Friday, May 8, 2015

The Remake Comparison Project - God Sees Everything

April showers bring May Flowers as Cody and Priscilla check out V.C. Andrews adaptations from 1987 and 2014.


Flowers in the Attic was our original choice for last month's Remake Comparison Project. Priscilla and I watched the movies together and took notes while I was visiting her in Brazil, and we started working on the article when I came back to the states. We were nearly finished when Priscilla had the great idea that we should save Flowers for an upcoming May holiday that it would be a perfect match for. So we briefly put it on the shelf and covered The Hitcher for the April article. Now Flowers' time has come. Here it is, just in time for Mother's Day...

The writing debut of a woman called V.C. Andrews, the novel Flowers in the Attic was released in 1979 and became an instant smash. Flowers was such a hit that it spawned a series of follow-ups and marked the beginning of a career so successful that new novels "by V.C. Andrews" are still being published to this day, even though the writer herself actually died in 1986. For nearly thirty years, the true author behind the V.C. Andrews brand has been Andrew Neiderman, who was the writer of the source material for the Al Pacino/Keanu Reeves film The Devil's Advocate under his own name.

Given the millions of copies Flowers in the Attic sold, it's no surprise that the film rights to the story were snatched up, the only surprise is that it took eight years for the cinematic adaptation to reach the screen. It might have happened a bit earlier: right after the release of his film A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven had a script ready in early 1985 and was set to direct, but his vision was deemed by the producers to be too dark, so they started over from scratch.

The Flowers in the Attic movie that finally made it to release was written and directed by Jeffrey Bloom (Blood Beach).

The opening titles play out over shots of the mansion where much of the film will take place, although at this point it's more run down than we'll see later. The shots are accompanied by a narration from an adult version of the character Cathy, telling that her childhood was lost, her innocence shattered, and the dreams of she and her siblings destroyed in this house.

One of the creepiest parts of the movie to me is still the opening. The huge, cold mansion and the sad score are very powerful. As a little girl, it always felt like the perfect way to start the movie. Thinking about it, it still does.

The story begins "many years" earlier. Teenage Cathy (Kristy Swanson); her slightly older, but still younger than seventeen, brother Christopher (Jeb Stuart Adams); and five-year-old twins Cory (Ben Ganger) and Carrie (Lindsay Parker) live an idyllic suburban life with their parents, Marshall Colt as their father and Victoria Tennant as their mother Corrine.

Their lives are so perfect that it's cringingly cheeseball. The way the kids excitedly hide behind the couch and then spring out when their dad gets home... Yikes.

It wasn't until more recent viewings that I realized how cheesy that part is. It never really bothered me back then.

Cathy is especially close to her father, who considers her his favorite. He even gives her special gifts in private, like a musical ballerina jewelry box.

Playing favorites isn't cool. In the book, Cathy was given this gift when she was seven years old and upset about the news that her mother was pregnant with the twins. Here, the father sneaking behind everyone's back to give this to a teenage Kristy Swanson feels inappropriate. Dad comes off like a creeper.

That scene is another example of how different things seem when you're a certain age. As a kid, I always found that part extremely sweet, and nothing else. Now it does feel a little off, and borderline censurable.

The good times come to a tragic end on the father's 36th birthday. The family is preparing to surprise him with a birthday party when he gets home, but instead it's a pair of police officers who show up at the door, bringing the news that he has died in a car accident.

Everyone is devastated, of course, and Cathy blames Corrine for the depths of their despair. If only they had been allowed to have pets growing up, they could have learned about death and loss.

Corrine is unemployed, and the death of the provider leaves the family in dire straits. First everything is sold off, then the house is lost, forcing Corrine to seek help from people she hasn't seen in seventeen years. Her wealthy parents. People the children have never met.

As Corrine explains to the children during a bus ride, she did something years earlier that angered her father so much that he disinherited her. But now he's dying, and Corrine plans to win back his love and get back into his will so she can inherit a fortune and make her children's dreams come true.

Corrine acts and sounds like such a nice, sweet mom. So caring and loving. You'd never guess what's coming.

The bus drops the family off in the middle of nowhere and they trudge through the countryside, eventually reaching the mansion Corrine grew up in. Foxworth Hall.

The shooting location for Foxworth Hall was Castle Hill in Ipswich, Massachussets, a majestic looking plot of land with an impressive and yet creepy mansion standing at the top of a hill.

The mansion is a big part of what makes the "unapproachable" feeling work so well. It just looks so impersonal and austere.

They walk past the caretaker's home and his pen full of angry German Shepherds on their way to the door, where they're silently met by butler John, who has no reaction to Cory's politeness.

Someone else who has no response to greetings is the children's grandmother Olivia (Louise Fletcher), who appears clutching a Bible and simply tells Corrine to bring the children upstairs.

Everything about their reception is omnipotent. From the mansion, to John the butler, to grandmother. In a frosty frigid way.

Louise Fletcher manages to make her character hateable from the moment you first see her.

She was absolutely perfect for the role. Classy, icy and extremely severe.

They're taken to a bedroom with two beds and an adjoining bathroom, where Olivia begins to lay out some strict rules: the children will not yell, cry, or run about. They should never speak unless asked a question. The boys are to sleep in one bed, the girls in another.

Corrine implores her children not to do anything that will cause their grandmother to punish them, and asks the older ones to make their experience in this room like a game or adventure for the younger siblings. Corrine and Olivia then leave the youths behind in the room, the door locked and the windows barred.

When she brings the children food later, Olivia informs them that God sees everything, and will see whatever evil they do behind her back. She then gives a bit more information on what got Corrine disinherited seventeen years before - she committed crimes against both her parents and God. Her marriage was an unholy abomination, her husband was also her uncle and thus the children they had together are the devil's spawn. Their grandfather has no idea they exist and he will never be told. They are to remain locked up until he dies.

The food looks so good - other than the cookies, obviously - I've always loved how fancy it looks being carried on that food cart. How did they get it upstairs though?

It's completely understandable why Corrine's parents cut ties with her. Getting together with your uncle is not exactly commendable. But the children shouldn't pay for their parents' mistakes, that part is solely about Olivia being cruel.

The children are so vocally excited when Corrine first visits them that Olivia demands that she stifle them. A defiant Carrie responds by walking right up to her grandmother and screaming. Olivia picks the little girl up by her hair, so Cory defends his twin by biting the woman's leg.

That scene has always shocked and bothered me a lot. The way Olivia does it is pure evil.

Olivia drops Carrie, slaps Cory, and tells Corrine to lower her blouse to show the children what is done to the disobedient. Corrine had been taken before her bedridden father and whipped by Olivia, given seventeen lashes. One for each year she lived in sin.

Corrine's threat to take the children away if Olivia is cruel to them is meaningless. Olivia doesn't care. She will provide them with food and shelter, but never love or kindness. She feels only disgust for them.

And so a life of captivity has begun for the four siblings, but they're not really confined to only the bedroom. In the closet is a doorway to the vast attic, which the kids immediately go to work cleaning up and turning into a place where they can live and have fun. They do arts and crafts (like constructing a paper garden), a swing is set up for the twins, a makeshift dance studio put together for aspiring dancer Cathy.

I love how as time goes by they start to really make the attic their own, those scenes have always been my favorites. The four kids go through so much, it's nice to see them having a tiny bit of fun.

Weeks pass. Months. Corrine's visits become more sporadic, then stop, causing them to fear that something may have happened to her.

We learn this through the narration. It probably would have been better if the movie took more time to show Corrine gradually pulling away from them.

Christopher takes comfort in the Bible passage about there being a time for everything. This is their time to sacrifice for their mother. They can have fun and live later.

I prefer Ren's version in Footloose. It's time to dance!

Yes! I totally agree!

Despite seeing what could happen if they disobey the rules, the kids still do not adhere to them. Sometimes Christopher is in the bathroom while Cathy is bathing. Sometimes the twins sleep in one bed and the teens in another. One morning, Olivia catches them sleeping in the wrong beds and retaliates by shattering Cathy's ballerina jewelry box.

They're just kids being kids, and their upbringing wasn't strict at all, so it's hard for them not to do things that are normal to them.

On a dark, foggy night, the kids make an escape attempt. Bars are knocked out of an attic window and Christopher tries to climb down to the ground on a rope... But the German Shepherds are down there waiting for him, along with the shotgun-wielding caretaker. He's forced to climb back up into the house.

Right after the escape attempt, there are establishing shots of Foxworth Hall during the day, among them a shot of a maid cleaning a window. That maid is author V.C. Andrews making a cameo. Unfortunately, Andrews passed away from breast cancer eleven months before the film was released.

Even more bars are put on the attic windows, and Corrine finally visits her children again to scold them for jeopardizing their plans with the rope stunt. Cathy argues that they need to get out of this house, for the sake of the twins especially. So Corrine gives Christopher and Cathy a choice: they can stick to the plan and wait for her father to die, and doctors say he won't live out the month, or they can forget about the inheritance and leave with nothing and nowhere to go. Christopher chooses to do whatever his mom thinks best. Rather than fight for their freedom, Cathy just avoids answering. She'll wait for Christopher to come around to her side.

Cathy draws a hot bath and escapes to fantasies of a dance career and romance. Christopher comes into the bathroom to talk to her while she bathes again, and this time Olivia catches them. When she calls them sinners, Christopher lashes out at her and drives her out of the room.

Olivia retaliates by catching Cathy alone later, shutting the others in the attic while she hacks off the girl's hair with scissors. She also stops bringing the children food for more than a week.

I feel like even though they're all being punished, Cathy is the one who has it worse. Between the ballerina jewelry box and the forced hair cut, it makes sense that she'd be the most damaged one.

And that wig is just bad. Wrong color, wrong texture... just awful.

Things are going well for Corrine. She has won back her father's love, he gives her gifts, and she has started dating her father's attorney, Bart Winslow (Leonard Mann).

Note that John the butler actually speaks when Bart Winslow talks to him.

Does that mean he shared Olivia's opinion about Corrine and the kids? He definitely isn't mute.

Things are getting much worse for the children, Cory in particular. Not only does he nearly die from accidentally locking himself in a trunk while trying to catch Fred, the mouse he has taken in as a pet, but he also gets very ill.

Carrie is sick as well, but Cory becomes so weak and malnourished that Christopher even cuts his own arm with a razor blade and lets the little kid feed on his blood.

That can't be healthy.

It's pretty nasty.

By removing the hinges from the bedroom door, Christopher and Cathy are able to sneak down into the rest of the house. They find their mother's room and see that she has been living extravagantly. They find their grandfather's room, laying eyes on the old man for the first time ever as he sleeps in his bed. He's so still that the teens walk up close to him to see if he has finally passed away.

I wonder how many people, if they were in this situation, would have instead grabbed a pillow to put over the old dude's face and make sure he was dead.

The kids were still somewhat pure even though they're living in a nightmare. I think most people would've done something to make sure their suffering would end faster... the opportunity was there.

The grandfather suddenly springs awake, grabbing Cathy, mistaking her for Corrine, telling her he's always loved her the best.

The teens escape the room, running past John the butler as they go. They run for the front door, but see that the security system is activated, so they're forced to just go back upstairs.

Even after seeing their mother's bedroom, Christopher remains on her side, while Cathy tries to get it across to him that Corrine's desire for the money has changed her.

Christopher is the one who truly believes Corrine had their best interest at heart. He is the one who trusts her for longer. It takes him a while to realize that she wasn't on their side, so seeing his heartbreak is probably the one that was felt by me the most.

The next time Corrine visits them, so out of touch that she calls Cathy's short haircut a sensible decision, she says she has good news - she has been so successful at winning over her father that he's throwing a party to re-introduce her to society, and the next day will be revising his will to give her everything.

However, the old man can still never know about the children. They have to stay in the bedroom/attic area. Cathy argues for their freedom again, and this time Christopher joins in. Corrine responds by calling them heartless for saying she has had pleasure while they've been in pain. She won't visit them again until they can treat her with love.

That night, Cathy and Christopher sneak downstairs to spy on the party being thrown in their mother's honor. From behind a vent in a wall, they see Bart Winslow propose to Corrine.

Cory's condition continues to worsen. An aspiring doctor, Christopher attempts to diagnose his ailment using information from books in the attic, but it's no use. The child gets so sick that a trip to the hospital is necessary. When the adults are notified, Cathy has to argue with Corrine, damn her to Hell, and exchange slaps with her to get any sort of reaction from her. Surprisingly, it's Olivia who agrees that Cory needs to be taken to the hospital.

John the butler carries Cory out of the room... and that's the last his siblings ever see of him.

And John ignores Cory's greeting again, like a total douche.

Heartless douche you mean.

Cory dies and is buried by the caretaker in a wooded area on the Foxworth Hall property. Corrine notifies her surviving children of this with no emotion at all.

The caretaker already has three more graves dug beside Cory's.

That scene was always one that'd get to me when I watched Flowers in the Attic back in the day. That and the complete indifference Corrine shows when she tells the other three kids that Cory's dead.

The villainous caretaker and his dogs are an element left over from the Wes Craven draft, where the character had more to do and was the typical evil, knife-wielding killer type you see in Craven movies. He just disappears from this one.

When Fred the mouse dies from eating one of the children's donuts, it leads to the discovery that Cory died not of pneumonia, as Corrine said, but from arsenic poisoning. Arsenic mixed with the powdered sugar that tops the donuts and cookies they're given. Poisoned sugar poured on the treats by their own mother.

Since this is what killed Cory, it is odd that he actually started getting very ill in the time when they weren't being given food.

Maybe he was just really weak due to lack of food, and that's why the poison affected him first.

Christopher and Cathy resolve to escape from Foxworth Hall, but first Christopher goes searching through the house for money or jewelry, things to use to support themselves once they're free. During his search, he overhears Corrine and Bart discussing the fact that they'll be married in twelve hours. The wedding will be held in the mansion.

When Olivia delivers their food the next morning, Christopher knocks her out with a table leg and the children make their escape. Christopher wants to leave immediately, but first Cathy wants to sabotage Corrine's relationship with her father.

The children go to the grandfather's room... and find that he's gone. Even his bed is gone. The man is long dead.

Within the room, Christopher finds the reason why Corrine never let them out of the upstairs. A copy of the grandfather's will, in which it is stated that Corrine will be disinherited if it ever comes out, even after he has died, that she had children from her first marriage. The existence of Cathy, Christopher, and Carrie can never be known to the world.

Corrine would rather have money than her kids. It has always made me wonder whether she suddenly changed after her husband was killed or if she was always terrible under the "good mom" facade and it was bound to come out sooner or later.

They make their existence known. Corrine is such a bridezilla that she forces the wedding to go forward even though her mother is missing, so her children crash it. Corrine acts like she has never seen them before and orders that they be taken away, but in front of shocked witnesses they reveal everything that she has done. Bart backs away from his bride-to-be.

Corrine is a horrible person. Did she learn it from her mother? Possibly. But she's clearly outdone her by now. She's way worse than Olivia.

Cathy goes after Corrine intensely, pulling out a cookie they had been given and trying to make her mother eat it. Corrine backs out of the room, out onto balcony, where she struggles with Cathy and ends up falling over the side. Her veil catches on a decorative flower stand as she falls and smashes through a trellis, and the veil ends up hanging her.

Not only is this not Corrine's fate in the novel, it's also not the ending Jeffrey Bloom intended for his movie. This was a reshoot done after production had wrapped, shot on the other side of the country at a mansion in Beverly Hills. It's a fate Corrine deserves, but it plays out awkwardly and comes off as silly to me.

I wish they had spent more time working on the ending. I like it that Corrine got what she deserved, but the payoff isn't really there. After everything that happened, I would've liked to see more reactions and consequences to Corrine's acts. It all just happens really fast and then she's dead.

I've always liked that she was wearing boots underneath her wedding dress. That always stood out to me.

John the butler had a redemptive moment in the first ending they shot. After the kids crash the party and ruin Corrine's reputation, they were to be attacked by Olivia as they attempted to leave the house. John restrained the grandmother so they could escape... But if he was a good guy who wanted them to escape all this time, why did he switch on the security system when Cathy and Christopher were running for the door early? It doesn't make complete sense.

It is very ambiguous. Maybe he had a change of heart? It still wouldn't be exactly redeeming, but it would be something.

There are no repercussions for the death of Corrine. Cathy, Christopher, and Carrie walk away from Foxworth Hall and into a life on their own, Olivia watching from a window as they go. The narration says that Cathy goes on to dance and Christopher goes to medical school, but Carrie is never truly healthy.

I was raised by V.C. Andrews fans. My mom, her mom, my sister, my sister-in-law, most of the females around me as I grew up read the books. My mom has bought every Andrews book, both by the woman herself and her posthumous ghost writer, that has been released in the last thirty-six years, so these books have always been a presence in my life. As a child, I was fascinated by the covers of the paperbacks, which had windows in the center that looked in on a full page of artwork beneath it.

I haven't read any of the books. Actually, I've never even seen any of them. I grew up watching Flowers in the Attic because my family had it on Laserdisc back in the '80s. I still have that LD. It got played a lot, even when I was too young to really understand what they were saying. I started learning English in '86, but I was only 6 years old then, so it took me a while to fully grasp what was going on. It was one of my favorites regardless.

The concept of Flowers in the Attic was always deeply disturbing to me. The idea of a mother and grandmother carrying out such cruelty, that level of betrayal. As a child, I felt compelled to read the book to see how such a thing could be possible, even on the printed page. I never read past Flowers, but I have read Flowers in the Attic a few times.

At first I thought that it was the grandmother poisoning the children, it wasn't until I was older that I understood it was actually their mother. It was always a troubling concept, but I think it would've gotten me more uneasy if I knew early on that it wasn't Olivia.

As an adaptation, the '87 film is a bit of a disappointment. It's a quick and cheap telling of the story that whitewashes it of its more lurid elements and tacks on a revenge ending. Bloom's script could have been better, I feel the movie would have benefited from taking more time to let the story unfold. Remove the narration and show us more of what the characters are doing and going through. 

Since I haven't read the book, I can't compare the movie to it. But to me, the movie is pretty great. I think that the narration works really well with the tone and overall atmosphere. I would've spent a little more time on the ending, it needed some elaborating, but other than that, I'm happy with how the movie turned out.

The movie has its merits, and Bloom stayed true to the basic story, which is deeply chilling. He found a great location to shoot it in and captured an odd, unnerving look and atmosphere for the film that enhances its effectiveness. There's something about the feel of this movie that really gets to me.

I agree. Something about it gets to me every time I watch it. And like I said before, the mansion is so fitting it's almost an extra character.

The acting has some rough moments, especially among the younger stars, but Louise Fletcher and Victoria Tennant make great villains. 

Fletcher and Tennant obviously stand out. I don't think there are a lot of actresses, if any, that would've done as amazing as they did in their roles. And the scenes where they interact are kind of like a treat.

It might be me being a little biased, but I actually like the acting from the younger actors as well. I feel like they did a very decent job, nothing wrong about it, really. I bought them as siblings, I bought them becoming closer and closer as the movie goes on and the situation keeps darkening.

Fletcher was basically typecast, having brought one of the most detestable characters in cinema history to the screen when she played Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and here she again puts her all into playing a woman of nightmares.

Makes me wonder where all the meanness and cruelty come from. She's outstanding, even I'm still afraid of her!

Around the time of Cory's death, Olivia starts to look better and Corrine becomes the worse of the two. Tennant is more subtle, but her character is extremely horrible and despicable in her own way.

By the time I realized it was actually Corrine trying to kill off her own kids one by one, Olivia didn't seem so bad anymore. Made me wish she had punished her more.

Flowers in the Attic '87 isn't quite all it could have been, but it's a solid telling of the horrific subject matter.

I really enjoy watching Flowers in the Attic '87. The older I get, the more I realize that I actually have to be in the right mood to watch it, since the subject is pretty dark and heavy. But still, I love the movie, and it's been one of my favorites for most of my life.


More than twenty-five years after the theatrical adaptation of Flowers in the Attic was released, the TV channel Lifetime, which has marketed itself as "television for women", picked up the rights to make their own version of V.C. Andrews' early work.

This time around, the project was handled by a pair of women. The screenplay was written by Kayla Alpert, whose previous works included episodes of the Sweet Valley High TV series and the cinematic adaptation of author Sophie Kinsella's Confessions of a Shopaholic, and bringing the script to the screen was Deborah Chow, who made her feature directorial debut with the 2010 movie The High Cost of Living.

The Chow/Alpert take on Flowers in the Attic begins just like the 1987 movie did, with shots of the mansion where much of the film will take place, more run down than we'll see later, accompanied by a cryptic narration from the character Cathy.

It doesn't really look like a mansion to me, when compared to the one in the original. Just a nicer house, which looks truly awful and abandoned at the beginning. The first few scenes have no effect on me whatsover. They're pretty empty.

As in the novel, this story is set in the 1950s, and it begins with the idyllic suburban family life of the Dollangangers: twelve-year-old Cathy (Kiernan Shipka), fourteen-year-old Christopher (Mason Dye), four-year-old twins Cory (Maxwell Kovach) and Carrie (Ava Telek), and their parents - the father played by Chad Willet, and mother Corrine played by Heather Graham.

Their home life is thankfully presented in a more down-to-earth manner this time. For example, the kids happily greet their dad when he gets home from a business trip, but some of the cheese is removed from the moment since he first walks in on them bickering with each other.

It is more realistic. The scenes at the house are pretty good.

Each kid gets some kind of gift when their dad gets home, and Corrine gets a necklace. When Corrine finds out that her husband has gotten a promotion at work, she decides it's time for her to start wearing fancier clothes and perfume. And to try to pass off pie from the bakery as homemade.

Cathy seems to be really jealous of Corrine. That's a little bit unsettling to me.

Cathy is devastated that her father might be away even more now. To cheer her up and get her to promise to stay strong while he travels, Cathy's dad gives her a gift he bought her in secret. A promise ring.

This is a nice scene, without the creepiness of the gift scene in the original.

Their relationship isn't creepy at all. Cathy's just spoiled.

Some time later, the family has prepared a surprise birthday party for the patriarch. But he doesn't come home that night. Instead, a police officer arrives at the house to notify them that he died in an accident.

Things quickly fall apart from there. Corrine becomes more cold and distant as she struggles to handle the finances. She has never worked, as she says the only thing she was ever good at was being pretty, but her husband was so successful that they "charged against their future" and thus don't actually fully own anything. Their possessions and their house are going to be taken away.

Just in time, Corrine receives a response to the letters she has been desperately sending out to Foxworth Hall in Virginia, the home of her "unbelievably wealthy" parents, people the children have never met. Corrine has implied that her mother is someone who's impossible to love, but now they need to leave for her parents' place immediately. And by the way, the last name they've always gone by wasn't really theirs. They are Foxworths.

I like how Corrine sits with the kids and talks about the situation, discusses things with them. Including them is the right thing to do, after the loss of their father.

Having been told how fancy Foxworth Hall is, Cathy and Christopher initially have a positive outlook on what their time will be like there. They take a train to Virginia that lets them out in the middle of nowhere at 3am, leaving them to take a long walk through the countryside to reach the Foxworth mansion. When Cathy first sees the place, she smiles.

This house is grand, but Castle Hill has a more jaw-dropping landscape.

The house doesn't even come close to the original mansion. Not just because it's smaller, it just doesn't look as cold or isolated.

They're met at the door by Corrine's mother Olivia (Ellen Burstyn), who simply says, "Well, look what the cat dragged in."

Nothing about these scenes work as well as in the '87 movie. There's no John, and Olivia is already more accessible than the original one ever was.

Making sure they keep quiet, Olivia leads the new arrivals to an upstairs bedroom with two beds and an adjoining bathroom. When Corrine thanks her for taking them in, Olivia replies that her grovelling has always bored her. She compliments the children's good looks, but wonders if there are any hidden defects, as she didn't agree to "run a circus". Corrine assures her that the children are perfect.

One thing I like is that Corrine gives her mother attitude, and talks back at her. It almost makes it seem like she's going to really be there for the kids. We know better though.

Olivia demands that the boys share one bed and the girls the other. They can't be given separate rooms because this is the only room they can stay in without Corrine's father hearing them. That's when the children find out that they're being hidden from their grandfather.

Corrine finally tells Cathy and Christopher that when she was eighteen she did something that got her written out of her father's will. Now her father is dying and she intends to win back his love and get back into his will so all their dreams can come true. She thinks it might take a few days or a week to win him over, then she'll introduce the children to him. In the meantime, they need to stay in this room... and not make their grandmother angry.

Noticing Cathy's promise ring, Olivia asks what it is. When she hears that it was given to Cathy by her father, she tells the girl to take it off, threatening her with a fist if she doesn't comply. Cathy hands over the ring and is told never to mention her father again.

Louise Fletcher's Olivia Foxworth seemed dangerous. No offense to Ellen Burstyn, but she's over 80 and a bit too frail to be scary.

She isn't scary at all. Just rude, really. Most of the time it doesn't even feel like it's the same character.

Having been warned that "God sees everything" and will know if they do anything evil, the children are left alone in the locked room.

"God sees everything" is a line to exit on. It's a diminished by the fact that it comes in the middle of the scene.

That line failed here.

Later, Olivia delivers to the room a day's worth of food - she can't make too many trips upstairs or the help will be suspicious - and some rules about behaving, being modest, keeping quiet and clean. She also reveals that they aren't restricted just to this room. There's a door that opens on a stairway to the attic, where they can play. If their presence is ever discovered by their grandfather, they will be punished for being alive and thrown out without a cent.

The food doesn't look very good, and being brought in a basket makes it lose all of the impersonal/formal aspect that came with using the fancy food cart in the '87 movie.

The attic provides a good amount of space full of clothes, a record player, school chairs and a blackboard, Christopher even builds a swing that hangs from the rafters. They can have fun in there, but Cathy is disturbed by something Olivia said - they have to hide in the attic at the end of every month, when the maids clean the bedroom/bathroom area. That suggests they'll be in there much longer than a few days.

Corrine comes to visit the children at the end of the first day, finding them playing around with the room a mess. Seeing this, Olivia immediately takes Corrine out of the room. The women return later, and when Carrie loudly demands that her mother take them home, Olivia tells Corrine to stop her from screaming. Carrie responds by screaming right at Olivia, so the grandmother roughly places a hand over her mouth. Cory attempts to protect his twin by biting the old lady's leg.

Olivia shoves the twins aside and tells Corrine to show them how bad behavior is dealt with. Corrine has been given a willow switching by her mother, eighteen lashes for every year she used her wicked charms on her father while living at home, then twenty more for every year she lived in sin with the children's father. The marriage was an abomination and the children are the spawn of the devil, evil from conception.

Corrine threatens to take the children away if Olivia is cruel to them. Calling her bluff, Olivia says, "Go."

The first time Corrine visits the children on her own, she has some explaining to do. After giving them art supplies so they can construct a paper garden, she also tells them the family history. Her mother has always been jealous of her because of how much her father loved her. The woman tormented her throughout her childhood, caused her to become withdrawn. Then her father's orphaned half-brother, only a few years older than Corrine, came to live with the family. Despite being blood relatives, the pair fell in love. They eloped, and Corrine's parents were so appalled that they disinherited her and drove her away.

The '87 movie reduced the back story to a simple "her husband was her uncle" line, so it's nice to get some more information on the back story. The idea of an uncle marrying his niece is something that needs some explanation.

Knowing the whole story about how their parents got together, and hearing it from Corrine makes it a little less terrible. Not just for the kids, but also for the viewers. It's still abominable, but the fact that they were half-related is a tiny bit of a relief.

When Olivia catches word of the arts and crafts garden and Cathy praises Christopher's artistic abilities, the grandmother's first response is to ask Cathy if she has ever posed nude for her brother. Cathy may not understand why Olivia is always accusing the children of such bad things, but Olivia assures her that Christopher would. Males are born knowing wickedness and evil.

Cathy makes attempts at winning Olivia over, trying to talk with her and allow the woman to get to know her and her siblings. When cleaning day comes around, Cathy even cleans the room especially well in an attempt to please Olivia. Too well. The room is so clean that the maids might notice something is off about it. Still, Cathy's efforts seem to be having an effect on Olivia, because the grandmother actually gives her some real flowers to add to the fake garden.

It's sort of like a hostage situation, trying to get your captor to see your humanity.

It's because Olivia in the remake is actually somewhat approachable. Completely different than the one in the original.

A month passes. After a long absence, during which she has spent a lot of time with her father and had fun doing things like sailing, hanging out with friends, and setting up movie dates, Corrine finally visits the children again. Christopher accepts that she's been busy and compliments her, but Cathy is upset. She wants freedom for herself and her siblings, she wants to be introduced to the grandfather. That's when Corrine reveals that her father has forgiven her on the basis that she never had children. He can't know about them.

There are no bars on the attic windows, so the children are occasionally able to go outside and relax on the roof. Cathy and Christopher have a conversation out there about him being fine with waiting a few more weeks, maybe a month, for the grandfather to die. The man has heart disease, he could go at any time. Cathy is less optimistic, and suspects that the allure of money has already changed Corrine.

Cathy obviously knew Corrine better than Christopher.

Their conversation is interrupted by Carrie reporting that Cory has disappeared... The kid has accidentally locked himself in a trunk while playing hide and seek and is in a very weakened state when he's found.

When a recovering Cory tells Cathy he misses their mom, she tells him to think of her as his mother.

Winter comes. Christmas, the first the children have experienced without their father. Cathy and Christopher come up with an idea to make presents for the twins, and for Olivia as well, to show their appreciation for her bringing them food. The kids excitedly put together a piece of artwork that they endeavor to make perfect. When the gift is presented to Olivia, there's obviously an emotional effect but she doesn't take it, she doesn't say anything, she just backs out of the room and shuts the door.

There is more depth to Ellen Burstyn's Olivia than there was to Louise Fletcher's ice queen. You lose the terrifying element this way, but gain some character.

I think that also has to do with the fact that the actress and the character are older in the remake. 

Corrine visits with presents - clothes, a dollhouse, a TV - and good news: her father's attorney Bart Winslow has told her that a new will is in the works and she's going to inherit everything. Her plan has been a success. A party will be held at the mansion that night to re-introduce her to society.

The presents are very nice. Corrine still doesn't act like she's changed that much by now, even though the visits are very few and far between. She's much kinder than the original Corrine.

Cathy asks to be able to see the party, so Corrine allows her and Christopher to spy on it from inside a liquor cabinet. Olivia is clearly not happy with the party, considering it another case of Corrine's father spoiling her. Plus Corrine's dress isn't modest enough. And a servant served the wrong bourbon, so she is ordered to be fired on the spot, despite the fact that it's cold outside and she has no transportation.

Corrine's father is brought out in a wheelchair, the first time Cathy and Christopher have ever laid eyes on him. They witness him giving their mother an heirloom necklace, just the beginning of the things she'll be inheriting. As Corrine admires the necklace, Olivia snarks, "Maybe someday you'll have a daughter of your own that you can pass it on to."

I've only seen the remake twice, but that line kind of got to me both times.

As they sneak through the upstairs, Cathy and Christopher witness Bart Winslow (Dylan Bruce) kiss Corrine in private, saying he's looking forward to their future together, trying to get her to take him to her bedroom.

Cathy goes back to the room, but Christopher stays behind to snoop around Corrine's bedroom, seeing how well she's been living and all the expensive possessions she has. Corrine gets to the children's room before Christopher does, causing her to freak out, slap Christopher, and threaten to whip them and never let them out of the room again, for any reason.

Corrine returns the next morning, seeking forgiveness. The children are clearly so fed up with the situation that she offers to take them away from Foxworth Hall right then. No amount of money is worth her children not loving her. But if they go, they can never return. Rather than take the opportunity to get out of there, the children forgive her.

They reach one year of being shut away in the attic, and having two kids of opposite genders going through puberty in such a confined space begins to get awkward. Cathy catches Christopher looking through a "men's magazine", then asks Corrine for information on becoming a woman.

Cathy gets new clothes, and Christopher catches her putting them on and admiring her "new curves" in a mirror... and Olivia catches him in the room with his not-fully-dressed sister. Olivia decides the punishment for this should be cutting off Cathy's hair. When Christopher stops her from doing so, Olivia gives them a choice: either Christopher will cut off Cathy's hair, or the kids won't eat for a week.

Christopher doesn't cut Cathy's hair, so Olivia stays true to her word and doesn't bring them food. The twins grow weak from not eating, and just when Christopher is considering checking the attic mouse traps for dead mice they could eat, Olivia delivers a basket of food.

That night, Cathy wakes to find that Olivia has snuck in and dumped tar in her hair. It will need to be cut off after all.

This is accurate to Andrews' prose, but Jeffrey Bloom's change of just having the grandmother attack Cathy with scissors is more believable than the idea that she could sneak in and out like a tar-carrying ninja.

More believable and more on par with what the character would actually do. 

During the process of cutting Cathy's hair, Christopher is clearly troubled to have to be so close to his sister. He tries hard not to think about girls, but Cathy is there at all times, and she's pretty. He says "Brothers don't think of their sisters that way", but he does.

Cathy is growing, the aspiring dancer is even outgrowing the ballet outfit she practices in, but the twins are not. Being trapped in the house is stunting their development, and Corrine hasn't visited in over a month, her longest absence yet, so Cathy decides it's time to see if they would be able to escape. She and Christopher use a rope to climb from the attic window down to the ground. They take a swim in a lake on the property, and afterwards a deer wanders right up to them.

No angry dogs or evil caretaker this time, the only thing keeping the children from escaping is fear.

A couple more months pass before Corrine returns with "wonderful news". No, her father hasn't died. She married Bart Winslow and they've been on an extended honeymoon in Europe. It has taken more than two years, but Christopher finally lashes out at his mother. Corrine feels unjustly attacked, she has done her best to make sure the children have been taken care of. Still, Cathy gets her to admit that she has never told Bart about them.

Later, Olivia stops by with a special treat delivery - four donuts topped with powdered sugar, sent by Corrine. The children are happy to have them, but Olivia warns, "I wouldn't eat them if I were you. They're not good for your health."

She really meant that, too.

Christopher is becoming very agitated and frustrated. The children need to get out of Foxworth Hall, but there's nowhere for them to go on their own. When Olivia refers to him as "boy", he replies that his name is Christopher, the same as his fathers. Olivia orders him to take off his shirt, then whips him with a belt.

As Cathy cleans his wounds later, Christopher turns and gives her a very un-brotherly kiss.


The incest was a very well known element of the Flowers in the Attic novel. A book doesn't sell 40 million copies without a whole lot of people talking about the fact that a brother and sister have sex in it. So it's kind of shocking that it was excluded from the first adaptation.

Might be shocking that it wasn't in the '87 movie, but I like it much better that way.

Cathy knows the kiss was wrong, but she doesn't care. It felt good. Romantic. Christopher appears to be upset about it, though, and when Olivia catches him and Cathy being too close, he tells the grandmother that she was right, they are the devil's spawn. He drops to his knees before her and grabs her hand, asking for forgiveness. Olivia tells him that prayer is the key to his salvation, then exits.

It was all a ploy to get a different key to salvation. Christopher had a bar of soap in his hand and when he took Olivia's hand, he pressed the soap against the master key of the house, getting an imprint of it. He uses that imprint as a guide to whittle a wooden version of the key. Now they can open any door they want to.

That was very smart of Christopher, and I didn't see it coming. Was a nice surprise.

The children need money before they can go, and seek to gather it by sneaking out of their room and stealing it from the bedroom that Corrine now shares with Bart Winslow. While thieving, Cathy also plays dress-up in her mother's clothes and finds some artsy, old timey porn.

During one visit to her mom's bedroom, Cathy finds Bart sleeping on the bed. Curious, she walks up to him and kisses him. Bart stirs, but Cathy gets away and he's left thinking the kiss was just a dream. A dream which he tells Corrine about while Christopher eavesdrops.

That scene is just so weird. Feels very off to me.

Telling your wife that you had the sweetest dream of being kissed by a beautiful blonde girl who seemed like a younger, more innocent version of her doesn't seem like the nicest thing to do.

Definitely doesn't.

Christopher angrily, jealously confronts Cathy about the kiss, which leads to the siblings kissing again. And again and again, building up to them having sex. Afterwards, Cathy assures Christopher they can pretend this never happened. But he wants to feel this way about her, he's in love with her.

This is way too atrocious. I get it that they were all each other had, and that's a tricky age, but still. Makes me wonder if having less than appropriate relationships with relatives runs in the family.

When the friendly deer is spotted too close to the house, a servant shoots it. Soon after, an electrified fence is constructed around the home. That will complicate the escape, but not stop it.

Unfortunately, Cory falls gravely ill before the escape can be carried out. Corrine and Olivia are called in to check on him, and Cathy has an intense exchange with her mother, including back and forth slappings, before Olivia speaks up and says Cory should be taken to a hospital. Corrine carries the sick boy out of the room... and his siblings never see him again.

An awkward Corrine, unable to look at the children, reports later that Cory had pneumonia and died at the hospital. There will be no funeral, he has already been buried. Corrine tears up, but doesn't comfort her children, not even the sobbing Carrie.

The loss of Cory speeds up the escape plans, and as Cathy and Christopher try to get one last haul of cash and expensive goods, shocking revelations are made: Corrine has moved out of the house, leaving behind a picture of her former husband and Cathy's promise ring. Servants are also heard talking about the fact that Mr. Foxworth died seven months earlier. The children could have been let out of the attic long ago.

Most disturbing is the servant's comment about Olivia always carrying poison upstairs to kill off mice. When Mickey, a mouse Cory had saved from a trap and took in as a pet, dies from eating one of the donuts, it confirms that the powdered sugar on them is actually poison. They've all started feeling sick because of it.

It's never said in this film that Corrine would lose the money if it came out that she had children with her half-uncle even after her father died. With that motive removed, it seems like Corrine was poisoning them just out of pure heartless evil.

It did take her two years to start poisoning the children. So, in a way, it still makes her more "compassionate" than the original Corrine. But the original Corrine had a reason - in her sick, selfish mind - to off the kids and pretend they never existed, and Corrine in the remake didn't. At least not that we knew of.

Christopher's sneaking around catches the attention of Olivia, who goes up to their room with the willow switch and demands that they hand over the key. Instead, the children run into the attic, where Olivia's claustrophobia won't allow her to follow. She ends up stuck on the stairway in the dark, screaming for help. Olivia goes so far as to admit to the children that Corrine had been poisoning them, but it's not enough to get them to help her.

It's not quite the comeuppance Corrine received in the '87 movie, but it's more than either woman got in the book, where the children escaped without any confrontations.

Even though I've always felt like the ending needed some elaborating in the original movie, it was still satisfying, but in the remake it's kind of loose. Could've been way better.

Cathy, Christopher, and Carrie take the rope down to the ground from the attic window and run for freedom. Before they can get through the fence, they're stopped by a rifle-carrying servant, the one who killed the deer. He thinks they're simply trespassers; when Cathy tells him they're Corrine's children he's shocked. And he lets them go.

A servant with a gun, this wasn't in the book. A bit of a reference to the '87 caretaker?

My thoughts exactly.

The three catch a train to a new life. But as the film comes to an end, narration from Cathy teases that the children will someday come face-to-face with Corrine again.

In the adaptation category, Flowers in the Attic 2014 is the more faithful one. There are additions, subtractions, and some changes, but overall it sticks very closely to the structure of V.C. Andrews' novel. 

The biggest problem I find with the '14 film is that it was a TV movie, and very obviously one. Whereas FITA '87 had a very unique, unsettling atmosphere, '14 feels like any other TV movie you would see on Lifetime.

Not only that, but it feels a little cheap sometimes. Production wasn't mind-blowing.

I think having to adhere to a TV movie running time also hindered the movie a bit. It had to be cut just right to fit within a two hour block, so some things had to be left out, and at times the movie feels rushed, particularly toward the ending.

I agree with this. The movie needed some more time, especially at the end.

And one of the things that gets to me the most is why they didn't try to leave earlier. I get that at first they believed Corrine was trying to get a better life for them, and that they were scared. But still. More than two years... that is a very long time.

Ellen Burstyn is great in the role of Olivia, but as mentioned she takes a very different approach to the character. It's hard to live up to what Louise Fletcher did in the original. An intimidating performance like Fletcher's lingers in your mind, while Burstyn's Olivia is just a bitter old lady.

Olivia is more human in the '14 movie, which is nice and all, but that's really not what the character should be like. So, to me Louise Fletcher's performance is where it's at. And what a ridiculously amazing performance that was!

Heather Graham gives the usual Heather Graham performance. You buy her as a flighty, fickle woman with money on her mind, but again it's the performance Victoria Tennant gave in the original, the coldness she displayed, that makes her the Corrine that really sticks with you.

My opinion about Heather Graham's Corrine is exactly the same as my opinion about Ellen Burstyn's Olivia. She has her moments, but will always come second when compared to Victoria Tennant's performance.

As for the children, I would say they're better in the remake than in '87. The young ones are more convincing - the original Cory was cute, but not exactly good with his lines. I prefer Mason Dye's Christopher over Jeb Stuart Adams'. Kristy Swanson gives Kiernan Shipka stronger competition, though. Shipka does well, but there are some oddities in some of her deliveries.

I disagree. One thing that bothers me a little about the remake is how weak the younger actors' performances are. And Kiernan Shipka is kind of annoying. Definitely one of the things I like the least about this version.

Also, in Flowers in the Attic '87, the four kids act like a family of their own, and in the '14 adaptation it seems like the twins don't even appreciate Cathy and Christopher much. I don't know how much of that is acting and how much is just about the characters, but they don't act as close. And how close all four were in the original is one of the best things about it.

For me, this is sort of a "mix and match" comparison. Some things were done better in 1987, some things were done better in 2014, but in the end I feel like they're both of similar quality. I like them both in their own ways, and if only you could mix elements, scenes, and lines from the two together I think you could end up with a version that would be better than either one is on its own.

For me, there is no comparison. Don't get me wrong... I don't hate or even dislike the '14 version, it's an alright movie. But it's way too watered down. From the house, to Corrine and Olivia. Everything just feels too simplistic, there is no real creepiness. The creepiest thing about the remake to me is the fact that Cathy and Christopher hook up. So, I'll always pick the original. It's hands down the best between the two movies, but even though it's lacking a few things, the remake was an okay attempt.


  1. Nerdy little sidenote from a new blogfan - VC Andrews had a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo as a maid in the original film.
    I grew up on the early books (Audrina, Flowers series, Heaven series) and read parts of the Dawn and Melody series before giving up. Neiderman got stuck in a rut what with the incest and evil grandmothers and all. Plus, VC had an unparalleled gift for purple prose. He likes simple sentences. Gag.

    1. I always meant to read further into the Andrews collection that was in my house, but I never even finished Petals on the Wind.

      - Cody

  2. Interesting post. I did a review and comparison of both film versions of "Flowers In The Attic" a while back - I also noted the UK Blu-Ray release of the original film in March 2018; it contains special features, such as the original shooting script, interviews (Jeb Stuart Adams confirmed that the original cut of the film did feature some mild and modest kissing and cuddling scenes between Cathy and Chris that were edited out of the final cut after a negative reaction at a test screening) and the original ending. The Blu-Ray will get an official release on December 17 of this year and can be pre-ordered at Amazon. I will always prefer the 1987 film and I felt that the Lifetime movie was a disaster for the most part.

    1. Thanks for the info on the Blu-ray, I wasn't aware there was one coming out (or that one was recently released in the UK.) Sounds interesting.

      - Cody

  3. Christopher Young's score for the original film was hauntingly beautiful, the music in the remake doesn't come close.

  4. Kristy Swanson, who played Cathy in the 1987 film, stated that a few years after the movie was made, both she and Louise Fletcher received scripts for the sequel "Petals On The Wind" but the film was never made. A major plot point in the book was Cathy seeking revenge against her mother, but since Corrine was killed off in the theatrical version, my guess was the sequel would have had Cathy seeking revenge against the grandmother. Kristy Swanson described the script as a "sex fest", as Cathy becomes involved with several men including her brother Christopher (as in the book) but as most of the incest was cut out of the film (a few hints left here and there), it makes you wonder how the relationship between Cathy and Chris would have been explained and shown in the sequel.