Written by: Matt Molgaard
Lifetime has been doing some wicked business lately. A few weeks back Lizzie Borden was the primary focus, and now, we’re getting a look at one of the most, vile, selfish, self-absorbed mothers ever given creation.
If you’re not familiar with V.C. Andrews’ tale, Flowers in the Attic, you probably should be. It’s hands down one of the most frightening stories ever told. But it’s atypical in the fact that physical violence isn’t the preferred method of fear tactic in this piece, so much as blatant neglect and grueling psychological torment.
Heather Graham portrays the off-kilter mother figure, Corrine. Corrine is a greedy bitch with two screws loose and four kids that she’d rather have nothing to do with. So, what’s she do when her husband passes? Moves the kids into their grandparent’s house. It’s here that they discover that mommy dearest had been engaged in a lengthy incestuous relationship with their very own father. And it’s here that imprisonment will drive her own offspring to travel the same path, as elder siblings Christopher and Cathy soon turn to each other for emotional and romantic support. And, to their credit, it’s hard to fault them in the slightest: They’ve been – quite literally – locked in an attic for more than two years.
In the process we see the spirits of four innocent children shattered. Even worse, the youngest of the kids dies suddenly. We soon learn that their conniving bitch of a mother actually poisoned them. She’s far too preoccupied with her new husband – who has no idea she’s ever even given birth to one, let alone four children.
As Corrine leaves her children behind to slowly rot away in a cramped attic, the children devise a plan to escape. Their hatred for the authority figures looking after them erases any hesitation and eventually, the three surviving children make good on an escape.
What makes the picture so unsettling is not only the blatant and severe child abuse, but the nonchalant manner in which Graham’s character deals with it all. She’s a falsification of a human being. A waste of space in a world where compassion is a rarity. And boy does Heather sell it. By the time the final act rolls around, viewers should be ready to beat this woman to death with their bare hands. There’s one person in the world who should never betray the trust of a child, and that’s mom. This one apparently missed the memo.
This is an astoundingly dark piece that at times feels like a vintage Hammer effort, decorated by beautiful period structures and aesthetically bleak visuals. Ton a technical front the acting is superb, and the editing is excellent; a little Ti West can be detected in a shot or two. As disturbing as Flowers in the Attic may be, it’s a damn fine addition to the horror genre. This is psychological terror turned up to ten.