. . . . . and when will they ever learn?
That was what was going through my mind as I watched this attempt by Lifetime. Some have raved about it because it included more of the incestuous relationship between the two oldest siblings (toned down though it was for television) but that alone does NOT make it a better film. With one exception, the acting was atrocious. Heather Graham has given some decent performances over the years, but this was not one of them. She seemed to be sleepwalking through the entire movie. Kiernan Shipka was monotonous and irritating as Cathy (her voice-over included); Mason Dye was stiff, and there was no chemistry between Christopher and Cathy. Cory (Maxwell Kovach) and Carrie (Ava Telek) were pretty much non-entities in this version. Ellen Burstyn, fine actress that she is, gives a good performance but she was completely miscast as the grandmother. Not menacing, dominant or intimidating and far too sympathetic. It's hard to imagine the older kids being scared of her; the twins, maybe.
CGI took the place of the family mansion, Foxworth Hall (doesn't anyone scout for locations anymore?), and the sets, frankly, looked like sets. The music was also nothing special. Worse, the movie feels extremely rushed; while it is mentioned that Cathy, Chris, Cory and Carrie were locked away for three years, no attempt was made to make them look sunlight-deprived or lacking for food. The bond between the two older siblings was downplayed, and their role as parenting the twins barely shown, making their closeness and growing romantic feelings for each other come out of nowhere. Cathy's love for dance is hardly mentioned, and they were not really locked away as they were in the book or the 1987 version. Corinne is such a blank slate and it's never explained why she left her kids there for so long. The attic seemed to have lost much of its significance as well.
While the 1987 film is flawed, V.C. Andrews did have script approval and the intent of the director (who also penned the screenplay) was to be as close to the book as possible. Unfortunately, a negative reaction at test screening caused the studio to severely cut the film and add an ending that fans of the novel rightly despised. Even with those changes, it is still superior to the TV adaptation in terms of acting, chemistry, location, atmosphere and music. Louise Fletcher was terrifying as the grandmother, and Ellen Burstyn just wasn't, despite giving the best performance in the Lifetime presentation. The 1987 movie has a very haunting feeling that will stay with you after it is over (helped by Christopher Young's amazing score). Let's hope that the original director's cut will see the light of day and will hopefully obliterate this vapid, hollow Lifetime tripe from memory.