Flowers in the Attic

Look at this beautiful art.

Hello ladies and gents, welcome back to The Tagline. Today I have a real treat for you, that I want you to experience because I was forced to experience it. I'm going to tell you a little story, and that story actually involves a fair amount of incest. In the 80s there was this book, Flowers in the Attic (well it was published in '79 I guess) that became very popular. My girlfriend tells me for some reason all the girls she knew had read it in high school. The book was apparently really popular, it managed to sell something like 4 million copies. This book is about a family living the American dream, until the unexpected death of the father. After that, the mother Corrine (Heather Graham,  takes her four Aryan children back to live at the house of her parents, revealing that though she had been estranged from them they are letting her come home. Also they are apparently very, very rich. Of course, everything isn't well in paradise, and so as soon as the kids and Corrine arrive it's clear that shit is not right. The children are rushed into a spare bedroom in secret where they are told that they must stay "just for a while", but also that no one can know they are there. That strikes as somewhat weird. Also their grandmother is really not the nice kind, and she is really religiously obsessed, and has some very disparaging things to say about how all of Corrine's children are the spawn of Satan and have evil lurking in their hearts. The kids feel about the same way about that as I do, weirded out, but they don't quite get it all the way until a bit later.

That's the face I was making through the whole movie.
You see, it isn't just enough to have a story about tragically broken dreams or about child abuse. Those are both good places to start, but really to get people's attention, you need something a little sexier. What is that exactly? Well what if, just WHAT IF Corrine and her husband were actually niece and uncle? That would make their intensely sexual relationship that resulted in four children seem a bid inappropriate wouldn't you say? Yeah the average person would be satisfied at that point, but we're going to keep on running with it aren't we? Well V.C. Andrews certainly did, and so did the creators of this movie. We're going full adolescent teenage sibling incest, just like some weird anime your friend in college was obsessed with. Why did V.C. Andrews feel the need to do that? I can't answer that question, because I can't think of a reason why you'd want to. Either way, that's what's going on here. Four children, two of whom are very young, are locked in an attic, and constantly told how they are sinful and will commit incest, and eventually they do that. Not especially surprising, but watching this movie travel down it's doomed path to melodrama town is... well it's pretty spectacular.

Oooh baby I'm feeling it too. What a hunk.
Now I know what you're thinking, "Sure of COURSE it's bad, I mean it's being produced by Lifetime!" Very true, but it isn't like this is a Lifetime original movie about teen pregnancy or something, this book already had a movie adaptation once (back in 1987) and now is seeing a second treatment! You can tell from the way the movie is shot and... acted, that they were going for some semblance of credibility, that just unfortunately is NOT what the result was. It would be polite to describe scenes in the movie as overacted, slightly less so to refer to them as being histrionic, and mean spirited and punny to refer to them as being 'turgid', given the amount of sexual tension we're all supposed to be experiencing. My particularly favorite scene involved the old grandmother shaking her fist at the older daughter, Cathy, and saying "Maybe I need to speak a little more slowly" It was definitely the funniest thing I've seen all week, and I've been taking every opportunity I get to mimic this action to my girlfriend. She is about as intimidated as I was, though Cathy certainly seemed afraid of getting beat up by a frail old woman. The movie is generally full of sterling cinematic moments like this, and if you weren't familiar with the source material you'd probably assume that the movie was just the victim of bad direction and a really terrible scriptwriter. You'd only be about half right. The scriptwriter can't be blamed for basically lifting actual dialogue from the source book TOO much, I mean to say that they really encapsulate the general tone of the book, which is hokey and stagey in the worst sort of way. I don't think anyone shakes their fist at someone as a threat outside of the old testament. Seeing an older lady do it on my television is just sort of sad.

The greatest moment in movie history.
The movie also likes to drop little snippits of exposition as if they were completely unimportant, when in fact they later become essential to the plot. For instance during an exchange between Corrine and her children (after Corrine has abandoned them to the attic and is pretending like they don't exist so she can be written back into her father's inheritance) she mentions sort of off-handishly that her mother is claustrophobic, and this comes up later as a way for the children to outrun her during the... climax of the film I guess? It's also really necessary to address the general stupidity of the plot itself. Sure if the kids had been trapped in an attic all their lives, I'd totally accept that they'd never try to escape. These kids LIVED IN THE WORLD THOUGH, enough to be at least in late middle school early high school, and they routinely sneak out of their attic on a number of occasions. I really don't understand why they would stay in the attic once it was apparent that they were not going to be getting in on any of the insane wealth and fancy parties. At the very least they could reveal themselves to ruin their awful mother's life. Instead they are poisoned by arsenic doughnuts, and then finally run away after like three years or something.

Looking at him like that, with the kids right there good god!
The books and the movie are both billed as a kind of gothic horror, but they clearly have a different idea of what those words mean. I mean I guess the movie takes place in a big old house, and it's paced really ploddingly, so that's in common with gothic horror, but otherwise it isn't really horrific, just sort of gross and weird, again you just wonder why someone wrote it, badly, and then 4 million people decided to pay money for it. Some mysteries in life we just can't solve though. That's all for today! Join me next week as I attempt to keep our movie ship sailing through the post holiday doldrums!

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