Flowers in the Attic (1987)
Directed by Jeffrey Bloom
Written by V. C. Andrews, Jeffrey Bloom
Produced by Sy Levin, Thomas Fries
Starring Kristy Swanson, Jeb Stuart Adams, Victoria Tennant, Louise Fletcher, Ben Ryan Ganger, Lindsay Parker
Upon a contingence of fulsome units shifted, every melodramatic novel deserves a filmic treatment of equivalent bombast, and if this bowdlerized version (the latter of two* concurrently distributed by New World thirty years ago) isn’t as sordid as Andrews’ base bestseller of familial treachery, it nathless conveys her idiomatic instinct for captivating depravity. Four siblings (Swanson, Adams, Ganger, Parker) are ripped from their halcyon home upon their father’s untimely quietus, and transplanted by their mother (Tennant) to the palatial manse of her estranged parents. Granny’s a severe, abusive, pietistical battle-axe (Fletcher) who secludes them in a bipartite suite and vast, superjacent loft packed with personalty, where they languish until frustration and suspicion enkindle machinations for escape and an insatiable curiosity regarding Mom’s progressive absences and eerie personal permutation. In defense of Levin and Fries, test audiences representing their production’s target demographic of adolescent girls were repulsed by scenes depicting overt violence and incest excised to the eventual displeasure of Andrews’ readers, who expected an accurate adaptation. Despite their conundrum, Bloom’s competent yet commonplace direction and script preserving both the fascination and laughable contrivance of its source hardly eased his performers’ duties. Snarling, clenched Fletcher’s as riveting as shamelessly typecast, emanating piety and antipathy as the grandmotherly gorgon swiping scenes aplenty from Tennant, whose hammily eccentric elocution’s as compulsive as cockamamie. Faring only slightly better, eminently photogenic Swanson and Adams bore millstones of declamatory dialogue, occasionally salient dubbing and the phoniest postiche imaginable. Christopher Young’s score is suitably saccharine; its main theme and a few adjuvant motifs are memorable, but it can’t compare to the classic, coeval music composed for *Hellraiser. For all its departures from Andrews’ text, this flick replicates her style and its bathos, as polished and absorbing a work of sober kitsch as one could expect.

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