When her husband dies suddenly, Corrine (Victoria Tennant) has to pack up her four children: six-year-olds Carrie (Lindsay Parker) and Cory (Ben Ryan Ganger) and teenagers Cathy (Kristy Swanson) and Christopher (Jeb Stuart Adams), and reunite with her wealthy estranged parents, whom she hasn’t seen in 17 years because she married her uncle, and plead with them for somewhere to stay and maybe a place in the will again. Corrine’s cruel mother (Louise Fletcher) takes them in, but since her sickly husband is unaware that the children exist—and she wants to keep it that way—she decrees that the kids have to stay in one bedroom, with boys in one bed and girls in the other, without leaving or making noise. On the plus side, there’s a room in the attic they can escape to (and make paper flowers, hence the title). On the negative side, Corrine never visits, the lack of sunlight depletes their health, and they are being starved, prompting them to wonder if they’ll ever leave.
It’s not technically a horror movie, but it is plenty horror-ish. The concept of a woman locking her inbred grandchildren away and slowly murdering them is quite disconcerting. Speaking of disturbing, the incest factor looms quite large in the foreground for the entire film. Besides Corrine’s marriage, there’s a scene when she begins to make amends with her parents by taking off her top in front of her dad—chest facing him—while her mom whips her. Cathy and Christopher don’t really seem interested in each other that way, but Christopher sure does like talking to Cathy while she’s in the bathtub, not to mention washing her back.
They also like sleeping in the same bed. Then there’s the uncomfortable scene when Christopher and Cathy try to escape by prying the bars off of the windows, as captured by subtitles: [Straining sounds] “Grab the bar, Cathy. That’s it. Yeah. Grab it. Pull, pull, Cathy.” Corrine seems jealous of Cathy (if you want to get Freudian, it’s like the Electra complex in reverse); the first scene shows her looking huffy that her husband bought a present especially for Cathy. She’s pretty creepy in general, like how she fills her kids’ heads with nonsense about how getting their grandparents’ money will make all their dreams come true. (I guess you could say a theme in the film is that money doesn’t make one happy—the ability to leave one’s bedroom does.) She’s unlikable from the beginning, and my favorite scene is when she slaps Cathy for being saucy, and Cathy slaps her back. I couldn’t find a still, gif, or YouTube clip of that scene, so here’s a clip of Cathy getting her ultimate revenge (*spoilers*):
There are a few other unpleasant aspects of the movie, particularly Kristy’s constant whining—the twins are positively mature next to her. The dialogue is terrible. There are some questionable points of the plot, for example how the children clean that filthy attic with nothing but a broom, and who does their laundry? And seriously, whose microscope is that? Great performances are given by most of the cast, particularly Fletcher, but Swanson had yet to come into her own as an actor. Check it out if you like dirty secrets better than gore.