Movie #218 2021: Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Fun fact for you: my girlfriend works in theatre management. Bet you didn’t know that. But why am I telling you this? Well, never mind Little Shop of Horrors, imagine the little look of horrors on her face when I told her I’d never seen this before. Not that it’s the most well-known or beloved movie musical or stage show of all time, but in theatre circles, it’s considered brilliant. So I had to indulge her when she suggested that we watch it as part of our Halloween movie fest… Even if it’s not strictly a Halloween movie.

Based almost entirely on the stage musical and Frank Corman‘s original 1960 film of the same name, Little Shop of Horrors is a comedy horror that centres on a geeky flower shop worker named Seymour. Amidst a crush on his neighbour and a lot of stress being put on him by his boss, Seymour comes to work one day with a strange looking plant that begins to draw attention from the public. He names the plant ‘Audrey II’ after his secret love, and soon becomes a national sensation. Behind the scenes however, Seymour begins to notice some very sinister things about his famous Venus Fly-Trap.

Shooting this film on a sound stage was a brilliant choice; the whole production feels like a subtle homage to vintage movie musicals, which is lovely to see. However, it never feels so stagey that you forget it’s a feature film. Adapting this from stage to screen was apparently a struggle for director Frank Oz, but he was certainly successful in his efforts, not to mention the brilliance of the puppetry and design of Audrey II, which is especially impressive since it was made in 1986. 

Whilst we’re on the topic of puppetry, am I the only one who thinks Audrey II is super cute? Just me? Okay…

Stills from Little Shop of Horrors - Frank Oz (1986) - page #1

What I didn’t know before coming into this was how brilliant the cast was. Using popular eighties actors like Rick Moranis in the main role was a wise decision, and it was really great to see Steve Martin doing something a little quirkier than his usual, generic stuff. Then, of course, there’s a Bill Murray cameo in which he manages to be wonderful in his short 3 minutes of screen time. The “Greek chorus” are underrated though; the three of them tie the whole film together, acting as an extremely talented trio of musical narrators who deserve the highest praise. 

Whilst the songs are not quite as iconic as the songs in similar musicals (personally I’d only heard the titular theme song beforehand), that’s fine as long as the plot is interesting. A giant man-eating plant? Can’t get more interesting than that, surely. Some songs are decent though, don’t get me wrong. In particular, “Feed Me” is so entertaining to behold, and is rambunctiously performed by Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops fame. 

The story itself isn’t exactly the most complicated or complex thing you’ll ever come across, but what it does have is originality. Many think that the concept comes from an old story from 1932 about a man-eating plant named “Green Thoughts”, but even so, it’s a really fun, often comedic story to have adapted into a musical, and is therefore quite easy to appreciate.

Sure, it’s not my favourite musical of all time and it does drag a little here and there. What it is though is the exact kind of stupid, campy fun I was looking for on a Sunday evening, so I respect it for what it is.

Little Shop of Horrors is available to stream on Sky Cinema and Now TV in the UK.

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