Written By: Angela DiLella
Edited BY: Grave Reviews Staff
Adapted From: Little Shop of Horrors (Musical)
Director: Frank Oz
Producer: David Geffen
Screenwriter: Howard Ashman
Date Released: December 19, 1986
Rick Moranis as Seymour
Levi Stubbs as Audrey II (Voice)
Ellen Greene as Audrey
Vincent Gardenia as Mr. Mushnik
Steven Martin as Orin Scrivello, DDS
Tichina Arnold as Crystal
Michelle Weeks as Ronette
Tisha Campbell as Chiffon
Rating = 4/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
Seymour (Rick Moranis), a nerdy florist’s assistant is stuck in the dumps of New York City and hopelessly in love with his coworker, Audrey (Ellen Greene). Even worse, the florist shop is on the verge of closing. However, after Seymour finds a strange plant that appears to be nourished by blood, everyone’s luck begins to start changing.
Although Audrey II (Levi Stubbs), the mysterious alien plant, does feed on blood and eventually gets big enough to dine on whole humans, there’s not really much gore to speak of. Even your most fainthearted friend should be able to handle the drop or two of blood we do see, when Seymour is still feeding the baby Audrey II.
The Grave Review
Little Shop of Horrors is one of those cult classics that can be surprisingly hard to uncover. Not that the movie is overwhelmingly obscure. It’s because there’s a stage musical—which the 1986 film is based on—which is in turn based off a movie from of the same name from 1960. There are even variations of the 1986 film floating around; a color and black-and-white version can both be found. (Fortunately, color versions of the 1986 film are usually marketed as color in some way!).
When you do find it, though, it is a treat. Little Shop of Horrors (1986) is a fun movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, though it never loses sight of the stakes in the story. At this point, Rick Moranis is pretty much known as a funny nerd type, and you can see the die being cast with this movie. All of the actors and actresses feel like they really are their characters and they’ve spent their lives in the slums. The film’s Chorus (Tichina Arnold, Michelle Weeks and Tisha Campbell) even pulls convincing double-duty as local teenagers and our framers for the story. Even though they break the fourth wall when they are acting as the framers, the movie remains convincing.
This is no small feat: musicals are difficult to take at face value simply because people generally don’t break out into song and dance in everyday life. However, the chorus makes the musical universe feel more cohesive, and for the most part, the music fits in smoothly with the rest of the narrative. The only time a song seems to come out of nowhere is the reprise of “Suddenly Seymour,” a romantic song between Seymour and Audrey. Most of the music is catchy and memorable, though Audrey’s voice is a bit cloying during her songs and, to be honest, throughout the movie.
The fact that this story centers on a giant puppet also seems like it would detract from the film’s believability. Indeed, the Audrey II does look a little cheesy when he is just a tiny sprout. But once Audrey II starts talking, growing, and gaining his personality, it’s easy to forget that he’s just a puppet. This isn’t too much of a surprise: the director, Frank Oz, is probably best-known by some of his character names: Yoda, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear—Oz was probably the most experienced puppeteer around at that time, tied with Jim Henson. He would have known how to make the giant, carnivorous plant look convincing from experience. Audrey II was also operated by over a dozen puppeteers in the film who had worked with both Oz and Henson prior. Even Henson’s son, Brian, helped out behind the vines. Even the lip synching on Audrey II is, as far as I can tell, perfect. By the end of the movie, you’ll most likely have forgotten he’s just a gigantic puppet.
To be honest, the biggest thing against this film isn’t even the film’s fault. I had never seen this film in its entirety, so I was surprised that I already seemed to be familiar with so much of it. If you haven’t seen this movie before, you might realize the same is true for you, especially if you have ever seen American Dad, Family Guy, or any other Seth MacFarlane show. MacFarlane is apparently a huge fan of this movie, and parodies and references it a lot in his shows. Even though I haven’t watched Family Guy in quite a few years, it was basically impossible to shake what I did remember while I watched Little Shop of Horrors (1986).
Ultimately, this is a movie with horror elements, but it really is about the campy humor and having some fun. If you are looking for straight horror, you should look elsewhere, but if you aren’t feeling too serious, want to have a little fun, and don’t mind musicals, this is a must for your “to watch” list. It makes for a great party movie.
For the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives Little Shop of Horrors (1986) four graves out of fives graves.
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