Flowers in the Attic

July 26, 2012

Flowers in the Attic is an instant candidate for those Golden Turkey Awards, in which the worst films ever made are documented and celebrated. This is a hilariously awful “thriller,” full of dumb situations and laughable dialogue.

It’s based on a bestseller by V.C. Andrews, adapted and directed by Jeffrey Bloom. The story finds a newly widowed mother (Victoria Tennant) moving her four children into her parents’ lavish mansion. Tennant tells her children she needs to make up with her parents before they die, so she will share in the huge inheritance; otherwise, the young family will be penniless.

So they move in, and it’s a horror show. Grandpa is immobile and about to croak, but Grandmother is already cracked (Louise Fletcher does a trashing of her Oscar-winning performance in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). Tennant is whipped across her naked back, and the kids are locked up, literally. They can escape only to the large attic.

This situation continues for months, as we wonder why the kids don’t belt the old bag and run away. It’s an incredibly dull exercise, but the time flies thanks to the campy dialogue and the stilted performances.

This is the sort of suspense movie where the music consists of a soprano’s high-pitched wail, as on the old TV show “Dark Shadows.” This is welcome, since there’s no other attempt to create atmosphere.

At one point, the grandmother tells the kids, “You, the children, are the devil’s spawn!” This phrase always and automatically qualifies a movie for the low-rent hall of fame. And at the big climax of the film, when the kids finally turn the tables, the daughter’s big triumphant line is, “Go on, eat it! Eat the cookie!” I could explain, but there’s no point.

There are also some strange hints at an incestuous relationship between the oldest brother and sister—he’s always breaking in on her when she’s taking a bath—but this too seems to have no purpose. It may be developed more fully in the book (I haven’t read it, and hope I never will). Flowers in the Attic has bats in its belfry.

First published in the Herald, November 1987

I have not read the book. So far, so good. I never much liked the Golden Turkey books, which were as facile in their approach to movies as co-author Michael Medved’s subsequent career has been to politics. This particular movie, however, is a bona fide Thanksgiving-ready gobbler.