Flowers in the Attic dances around its murderous agenda without the gothic buds ever blossoming. Incalculable amounts of money? Or doting motherhood? The fundamental ultimatum for any recent widower, lumbered with four beautifully blonde children, who seeks the extensive inheritance of their terminally ill yet abundantly wealthy father. “We will have more money than you could possibly dream of”, she reassures her grieving offspring after the abrupt death of their father. Leading them to her idyllic childhood abode, as if a group of sheep lining up for slaughter. Their devout religious grandmother awaiting in the lavished corridors of the beguiling manor, guiding them to their designated imprisonment. “Your mother has come home after seventeen years to repent for her sins and for her crime”, she exclaims, detailing the “unholy” marriage between their mother and father, whom is actually her uncle. And with the grandmother’s last words, “and you, the children, are the Devil’s spawn!”, she swiftly locks the children in the attic. Patiently waiting for their mother’s return, abiding by their grandmother’s strict punishable rules, they soon begin to realise that she gradually abandons them for unlimited wealth and must discover a means of escape.
Bloom’s adaptation of Andrews’ popular novel of the same name illicitly exudes gothic aesthetics and a haunting score that are regrettably unable to masquerade the butchering of its source material. Originally a suspense thriller infamous for its explicit incestuous relationships and child abuse, Bloom, whom largely blamed producers and studio interference for cutting the suggestive elements (albeit retaining insinuations), removed the vast majority of metaphorical endeavours to settle for a straightforward flat narrative that lacked the required motivation from its characters. The sanctimonious virtuosity of the radically religious and their inner hyperbolic inhumanity.
Fletcher, whom consistently portrays a conniving antagonist with superb efficiency, is unforgivably under-utilised. Locking the children away, starving them, and occasionally checking up on them before smacking their life force or cutting their hair. The grandmother was the catalyst for the evil within the manor, yet Bloom randomly decided to shift the villainous focus to the mother, whom was admittedly a background presence in the novel. She still remains lurking in the corridors, rarely making an appearance to convey the children’s eventual abandonment, but consequently the altered third act rarely made an impact due to her narrative absence. Her exaggerated inhumanity perpetuating the greed for wealth and luxury was, to say the least, less characterised than the dilapidated interior of the attic itself.
The children, with the two oldest notably played by an appropriately aged Swanson and the far too old Stuart Adams (looked like he could be married to the mother!), held much of the story together with some genuine onscreen chemistry. The acting ranged from maturing cheddar cheese to blatant mediocrity, however their relational strengths were in full bloom. Unfortunately, the unsubstantial plot progressed at a glacial pace, forcing their shenanigans to be nothing more than menial distractions. When the most “thrilling” scene revolves around crafting paper flowers to decorate the attic, you just know something is missing.
That’s the inherent problem with Bloom’s adaptation. It’s missing the vital controversial components that shaped the novel’s legacy. Whilst this adaptation is shrouded in a clumsy watchability factor, due to it being a viable product of its time, it confusingly avoids watering its incestuous seeds and therefore prevents its thrilling story from growing. Forgettable. Those cookies sure looked delicious though...