Usually when I review movies for this site, I try not to spoil them. Unfortunately, I’ll have to break with that tradition here. Flowers creeped me out for real, and not in a good way. However, I need to unpack the end of the movie a bit before I can explain why.
Accordingly, I’ll talk a bit about the movie in general terms and then throw up a nice big ***SPOILER WARNING*** before I talk about the stuff I found uncomfortable. It’s also worth noting at this point that because Flowers is a fairly surreal and abstract movie, your reading may be different from mine. Certainly none of the other reviews I looked at picked up on the element I’m going to talk about.
First off, the good stuff. Flowers is definitely not shy in its ambitions – which is something we could do to see more of in the horror sphere. There is no dialogue, and very little on-screen text so the entire film is carried by the silent performances of the largely-amateur cast, and by the symbolism of the various set-piece tests each character faces. This level of confidence in its own conceit is pretty inspiring, and by and large pretty justified. Its also supported by tight cinematography, clever, economical set design, and excellent practical effects.
The story revolves around six women (Colette Kenny Mckenna, Krystle Fitch, Anastasia Blue,Tanya Erin Paoli, Kara A. Christiansen, and Makaria Tsapatoris – all credited simply as “Flowers #1-6”) who wake up inside the walls and crawlspaces of a house. They flee an unseen antagonist though spaces full of black filth and claustrophobia, and face obscure but symbolically-charged tests. Meanwhile, a man (Bryant W. Lohr Sr, credited as “The Exile”) is seen using a dead woman for his sexual gratification…
…and here’s where I’ll drop my ***SPOILER WARNING***. Everything after this point will potentially spoil Flowers for you, so if you want to see it unspoiled and read this review, I’d recommend bookmarking it here, and coming back to see if your analysis stacks up with mine.
The six women navigate the movie in isolation from each other. We see each wake up, find a photograph, and then navigate a series of rooms. Eventually she will face a challenge, which is couched in very oblique terms, and either succeed or fail based on criteria which are clear neither to her nor to the viewer. We then see the next woman face a different series of spaces, culminating in a different challenge. At this stage we have no context to understand the women as anything other than frightened presences – they are all dressed in plain white shifts, and none has any discernible character or obvious history. Once each has negotiated the labyrinth, we finally see them all together. They sit at a table, while a series of small television screens displays to each their history, and the reason they are trapped here.
This is where the problems really start. Each of the Flowers is revealed to be a woman who is somehow “fallen” from social ideals of femininity- a two prostitutes, a drug addict, a mother who has abandoned her child, and so on. In each case, it is their failure as women which is portrayed as making them easy prey for The Exile, who has killed them and is keeping their bodies in this house – his house – for his sexual gratification.
At this point, all but one of the Flowers fades from existence – is implied to have moved on. The one who stays is the one who failed her test, and the last shot of the film shows The Exile cradling her corpse on a bed, surrounded by the corpses of the other Flowers. Her eyes are open, while theirs are shut – implying terrified continued consciousness, rather than their restful transcendence.
That is to say that this film (albeit almost certainly unintentionally) positions women as to blame for their own fates at the hands of a man who is essentially a force of nature – male id personified. It then goes a step further, and makes these women further responsible for their own spiritual transcendence of the situation, and is entirely comfortable with the idea that a woman who fails this test belongs to her rapist and murderer forever.
And that is creepy as anything to me.