In Review: Flowers In The Attic

And now, a word on that movie that Lifetime foisted on us this weekend…


Directed by Deborah Chow
Screenplay by Kayla Alpert
(Adapted from the novel by V.C. Andrews)
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Heather Graham, Kiernan Shipka, and Mason Dye
Original Air Date: 18 January 2014 – Lifetime

Like any child of the late 1980s, I was aware of Flowers In The Attic (and yes, I did read all five of V.C. Andrews’s tale of the incestuous Dollanganger clan). However, as I am not a teenage girl it didn’t really resonate with me. Nor was I aware of the original 1987 film adapted and directed by Jeffrey Bloom (though the original screenwriter and director was supposed to be Wes Craven). Nor was I aware of any clamoring need for a remake (though given Lifetime’s current key demographic, it makes sense since they would have grown up with the Andrews’s books).

While I won’t go into a detailed breakdown as to what the new film by Deborah Chow got wrong (as my dear friend Kara Nesvig goes into great detail on that subject for Thought Catalog), I will take on the one thing it got really wrong. The tone frankly should have been more horrorific. If you look at the story correctly, Flowers In The Attic is an extreme story of Stockholm syndrome gone horribly wrong. To do the story right and make all of the horrific moments land (bodies in trunks, the wasting away of all four children, the moment when Christopher feeds blood to his siblings, tar on one of the children’s hair, etc.) it should have the feel of an early Lars Von Trier film (ala Breaking The Waves). In short, it should be artful torture porn.


Of course, thanks to Chow’s diffuse direction and Kayla Alpert’s bloodless script, the effect doesn’t land and it leaves the three leading ladies in particular in the lurch. While Ellen Burstyn does admirable work at filling in and nuancing the monstrous grandmother Olivia, I felt she was a little too glamorous for the role. As for Heather Graham, she was left to the wolves as the mother Corrine. In theory, Graham is perfect casting, but to truly get the horrors that she does to her own children in the name of her own greed, she needed more directorial guidance to get there as an actor. The same could also be said for Kiernan Shipka as Cathy. She certainly has the acting chops to play the roller coaster of emotions that Cathy goes through over the course of their ordeal but Shipka plays her with a slight distancing remove (as if she had already read the first two books of the series and was ahead of the story).

All in all, a misguided experiment. The question now is that since Lifetime has already green-lit Petals On The Wind (the next book in the series), will they actually complete it?

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