Finally, there are the two younger children, who are supposed to be twins. They are the most obnoxious presence I have seen in a movie in a long time (not counting the annoying British kid from The Mummy Returns). When they greet their mother, they don't just show excitement, they ooze it by shrieking at the top of their lungs "MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY!" Someone find these kids an acting coach and please have him put them out of our misery.
The script is terrible, with jaded dialogue. The best example of the shoddy dialogue is after the father dies. In a weeping rage Cathy (Swanson) shouts, "Someone should have told us that fathers die, even good fathers!" When I was her age, most all of my friends knew that people die, even good fathers. My feelings are that if by age sixteen you don't know this, your father dying is not the biggest problem you have to face right now. I also found the scene where Chris (Stuart) washes Cathy's back in the bathtub to be most disturbing. Now, I don't know about you, but no matter how bad things got in my family, I never barged in and started soaping down my naked sister.
Flowers in the Attic also has the audacity to quote the Bible multiple times. I'm thinking that if Abraham or Isaiah were alive today, a lawsuit would ensue. Louise Fletcher carries The Good Book around so much that it comes close to being product placement.
Finally, there is the horror, the terror, the suspense...which is completely missing from Flowers in the Attic. Any special effects are kept to a bare minimum (that is, if you consider a bolt of lighting in the sky an effect), and the scenes are about as suspenseful as watching my three year old nephew get static shocks from walking across a shag carpet.
Flowers in the Attic is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen and looks only passable. Blacks were solid with some softness, colors were bright with some muting, and edge enhancement was found in certain areas. This is an older, long forgotten film, so it's not surprising the transfer doesn't look that great. Anchor Bay is still given kudos for releasing sludge like this in its original widescreen format.
Audio is Dolby Digital Mono and is even less impressive than the video, though it's more the filmmakers' fault than Anchor Bays. Much of the dialogue tends to be low and soft, while such sound effects as rain are non-existent in places they should be. The mix tends to sound uneven, but that's fitting; so is the film.
The only extra included on the disc is a theatrical trailer, which makes Flowers in the Attic look much more interesting than it actually is. My guess is that V.C. Andrews is spinning in her grave faster than the Tilt-O-Whirl at the local carnival.
To say anymore negative things about Flowers in the Attic would be like pouring salt into an already wide-open wound.
Okay, so I may sound too harsh on Flowers in the Attic. It may be that this is not really as bad a film as I say it is. True, there are worse, much worse films out there. The truth is that Flowers in the Attic isn't really a horrible film, just a really boring one with bad acting, bad effects, and a bad script.
Nope, I stand corrected. That all adds up to a horrible film. This doesn't even pass as a rental, so skip this title and go straight to something more depth and quality, such as Deep Throat.
Guilty for being a snoozer of a suspense film. Time to bury this turd in the garden.
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Scales of Justice
* All-Time Most Popular: #12
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Theatrical Trailer