True story: When I was in fifth grade, I got sent to the principal’s office after my teacher spotted me hunched over a copy Flowers in the Attic. My mother had to come pick me up and answer a slew of questions, including “are you aware of the material your daughter’s reading?” (she was) and whether I understood what was going on in the book (mostly.) It’s since become a family joke but—to be fair—I now understand how any teacher could have been a wee bit appalled given the book’s content.
In case you’re unfamiliar, V.C. Andrews’ cult 1979 gothic novel Flowers in the Attic was essentially the Hunger Games of the ’80s and ’90s, and it’s sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. The plot is probably the most twisted thing you’ll ever —ever—read and mostly goes like this: After her husband dies suddenly, a happy mother takes her four children to live with her mother—their grandmother—in a huge estate in the Blue Ridge mountains.
In order to inherit a fortune, the young mother—for depraved reasons you’ll learn—agrees to lock the kids away in an attic for over two years, leaving them in the hands of their sadistic, abusive, God-fearing grandmother. That’s not all: While cooped up during their “developmental” years, the two older siblings Cathy and Chris develop, uh, special feelings for each other that results in a sexual relationship.
Horrified yet? So were filmakers in 1987, who tried to leverage the books popularity by turning it into a movie but decided to omit pretty much every screwed-up plotline. Not only did the script completely remove any and all “romance,” but it also failed to capture the story’s gothic eeriness—and inherent grotesqueness—that the novel so deftly conveyed.
It was only a matter of time before someone realized that the unabridged story was ripe for retelling, and it was announced this week that Lifetime will be the one to do it, and—rejoice, fans!—the script will be extremely faithful to the book.
The movie—which is set to air on January 18—stars “Mad Men” teen and rising fashion star Kiernan Shipka as Cathy, Heather Graham as the loving-turned-psycho mother, and the inimitable Ellen Burstyn as the batsh–t crazy grandmother that makes Joan Crawford in “Mommy Dearest” look like June Cleaver.
After watching an extended trailer (that’s since been removed from the Web for some reason), I can honestly say—as V.C. Andrews’ number 1 fan—the movie looks good. However, before it reenters the pop culture conversation again, I highly suggest you read the book and then watch the 1987 movie, so you’re fully clued in and can make an informed opinion on the new version.
Make no mistake, the original film is absolutely abysmal, although if you’re as unabashed in your fandom of kitschy slices of pop culture nostaligia (I may or may not have bought every single original Sweet Valley High book on eBay recently), you should seek it out on Netflix if for no other reason than to witness the movie’s abundance of camptastic, melodramatic scenes. Specifically, the one at the end where—spoiler alert!—the kids escape the attic and crash an important wedding looking like a pack of malnourished ghouls. (Trust me, it’s funnier than it sounds.)
Oh, and if you think all this is sick, wait till you read the 4 (amazing) sequels that are totally unsuitable for fifth graders, but that didn’t stop me—I just read ’em after school.
Check out the brief trailer for the new movie, and the laugh-out-loud trailer for the 1987 version below, and let us know: Are you excited that Lifetime is remaking “Flowers in the Attic?”