IT’S HERE! FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC DAY IS HERE! I had plans to watch this with my friend but somehow she slept through it and here I am watching it three days later. What a traitor I am to my generation.
I only ever read the first of these books, which my dad’s wife at the time was reading and told me I’d like. First of all, why would someone give these books to a kid?? Secondly, why did all my friends get these books from their moms and step moms?!? It was apparently an epidemic if you ask women from their late 20s to early 40s. These books are so creepy and horrible. Definitely too much for 12/13 year old me to handle, which is why I never kept reading. I just shudder when I see the horrible cover art- gives me the heeby jeebies.
See what I mean?
Well, Lifetime has made a movie of the book starring Heather Graham and the kid from Mad Men and also ELLEN BURSTYN. Yes, you read that correctly. In the book there’s regular ol’ family stuff like blood drinking, incest, poisoning children and being raped by your brother so I am really curious how Lifetime will take all of this one and keep it with a television rating. I just hope that the overall feeling of creepy to the max made the final cut.
I really don’t remember the details from the book specifically anyway. This movie is lucky that I read it 20+ years ago (ack) and that I never revisited it or I’d probably be a lot more critical. No better way to spend a snow day in NYC than diving into this cheese fest… so away we go!
First off, my dvr apparently cut off the first three minutes so those three minutes will be a mystery to me. They’re lost forever to the sands of time. I come in as dad is saying he has to move away for a job and his daughter (Cathy) is super sad and not celebrating.
He talks to her about how great this will be but yeah, most kids would not see the greatness in this.
They throw a party for dad… he’s already back through the magic of editing! The mom, Heather Graham (Corrine), says that the neighbors will see that they’re perfect. FORESHADOWING. The kids are worried because he shouldn’t be late to his own party.
Yeah, there’s been an accident, he’s not coming back. Cathy is concerned when their mom is just sitting at the dining room table with a light on, not speaking.
Things aren’t so perfect I guess. That foreshadowing paid off incredibly quickly.
A younger sibling is all “is dad going to be here for dinner?” and they have to explain to her for what seems like the upteenth time that he’s dead. That’s rough.
Cathy goes to tell her mom that they owe money for something but mom looks a mess and is all “it’s hard for a woman to raise four kids on her own” which is still true today. Her daughter believes in her but she says “look at me, I’m an ornament.”
I guess she considered herself more of a trophy wife and not a worker type. She tells her daughter that she’s lucky because she got looks AND a brain.
Mom tells Cathy that she takes after her father’s mother and that he loved his mother. Cathy: doesn’t everyone love their mother? Mom: some mothers are impossible to love, they don’t act like mothers at all.
That’s what you call MORE FORESHADOWING.
Mom asks Cathy to mail some mail and it’s implied that she’s been sending a lot of mail lately.
Ugh, the inside of their house is a beautiful mid-century dream. I want everything, particularly those blue chairs in the background.
Mom explains to them that she heard back to one of her letters and that they’re going to live with their grandma in Virginia. The kids are confused because they thought they had no family. These kids are all “wha??” because lying and saying your family is all dead is not normal.
Oh, she and the dad charged everything in the house so they don’t own anything (goodbye, beautiful blue chairs!). Don’t worry though, they’re going to leave tonight in the middle of the night. The kids also are confused by this because duh, that’s crazy. She then tells them that her family is mega wealthy and they’ll be rich now. Christopher is excited by that but Cathy is still all “huh?” This was a lot of news to lay on kids in one sitting.
“I promise you, whatever you leave behind, I’ll buy you 1000 more in Virginia, you won’t miss a thing.” Don’t believe her, kids!
Oh, and one more thing kids, our name is really “Foxworth.” Yeah, they didn’t even know their family name until now.
They’re traveling by train in the middle of the night, four kids and a mom and she says they’re getting off and will just take the kid bags and will come back for the rest tomorrow- is that a thing? Trains just let you do that? Also, the conductor doesn’t want to let them off but she says someone is meeting them. Then he calls her by the wrong last name and Cathy notices as they leave the train in the middle of nowhere at 3am…
No one meets them- they walk miles to her mom’s house (what’s it called when you have a bunch of giant houses in a cluster because it’s more like that). Ellen Burstyn is her mean mother. “Welllllll, look what the cat dragged in.”
Grandma is all “well, I see your children inherited your good looks, I hope they’re not hiding some defect…” Charming.
Grandma doesn’t want the two older kids sharing a bed and makes a comment that their mother wasn’t good either and that this is the only room they’re safe from their grandfather in. Not weird at all! Oh, and before she leaves she says “GOD SEES EVERYTHING. REMEMBER THAT.” No big deal. Won’t have any nightmares about that one.
They ask why grandpa doesn’t know they’re there and she says she did something when she was 18 that he never forgave her for… vague…something about falling in love with her husband… but she’s here to win back his love and get into his will before he dies. She thinks that will only take a few days, maybe a week. Also, whatever you do, don’t piss off grandma.
Speaking of, grandma walks back in and asks what Cathy is wearing and it’s a ring that her dad gave her- grandma demands it. Grandma threatens to punch her in the face so she gives up the ring.
Grandma- “AND DON’T YOU EVER MENTION YOUR FATHER IN THIS HOUSE AGAIN.” Hmmmm, yes, the creep factor definitely made it in the final cut.
Corrine just keeps smiling and saying all their dreams are going to come true, despite how many scary things just happened to them. She leaves their room and it’s locked from the outside like that’s not weird at all.
Cathy wakes up when grandma walks in with a picnic basket with their food for the day. She can’t be walking up here all damned day, feeding their needy butts, they will get a day’s worth of food in the morning and make it last. They can’t leave this room except for to play in the attic. “NO ONE MUST EVER SEE OR HEAR YOU.” Also, you have to be dressed at all times and boys and girls can never be in the bathroom together. Oh, and no big deal, but their grandfather would punish them for even being alive. They go to check out the attic…
The kids are psyched to find a record player up there. Then Cathy finds a table that other kids have etched their names in like 100 years ago. The little kids are scared and don’t like this place anymore.
Cathy asks Christopher what she must have meant about them being punished for even being alive and he says not to worry about it because their mom has it under control. They’ll be out of here in a week and they’ll be super rich, he’s sure of it.
The twins don’t want to eat their cold chicken from the morning and Christopher starts pretending to read from the Bible about wasting food being a sin- they goof off. Mom walks in and grandma looks PISSED. Mom tells her they didn’t know and she says “they will” and pulls her out of the room.
She comes back in, shaky, but still with the silly smile on her face like nothing bad is happening.
A twin screams and grandma flips her shit and just starts beating the children. Corrine says she cannot beat her children and that she will leave right now and she’ll never see her again. Duh, this mean ol’ lady doesn’t give a shit. Not a smart card to play.
Oh, here comes the juice! Grandma has mom take off her blouse to show her kids all of her lashings for her wickedness.
She will be beaten every time of them misbehaves so no pressure, children.
“18 lashes for every year she used her wicked charms on MY husband and 20 more for every year she lived in sin with your father. A marriage that was an abomination in the eyes of the lord with four children spawned by the devil- evil since the moment you were conceived.”
Okay, so from birth Corrine was seducing her father. That’s maybe the worst thing you could ever tell a little girl. The skin crawls.
We have had foreshadowing that Corrine hates her mother so why bring them back here? Is this really better than getting a job?? I get it, you would have had to be poor and that’s gross. It’s so strange that she thinks bringing her kids here would be a good thing to do (particularly given the information that we now have that she was maybe molested by her father)- also, where the hell is she all day while they’re rationing their food and taking care of the twins? Just chilling in one of the giant houses, getting waited on by the maids? Or is she hiding too?
We’re only 35 minutes in.
Mom brings them up paints and stuff so they can paint a fun garden in the attic since they can’t go outside. Cathy is worried they’re going to get beaten for this but mom tells them that grandma is clausterphobic and never goes into the attic. Did you see that? EVEN MORE FORESHADOWING@ This attic is HUGE and open so I’m not sure how clausterphobia plays into things but wherever they’re safe from her sounds like a good idea.
Christopher asks if her back hurts and she says she’s fine. They ask why their grandma said those horrible things and her answer, verbatim:
“When I was little I turned to my father for love. We did everything together- sailing, and horseback riding and even hunting. That only made my mother more jealous and she took every opportunity she could to torment me and shame me and she succeeded over the years as my father became more and more busy with work and I became more withdrawn and lonely. And into all this came my father’s half brother, his mother had recently died and my family took him in. He was only a few years older than me, he was so handsome and so kind… and so full of life. My father treated him like he was his own son- I never met anyone like him (sigh).”
The kids figure out that she’s talking about their dad. So, her dad loved her and was a good dad. GOD SEES EVERYTHING. This is not as sinister as it was made out to be.
She says that when they ran away to get married her mom told her that God would punish her with hooved devil babies but they are all perfect so God did not punish her… yeah, that logic is flawed but the kids are not hooved, true. Christopher says he’ll love her no matter what. She tells them she’s as much of a captive in this house as they are…Because she’s a liar.
Next scene, they’re painting the garden in the attic and Cathy says that their mom hasn’t even come to see them in a week despite, you know, living in the same house.
Cathy goes down to the bedroom to get some water and runs into grandma. She straight up tells her they’re painting a garden for the twins to be occupied. For the first time in the movie grandma doesn’t seem pissed at all, she just puts down her daughter’s artistic ability despite her not being in the room to hear it. Cathy says that she dances ballet and that Christopher is great at art.
PISSED OFF OL’ GRANNY IS BACK! She demands to know if Christopher has ever offered to paint her, in the nude, and Cathy is so freaked out that she just stands there. Grandma takes this as an admission but Cathy says she doesn’t know what to say to these bananas accusations. Grandma says to ask Christopher about it because boys are gross pervs from birth so he’ll know what she’s talking about. How does a person become this batshit bonkers?
The kids are being put into the attic because the maids are coming to clean and there can be no sign of them in the bedroom when that happens. Cathy is so proud of herself for cleaning their fingerprints out of the room but grandma is a nutcase, remember, so she HATES THAT. HATES IT SO MUCH.
Grandma gives her some real flowers to put up in their fake garden and it might be the nicest thing this mean old lady has ever done in her life.
These teenagers are amazing parents to these little kids. It’s been a month apparently that they’ve been cooped up inside, just taking care of these kids while their mom does whatever all day. She brags to them that she went sailing with her dad today. Ummm, read a room, lady. These kids haven’t been outside in a month, don’t brag about your boat outings.
Cathy wants to know when she’s going to tell her dad about them and mom drops the bomb- NEVER. She promised him that she never had children and that’s the only reason he’s speaking to her. I guess he was also worried about devil babies and so she just lied and said she never had kids. No big whoop.
Except that her daughter is pretty hurt by that. Christopher is dumb so he’s fine with it.
Cathy talks to Christopher about how they’re going to be here forever. He says the dad could die soon so that it may not be that long. Cathy mentions that their mom never sees them and when she does she’s in a new outfit. By the way, her last outfit was super cute but it was short shorts and a little polka dot shirt that I can’t imagine her mom ever approving of in a zillion years.
How’d she sneak that one by the ol’ crank?
The girl twin says the boy twin went somewhere or she can’t find him. They find him in a trunk and he’s either sleeping or dead- I can’t tell. Is this what parenthood is like?
I think he passed out or something- they’re warming him in a hot bath and Cathy says he’ll be okay because somehow she is the wisest 13 year old in the world. The little boy says he misses mom so much and Cathy says “pretend I’m your mother.” Ew. There is truly gross lurking behind every turn in this movie.
When are we getting to Christopher measuring his weiner?? For some reason that part stayed with me from the book. By the way, I used to ask dudes if they’d ever done that (I only had a sister so what did I know) and literally no one ever said yes so this book totally betrayed me.
It’s snowing. Seasons are changing while they’re just FLOWERS in the ATTIC. See what I did there?? Cathy says this is their first Christmas without their dad and Christopher says they can make presents for the twins and Cathy says they should make some for grandma too because she does bring them food everyday and did give them a plant, which makes her the only adult in their life basically.
They make her this cool mixed media painting from all of them and get dressed up to present it and she looks at it but doesn’t say anything.
It does look like her heart melts for a half second.
Next scene the mom has done up the attic like it’s Christmas and the twins get a cool dollhouse. She tells Christopher that he looks just like his father when she first met him and I’m like shivvvvvver, because I’m so ready for gross things to happen and she’s quickly becoming the worst mom ever.
The big reveal is that she got a tv for Christmas that she brings them in the attic. That is something I guess. Cathy still just wants to leave the damned house but Christopher acts like she’s being selfish and a complainer when she might be the most selfless teenager of all time.
Mom tells them that there will be a big party and that her father’s attorney says it’s just a matter of the paperwork but that she’s going to get everything. She shows them where to hide to spy on the party, like she did when she was a kid.
Grandma can’t believe that she’s wearing a low cut dress out in public but you know whores, they love showing off their breast skin.
They overhear grandma telling a butler to fire someone for serving the wrong bourbon, in the middle of a snowy night when there are no trains to teach the staff a lesson. They’re laying on this character very thick. We don’t need more scenes of this woman being terrible, we. get. it. One scene of her being cool would have been a nice change.
Mom’s dad gives her a beautiful necklace for Christmas in front of all the party guests and says that there is a lot more where this came from. While she puts it on her mom makes a comment “maybe someday you’ll have a daughter to pass it down to.” Sinister.
Cathy and Christopher get ballsy and go into the house and see their mom kissing their grandpa’s attorney and he says that he can’t wait until it’s just the two of them. Cathy doesn’t like the sound of that.
Christopher wanders around the house and sees some stuff but no one seems to see him. Mom comes running into their bedroom and wakes Cathy up and asks her where Christopher is and slaps her (how does she even know Christopher is out of the room?).
She tells her that she’ll never let her out of this room and Cathy is shocked and says she can’t keep them locked up forever. Christopher walks in and mom slaps him and says if he does this again she’ll whip him and Cathy and then she locks them in. Like mother like daughter!
Mom comes in in the morning like nothing happened all “I’m so sorry about last night, I didn’t mean it about the whippings.”
It’s like the kids are the adults and she’s a child. Oh wait, she just kissed her 15 year old son on the lips, like it was no big deal. Slightly open mouthed. Yup.
She pulls a super manipulative thing all “We should have never come here, no amount of money is worth my children not loving me- we should leave! But just know this… if we leave we can never come back.” It’s really, super gross. They tell her they love her and stay, ugh. I wish they would have called her bluff.
Hahaha, Christopher is up on the roof reading something called “Pastie” that I think is ladies in their underwear so maybe this is what replaced the penis measuring scene?
Cathy just realized it’s been a year in the attic and came to tell him that but now she’s grossed out. This has to be the grossest year of her life (until the coming year, probably).
She asks her mom why boys look at dirty pictures and mom is completely unhelpful and just says her body is going to start changing and she has no choice because she can’t be a child her whole life. Cathy asks about kissing and mom is all “I’ll explain it to you all someday!” but then gives them new clothes instead.
“You know, you’re lucky. When I was your age I had no one to come to with these questions.” Except you didn’t answer any of her questions and just changed the subject.
Cathy gets her first bra. Christopher sees her trying it on and they hear their grandma coming so he runs to try to cover her up but grandma thinks she caught them having sexy times.
The sad part is that these kids don’t know what sex is yet so they’re just confused about what she’s accusing them of. She says she’s going to cut her hair off down to the scalp to teach her not to have pride in her body (another great lesson for a young girl!). Christopher protects her and grandma tells him that he can cut off her hair or they won’t get food for a week.
He doesn’t cut her hair and the twins are starving. They’re rationing crackers and hoping their mom brings them something but don’t worry, she never sees them and is the worst parent I’ve seen on tv since the pitiful Ross Geller. Grandma brings up a basket of food though it’s unclear how long they waited and they’re so relieved. They eat it … then she wakes up with tar in her hair. What? How are these things related?
Anyway, she has tar in her hair now. Christopher tries everything to get it out but it doesn’t work so she has him cut her hair. He is totally eye balling her in her bath clothes now and saying he thinks of her THAT way. Ugh. I assume they’re going to cut the horrible part in the book where he rapes her because good lord, that part is ridiculous and also Cathy is being played by an actual 13 year old. Ughhhh. He just keeps cutting her hair.
She practices ballet with her new, terrible haircut, and asks him to do a dance with her but he refuses and wrestles her instead.
Not inappropriate at all. I’m starting to think that this grandma makes people creepy by bringing up creepy shit all the time. Or this attic is the devil’s attic. Either way.
Cathy wants to get out so Christopher comes up with a way they can climb down the house outside the window late at night. How will they get back inside? This plan is not well thought out.
They don’t care though because they’re FREEEEEEEEEE. They go swimming in a pond or something. It’s super dark.
Cathy says their mom has been gone more than a month this time. Christopher says that wherever she is he’s sure she’s thinking of them. These kids are way nicer than me and my sister ever were. He says he’s not sure if he trusts her anymore or what he thinks in general anymore. Attic syndrome.
They get back into the attic, off camera, during an edit. The easiest way to get things done!
The twins make a pet out of a mouse they find in a mouse trap.
Mom comes back! No big deal, she got married a few months ago and never told them. She’s been on honeymoon. Aren’t they excited for her??
Finally, Christopher loses it. She says she brought them prezzies! They don’t give a shit. Christopher says she told them they’d be here a week maybe but it’s been 2 years.
She married someone who doesn’t know they exist. Christopher tells her she’s a terrible mother and she’s all “I’ve always done the best I could.” Oh god, woman. You’re the worst. The twins call these teenagers mom and dad, think about that.
(Wait, another year passed? And her hair hasn’t grown out yet? I guess I should let that detail pass…sigh)
Grandma brings them donuts and they’re psyched. She says they’re from their mother but maybe don’t eat them because they’re bad for your health (yes, things poisoned with arsenic are often bad for your health- SPOILER ALERT). They eat them anyway because this is their life and so this is like the best thing that’s happened to them since the television.
Cathy and Christopher talk about running away but where would they go? Grandma comes in and refuses to call him by his name and he defies her so she beats him.
When Cathy makes sure he’s okay he’s all shirtless and bleeding and takes this as his opening to make out with his sister. Ew. Ewwwwww.
After commercial we’re supposed to believe that they’ve had sex I guess because Christopher is up crying at a Bible and Cathy is all “I know what we did was wrong, but I liked it.” UGHHHHHHH. So gross. Also, where were the twins?
Grandma walks in and Christopher tells her she was right about them all along- they are the devil’s spawn. He begs her for forgiveness but she says only God can forgive. He’s fooling her though- he’s tricking her so he can make a master key out of wood (just take my word for it).
They form a plan- they have a master key that opens all the doors in the house and they think about robbing their mom so they go looking for cash. Cathy plays dress up in her mother’s things and then finds a book of art that is naked paintings that rev her engine I guess because she doesn’t hear Christopher talking to her anymore.
They find some cash and start saving it. The twins notice a fence being built outside… that’s weird.
Cathy goes into her mom’s room and sees her husband asleep in his bed and walks up to him and kisses him while he sleeps.
This is what happens when you lock kids in an attic for all of their puberty years and it’s not pretty.
Christopher checks out the fence and it’s an electric one. Why would this be going on now?
Mom is kissing her husband in the hall and he’s saying that he thinks the help is robbing them. She’s all “no big deal, let’s go on vacation!” This woman is the worst.
The husband says that he had a sweet dream that a young version of her kissed him” and Christopher loses his mind because he’s so jealous (oh yes, this is when the rape happens in the book- which is one of the most fucked up things ever because right after he rapes her she’s all “I’m in love with you!” Ummm, again, why did our moms give us this book to read?)
They have sex either again or for the first time. She says they can run away to Florida and live in Sarasota with the freak show.
She says they should never do this again and he’s all “but I want to feel like this about you.” Oh god, so much ew.
The girl twin says the boy twin doesn’t feel good. It’s pretty amazing that in their years in the attic that they haven’t gotten sick or anything really.
Hmmm, they think it’s food poisoning. It couldn’t be the donuts, could it?? Mom and grandma come in and aren’t worried at all and don’t even seem to care. Cathy goes off and tells her mom that she’s the worst and people aren’t going to think she’s perfect for long- her husband and her dad are going to find out about her four kids. Mom slaps her but she slaps her right back. It’s really good. Kiernan Shipka is really the best creepy kid acting today. I’m glad she’s in this. I have to say that Heather Graham is playing it very specifically creepy and not just really dumb, so that’s a step up for her too. Maybe this kid is upping her game.
They take him to the hospital (or so they say) and she comes back all “he died” like it’s no big deal while the other kids sob.
I like how they’re slowly making her as terrible as her own mother, if not worse.
Cathy says they have to run away or they’re all going to die like their brother. She is very smart.
They go into their mom’s room and her stuff is gone but a picture of their dad with the ring she had taken from her at the beginning remains. Their mom has clearly left them.
They make their getaway plan. Christopher goes to steal things around the house when he hears the maids talking about how much poison grandma takes up to the attic. ALSO! NEWSFLASH! Grandpa died 7 months ago so they’re just prisoners now. No one told them. Christopher has started coughing a lot and I’m sure it’s because of the poisoning and all.
Christopher sees his grandma looking sick with long strands of white hair, and she sees him. He runs upstairs and says that their food has been poisoned and that they have to leave now. Somehow this shocks Cathy but I guess she still wanted to like her grandmother. Everyone in this story is evil, get used to it girl.
Grandma runs in to beat him but they stop her because they’re stronger than her (for once they’ve realized this) and so they run up to the attic and trap their grandma on the attic stairs while she freaks out about being trapped (remember, she’s claustrophobic- FORESHADOWING PAID OFF!).
She drops one last bomb, that she never poisoned them, that was all their mom. Good lord. These kids are doomed. In a sequel book do they get revenge on their mother somehow? Someone who read one please inform me! I need to know! I would spend the next year ruining her life and running around town as her behooved, devil babies.
They run to a train and a butler turns off the electric fence for them (who seems horrified when they tell him who they are- just hidden children he’s never seen). They’re on a train to the mystical land of Florida.
PS. How did this woman have four kids, two of which are twins, not have a single stretch mark or scar that gives her away to future men?? Maybe that’s what she got for selling her soul to the devil.
I thought of some more PSsses while I was going to sleep last night.
PPS. If the grandma truly hates her daughter so much why doesn’t she tell her husband about the hidden devil children?
PPPS. Was their dad the only thing holding this family together and making this woman nice? Man, he was powerful.
Of course, the writer is now explaining the choices:
5 changes from the book. You can believe her or not but I’m sure some of these things were network notes being all “you can’t have blood drinking on Lifetime” but she doesn’t want to bite the hand that feeds, etc… I do think the “my mom was jealous that my dad loved me” change is strange if their relationship was totally normal. I guess I also don’t believe any relationship in this family is normal.