One summer I worked as a group leader for a 3rd grade class. I am responsible for all of their lifelong obsessions with Little Shop of Horrors.
A screening of Little Shop of Horrors was on the schedule for the whole school until some younger kids got too scared during Coraline and an adult got around to rewatching Little Shop of Horrors. This screening was supposed to go along with a trip to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens that was spotlighting “Wicked Plants.”
That movie is a lot darker than most people remember. There’s the whole profanity-laden “Mean Green Mother from Outer Space,” Seymour’s murders, Audrey’s abusive boyfriend, and the general poverty and desperation. (Fun fact: “Mean Green Mother from Outer Space” was the first Oscar-nominated song with profanity.)
Long story short, after careful editing, aka selective choices of songs, we used it to spice up lessons about poisonous plants that we were maybe going to find at the Botanic Gardens. However, after watching “Feed Me, Seymour” once or twice or more (they were 8, so you know how that goes), maybe some kids became convinced that we would find an Audrey II-sized Venus fly trap. Despite repeated warnings that Venus fly traps are actually fairly small and only eat bugs, the students because bizarrely convinced that they were going to have to fight for their lives against massive malevolent Venus fly traps. Their crestfallen and disappointed faces when they found the inch-long Venus fly traps in the back corner of a greenhouse still cracks me up.
There is not a single moment of Little Shop of Horrors that I don’t adore. I love every hopeful and earnest smile from Rick Moranis, who is at his most Moranis as Seymour. Ellen Greene’s dramatic turns between meek and baby-voiced siren to power-belting dreamer is as shocking and awe-inspiring every time she is on screen. It turned me into a lifelong fan (I miss you, Darling Mermaid Darling Aunt Vivian). Even the plant itself is a puppetry marvel coming from the magic of the Jim Henson company students and Frank Oz.
The whole movie is populated by amazing ensemble characters. There are scene-stealing cameos (and bit parts) from Steve Martin, Christopher Guest, Jim Belushi, John Candy, and Bill Murray. Every background character in the Skid Row number is somehow so completely fully realized in those short appearances.
While everyone acknowledges the greatness of the cast, the songs, and Audrey II, not enough people give credit to the powerhouse girl group Greek chorus of Chiffon (Tisha Campbell-Martin), Crystal (Tichina Arnold) and Ronette (Michelle Weeks), all named after popular ’50s/’60s girl groups. Campbell-Martin (Martin, My Wife and Kids) and Arnold (Martin, Everybody Hates Chris) both continue to work in TV, and all three of the women were still fairly new to their careers when they got their roles in Little Shop of Horrors. Their presence in the movie serves to highlight the ever-present danger of the plant in perfect harmonies, while also being the coolest girls in the room. They are funny and stylish, and are a great tribute to ’50s/’60s girl groups. I want to be them.
I saw this movie when I was fairly young, so that my knowledge of the original ending (which I of course saw when my high school performed it) had little to no effect on my love of this movie besides being a cool fact. I couldn’t not love a horror-comedy musical, with everyman Rick Moranis. This movie may be one of my absolute favorites, because of the dark joyfulness that fills every frame.
If you haven’t seen the original ending (which was filmed, but cut due to negative test audience response), you can watch it in three parts below. If you prefer to watch the whole theatrical release, it’s currently available for rent on Amazon Instant. It’s also a great way to transition into the Halloween everywhere that is about to explode on to your TVs.