Flowers in the Attic

 
(i)

 

Book-turned-movie skips the incest but keeps the creepy.
  • Review Date: October 6, 2010
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1987
  • Running Time: 93 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Some people will betray anyone, even those closest to them, if the price is right. A mother must choose between her children and a massive inheritance, and opts to abandon them completely to a terrible fate.

Positive role models

None of the characters are good role models. A mother chooses money over her children and a grandmother seems to relish abusing her grandchildren. And while the kids are clearly the victims in the film, the teenage brother and sister begin to display amorous feeling for each other, though this element of the story is not developed.

Violence

A few intense conflicts, including a mother slapping her children, young kids biting and scratching their grandmother, and a teen beating an old woman with a heavy stick. One scene implies that a woman is about to be whipped, and she later reveals that her back is covered with bloody welts.

Sex

Though there is no sex, the atmosphere is sometimes sexually charged. Four children are confined in a small attic for a lengthy period, and the teenage son and daughter both seem to develop a sexual interest in each other. The son sometimes washes his sister’s back while she bathes, and they exchange longing glances. This incestuous relationship is a key part of the book upon which the film is based, but in the movie it never goes beyond looks, nor is it even explicitly acknowledged.

Language

One character, in a moment of rage, exclaims “damn you to hell.”

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this creepy thriller focuses on four siblings in a horrible situation, virtually imprisoned by an abusive grandmother in the isolated attic of a huge mansion. There are a few fight scenes that may not seem very violent compared to the shootouts of they typical action film, but they seem more intense because the participants are family members, including young children and an elderly woman. The kids’ feelings of powerlessness and despair could be tough for younger viewers. The movie suggests, but only barely, the themes of incest that were a central element in the popular book upon which this is based. There’s no nudity or sex, but a few scenes show the teenage girl and boy in moments that seem to border on the inappropriate.

What's the story?

Life is nearly perfect for the Dollanger family until the father is killed in a car accident, leaving Corinne (Victoria Tennant) with no means to support herself or her four kids. Desperate for money, she makes a hard decision: return to her family estate, make amends with her estranged, and very wealthy parents, and hope to be reinstated into her dying father’s will. Soon after they arrived to a less-than-enthusiastic welcome, the children are shocked when their grandmother insists they be hidden away in an abandoned attic. Hinting at some long-hidden scandal, the grandmother says her sick husband cannot know they even exist -- ever -- and locks the door behind her, imprisoning the teenage Cathy (Kristy Swanson) and Chris and their much younger twin siblings. Long days in their confined quarters turn into weeks, and then months. And as their mother’s visits become more and more infrequent, their grandmother (Louise Fletcher) becomes more and more abusive and tyrannical.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Based on a popular pulp novel, FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC is a strange bird, despite the story's iconic status. The acting is stiff, the dialog stilted and production values are low. Fans of author V.C. Andrews’ book of the same name may protest. It keeps much of the key details, but eliminates completely the themes that made the book a bestseller. In the book, the teenage Chris and Cathy, confined together for so long as their adolescent hormones surge, develop romantic feelings for each other. This is a novel about forbidden love -- which, of course, was immensely appealing, though disturbing, to readers. The film however, glosses over this, but heightens the cheesy fear factor. It's also a miserable watch: Nothing hopeful happens, really, and in the end, it's hard to maingine what the point really is.The movie comes across as simply about a dysfunctional woman who tortures her grandchildren and her daughter who loses her way. As flowers go, this one's pretty wilted.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the impact of money. What do you think of the mother’s decision to trade her kids' freedom for a shot at a big inheritance? Why do people do bad things for money? Have you ever done something you're not proud of in the quest for money?

  • How is the abuse and violence seen in this film different from more violent shoot-em-up action movies? Does one make a deeper impact than the other?

  • How much license do you think a director can take when adapting a popular novel for the big screen? Do you think the director went too far in this film?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 20, 1987
DVD release date:April 24, 2001
Cast:Kristy Swanson, Louise Fletcher, Victoria Tennant
Director:Jeffrey Bloom
Studio:Starz Media
Genre:Drama
Run time:93 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13

This review of Flowers in the Attic was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Keep children away from this scary classic.
  • Stephen King's disturbing prom horror classic.
  • Trendsetting shocker about a possessed child.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 12 years old August 10, 2011
 

AWESOME!!!

i read all the V.C Andrews books, theyr all fine, but, some kinda go against women- (surprisingly, most are fine)... if kids are gonna watch the movie, they should read the books first- I suggest the orphan series.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Kid, 11 years old July 9, 2012
 

Great movie, quite horrific

This is what I would call a some what horror movie. There is a ton of violence and many scary images. There is a couple sexual images, (when the teenage daughter is in the bathtub). There is a tiny bit of swearing during the movie. There is some blood and disturbing images. Great story scary moments though.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Adult Written by90210fan March 16, 2011
 
Love it as good as the book if u let ur teens watch soaps let them read the book series and watch the movie

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass