V. C. Andrews' novel Flowers in the Attic was incredibly successful when it was released in 1979, selling over 40 million copies worldwide, gathering a huge following of young readers, and spawning no fewer than three sequels. The author wisely insisted on script approval when selling the rights for a film adaptation, turning down a number of screenplays before settling with Jeffrey Bloom's version. The producers had already turned down Wes Craven's violent and disturbing vision, deeming it too disturbing for a mainstream audience, despite the director's recent success with A Night on Elm Street. Bloom's script stayed true the novel's controversial themes of incest, but the final product, also directed by Bloom, did not play well with test audiences, who were freaked out by the sexual activity between the two oldest siblings, and unsatisfied with the climax.
The production was a notoriously troubled one. When the producers got nervous after the test screenings and insisted on re-shooting the ending, Bloom stepped away, and an unknown replacement was brought in to helm the new scenes. The result has one salivating at the thought of a juicier, more harrowing version with Craven behind the camera, as Flowers in the Attic is a tame, frustrating and ultimately boring affair. It is a film completely disinterested in detail, choosing instead to force us into accepting the children's predicament with no real understanding of how they took so long to figure it all out, and why don't simply make a run for it. Cathy and Chris come across as idiotic, irresponsible and weak, despite the best efforts of Swanson and Adams. Fletcher, evoking her intimidating presence from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, gives it her very best, but she can't save this damp squib from instantly fading from memory.
Directed by: Jeffrey Bloom
Starring: Louise Fletcher, Victoria Tennant, Kristy Swanson, Jeb Stuart Adams