FT’s res­i­dent man of the cloth REV­EREND PETER LAWS dons his dog col­lar and faces the flicks that Church for­got! (www.the­flick­sthatchurch­for­

Fortean Times - - Reviews / Films - David Sut­ton

Flow­ers in the Attic Dir Jef­frey Bloom, US 1987 Ar­row Video, £14.99 (Blu-ray)

So you think your fam­ily is dif­fi­cult? They’ll look like saints af­ter you watch this adap­tion of VC An­drews’s smash-hit novel, which pushes the dys­func­tional dial up to 11. It starts with a creep­ily jolly brood who seem ob­sessed with their ‘Fa­ther’. But when they leap out to greet him at his sur­prise birth­day party, they find two cops at the door in­stead. Sur­prise! Dad’s dead! Party hats are put aside, and mum pan­ics that they’ll be des­ti­tute with­out her late hus­band’s in­come; es­pe­cially since she’s al­ready been dis­in­her­ited by her own uber­rich re­al­tives. Get­ting a job doesn’t seem to be an op­tion, so in­stead she carts all four kids to the gothic man­sion of her youth where ‘mother’ starts a lengthy plan to win back her fa­ther’s love and be writ­ten back into the will. The catch? The kids have to stay locked in a se­cret, up­stairs room. But at least they have ac­cess to a big, cob­webby attic to play in. The cam­er­a­work of Flow­ers

In The Attic might have that 80s-soft-fo­cus look, but the themes of this story are as hard as nails – from parental ne­glect, vi­o­lence and sex­ual abuse to mur­der, ex­tor­tion and incest. That last one, incest, is all over this film. Fa­thers gaze at daugh­ters a lit­tle too long, brothers and sis­ters wash each other in the bath, and in one skin-tight­en­ing scene the old bed-bound dad stares ex­cit­edly at his daugh­ter as she drops her dress ready for the whip. Yeah, this film is messed up. It’s like Nor­man War­ren directed an episode of Dy­nasty. But that combo of per­verse melo­drama and the gothic set­ting turn it into a pseudo-hor­ror film that de­lights and dis­turbs in equal mea­sure.

It’s also un­in­ten­tion­ally funny too. Take one to­tally gonzo mo­ment where a kid with a blond afro and dressed in dun­ga­rees bites his granny’s an­kle. Fu­ri­ous, she slaps him out cold on the car­pet while threat­en­ing to whip the chil­dren till “the blood runs from their backs”. It’s both shock­ing and snig­ger-in­duc­ing at the same time. I’m not say­ing that the kid de­served the slap, by the way. But these chil­dren dress like they’re per­ma­nently on a pic­nic! In the end though, if you can stom­ach the themes and the 1980s style, then

Flow­ers in the Attic is re­ally worth check­ing out, not least be­cause it takes the phrase ‘re­spect your el­ders’ to ex­treme and per­verse new heights.

Ar­row have in­cluded a lot of ex­tras here, in­clud­ing the rarely scene orig­i­nal end­ing, culled from an old Be­ta­max tape, that was shown to fo­cus groups. It’s a fun con­clu­sion, but the one the film ac­tu­ally opted for is the per­fect cli­max to a piece like this – grotesque, creepy, sym­bolic and bizarrely pretty.

VC An­drews’s Gothic fam­ily sa­gas were a huge hit with fe­male au­di­ences. I’d hate to la­bel this a ‘fem­i­nine’ hor­ror movie – not least be­cause I know that women like high-oc­tane chain­saw movies as much as the next per­son; yet Flow­ers in the Attic does feel like a lit­tle girl play­ing dark games in her doll’s house – games that hinge not on the ter­ror of the mon­sters out there, but the hor­ror of re­la­tion­ships much closer to home. It’s all the more in­trigu­ing and un­set­tling be­cause of that: an in­tense shot of Gothic melo­drama that gets straight into your blood­stream. It’s the film’s trio of war­rior women – Lupita Ny­ong’o’s Nakia, Danai Gurira’s Okoye and Leti­tia Wright’s Shuri – who will steal the show for many, though, with their wit, wis­dom and abil­ity to kick se­ri­ous butt. In fact, the whole film is im­pec­ca­bly cast, down to mi­nor roles and the two Cau­casians who get a look-in – Martin Good­man as CIA agent Ross and Andy Serkis as ma­ni­a­cal bad­die Klaue; or, as some In­ter­net wag bril­liantly dubbed them, the film’s “Tolkien whites”.

Vis­ually, too, Black Pan­ther de­parts from the some­times bland Marvel tem­plate: Wakanda is a world drenched in colour, full of both stun­ning nat­u­ral beauty and awe­some tech­no­log­i­cal won­ders, all brought to life by Os­carnom­i­nated Rachel Mor­ri­son’s lus­cious cin­e­matog­ra­phy.

Di­rec­tor and co-writer Ryan Coogler ( Fruit­vale Sta­tion,

Creed) de­serves ma­jor props for mar­shalling the many el­e­ments at play here into a co­her­ent and wildy en­ter­tain­ing whole: there are Bond-like se­quences of es­pi­onage and ac­tion, nods to

The Lion King, deft re-imag­in­ings of clas­sic comic book char­ac­ters (a slyly funny take on M’Baku, for ex­am­ple) and epic bat­tles in­volv­ing ar­moured rhi­nos; and it all works, bar a lack­lus­tre fi­nal act fight that lacks sub­stance (and de­cent CGI) af­ter the more mean­ing­ful rit­ual com­bat we’ve wit­nessed ear­ler in the film.

As we go to press, Pan­ther­ma­nia is in full swing. Black film­go­ers – and not all of them comic read­ers I’d guess – are at­tend­ing screen­ings in all their Afro­cen­tric fin­ery (as at the party-at­mos­phere pre­miere this re­viewer at­tended) and shar­ing their pride and plea­sure on so­cial me­dia. In an age prone to hy­per­bole, one can’t help but feel slightly scep­ti­cal about some of the claims be­ing made for the film and won­der whether Black

Pan­ther can re­ally be ex­pected to carry the weight be­ing placed on its cin­e­matic shoul­ders; whether or not the film turns out to be a water­shed mo­ment in Black cin­e­matic rep­re­sen­ta­tion, it will stand as a daz­zling, joy­ous achieve­ment that goes where few main­stream movies have gone be­fore.

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