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Film / Flowers in the Attic (1987)

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Flowers in the Attic is the 1987 film adaptation of the 1979 novel of the same name by V. C. Andrews.

From the outside, the Dollangangers appear to be the perfect family: happily married parents Chris and Corrine and four beautiful children Christopher, Cathy, Carrie, and Cory. But when father Christopher is killed on the night of his thirty-sixth birthday, the family is quickly financially devastated. Lack of savings and Corrine's inability to find work mean that they must sell their possessions and then their house. Soon there is only one place left for them to go.

Corrine takes her four children to Foxworth Hall, her childhood home, to live with her parents. Years ago her father disinherited her over her marriage. She plans to win her way back into his heart so that she can provide for her children. The grandmother permits them to stay on one condition: the children must live in a secluded upstairs room with only the attic for extra space to live and play.


And it all goes downhill from there as physical and emotional abuse, the lure of money, and an entire attic full of ugly family secrets all come into play.

Another film adaptation was produced for the Lifetime network in 2014.

The film adaptation provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: And Grandparent. First, the grandmother is this to both Corrine and her four grandchildren. Then, it's not long at all before Corrine herself to start acting this way towards them.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Grandmother has grey hair in the books (and it turns out to be a wig) but is red-haired in the film.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: Cathy calls her oldest brother Christopher throughout the whole film, which comes across as a little strange. It's not explained that since the father was Christopher as well, he was called Chris while Jr. was Christopher.
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  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: The movie is set in the 1980s while the book was set in the 1950s. As a result Corrine going back to her rich family for money instead of finding a job herself is a little strange since there were less housewives and stay-at-home mothers in the 80s than there were in the 50s. Also Chris and Cathy are aged up to around 15 and 16 (they are 14 and 12 respectively in the book) so one wonders why they didn't work either. Although it should be noted that in the book, Corrine was heavily in credit card debt, which would have been more common in the 1980s than the 1950s.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: A rather notorious example of both Franchise Killer and Executive Meddling. Corrine is killed on her wedding day when Cathy drives her over a balcony, where she's hanged by her own veil. Corrine is a prominent character in the remaining books of the series and killing her off in the first film effectively curtails any future installments, but the producers felt that audiences wouldn't be satisfied without getting to see her get her comeuppance.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In the book, Olivia has gray hair. Plus she is described as tall and mannish, with a square jaw. In the movie, Olivia has red hair, manicured nails, and make-up.
  • Age Lift: Christopher is 14 in the book and Cathy twelve (though they're imprisoned for three years). The film ages them up to fifteen or sixteen.
  • Alliterative Family: The man's name is Christopher, with his wife Corrine and there four children; Christopher Jr., Cathy, and twins Cory and Carrie.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Used by the Grandmother in her sermons and lectures, proclaiming the children the "Devil's Spawn."
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Corrine Foxworth and her mother Olivia Foxworth are the abusive Evil Matriarchs of the Dollanganger family.
  • Big Fancy House: Foxworth Hall.
  • Big "NO!": Cathy when Grandmother knocks the music box off the mantelpiece.
    • This was also Cathy's reaction to when her father died.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Not really that big, but definitely screwed up.
  • Bowdlerise: The most famous thing about this adaptation is that it removed the incest that the story is so famous for in the first place.
    One reviewer: Leaving the incest out of a Flowers adaptation is like turning Herman Melville's Moby-Dick into a movie about a man who's very determined to catch a flounder.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The cookies, or more specifically, the arsenic-laced sugar topping.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The film is only 90 minutes long. As such, a lot of the emotional drama of the novel as the children are slowly worn away by their attic prison is glossed over with bits of narration.
  • Creator Cameo: V. C. Andrews appears very briefly washing a window.
  • Daddy's Girl: Cathy. Corrine aspires to become this again.
  • Death by Adaptation: Corrine in the film. She does die in the third book but in a fire.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Grandmother punishes severely for the most minor infractions, including simply existing as the products of incest.
  • Evil Matriarch: The Grandmother.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first shot we see of Corrine involves her looking at herself in the mirror, instead of her daughter who is right next to her.
  • Evil All Along: Corrine was personally poisoning the cookies that her children ate.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Corrine turns from loving mother to uncaring shrew.
  • Fallen Princess: Deconstructed. Corrine comes from vast wealth and gave it all up to marry her husband but once he's dead she won't work and returns to her family, hoping to be rich again. She ends up trying to kill off her own children just to get her inheritance.
  • The Film of the Book
  • "Friends" Rent Control: A line from Cathy's narration, "I got a job to put Chris through medical school". And what kind of job would an uneducated teenage girl get that would pay for medical school?
  • Gilded Cage: The children's attic prison initially comes across as this when they are fed regularly and frequently given expensive presents. It becomes a nothing more than a cage, however, when their mother increasingly neglects them.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Initially played straight with the Dollanganger family, but eventually subverted as the family breaks down.
  • Hulk Speak: Cory and Carrie don't speak good "'cause Momma don't like them no more."
  • Hypocrite: Of the super-religious type. The Grandmother takes the incestuous relationship her daughter had committed, and used it as an excuse to starve, abuse, lie, blackmail, dehumanize children,and commit outright murder, among other things. Also, it is mentioned once that the grandfather feels like he is entitled to act however he wants and do whatever he wants because he funded a church.
  • Incest Subtext: The scene with the father giving Cathy her music box when she's alone in her bed, topped off with giving her a ring in a posture that looks very like a proposal. Cathy and Christopher's relationship is relegated to subtext at best.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Initially played straight with the Dollanganger family, but eventually subverted as the family breaks down.
  • Insufferable Genius: Christopher wants to be a doctor, which apparently involves knowing everything there is to know about everything in the world. It gets to the point where Cathy shuts him up with a snide remark.
  • It's All About Me: Corrine after being called out for her neglect of the children:
    "Stop it! You have no right to talk to me like that! Do you think I've had pleasure while my children have been in pain? You are heartless. When you're ready to treat me with love, I'll be back."
  • Kick the Dog: Grandmother breaks an ornament Cathy's father gave her For the Evulz. She actually didn't do it in the book because Cathy had to leave the ornament behind when they moved.
  • Loser Kids Of Loser Parents: The grandmother thinks that the kids, especially Chris and Cathy, are somehow incestuous by nature because they were inbred.
  • Mama Bear: Averted with Corrine, who doesn’t give a rat's ass about her kids. Played Straight with Cathy, who is a surrogate mother to her little brother and sister.
  • Momma's Boy: Christopher will not tolerate any criticism or questioning of their mother.
  • Offing the Offspring: With arsenic laced desserts.
  • Parental Abandonment: Their father is dead and their mother just flat out abandoned them.
  • Perfect Poison: The children are slowly fed arsenic to get rid of them.
  • Pet the Dog: When Cory becomes very ill, it's the grandmother who insists he be taken to the hospital.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Cory is quiet, polite and gentle. Carrie is loud, adamant and forceful.
  • Promotion to Parent: Chris and Cathy become surrogate parents for their much younger twin siblings Cory and Carrie. They called it a game, with Chris as the daddy, Cathy as the mommy and Cory and Carrie as the children. It becomes more serious when it is made clear that their real mother doesn’t seem to want them any more.
  • Rich Bitch: Corrine becomes one.
  • Setting Update: Unlike the original book, which was set 1950s, this movie is set in the 1980s.
  • Spoiled Brat: Corrine quickly becomes this when she gets a taste of the good life again.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Corrine is whipped to atone for her time spent "living in sin." Seventeen lashes for her seventeen years of marriage.
  • Team Pet: Renamed Fred in the film.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Done more directly in the film, where Grandmother knocks Cathy down and cuts her hair off.
  • The Unfavorite: Corrine appears to be jealous of her husband's attention to Cathy from the beginning of the film.
  • Unnamed Parent: The grandparents are only known as The Grandmother and The Grandfather. In the film, the father's name is never given.

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