7/15/11 – Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Rating 4.5/5 Stars

As always, beware, spoilers below:

Last week we watched Little Shop of Horrors (1986) staring Rick Moranis (Ghostbusters, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Space Balls) as Seymore, Ellen Green (Léon, Talk Radio, One Fine Day) as Audrey, Vincent Gardenia (Moonstruck, Death Wish, The Hustler) as Mr. Mushnik, and Steve Martin (Shopgirl, Roxanne, The Man with Two Brains, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, ¡Three Amigos!, Novocaine, Father of the Bride, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, half of the movies you’ve ever laughed at) in a creepy turn as sadistic dentist/ abusive boyfriend Dr. Orin Scrivello, DDS. This cast is ably supported by omniscient chorus members Trihina Arnold, Michelle Weeks, and Tisha Campbell-Martin (then Tisha Campbell). Competing with Mr. Martin for the position of main villain in the piece is Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops, who plays a giant carnivorous plant.

Unlike last month’s movie, where it was hard for me to gauge just how much of the “humor” was deliberate, and how much was… not, Little Shop of Horrors is a straight musical-comedy, with horror themes. Director Frank Oz does a great job balancing the music, the horror, the comedy, and even some social commentary. If anything gets a little lost it’s the social commentary. Even that starts out strong with songs like “Skid Row” and “Somewhere that’s Green,” which deal with themes like poverty and domestic violence, hardly the types of things one might expect from a musical featuring a giant singing plant.

Some of this stuff does get lost in the ensuing madcap comedy. Interestingly enough, however, the horror aspect doesn’t. There’s a substantial “ick” factor right from the beginning, as Seymore feeds his own blood to the plant, and the viewer gets to watch as he wrings out his cut open finger into Audrey II’s waiting mouth. Towards the end, Audrey II makes some very (cough) suggestive advances towards the human Audrey that might seem silly to a younger audience but is plenty dark to adults. The final fight scene, and the twist in the last few frames, are just scary enough to keep a monster fan going, without stopping the laughs.

By far the most frightening character in the film (sorry, Audrey II), is Steve Martin’s dentist, who beats his girlfriend and abuses his patients. There’s something simply wrong about Steve Martin with black hair. Martin’s scenes are by far the creepiest, the most appalling, and the funniest in the show. His solo is hilarious by my standards (by which I mean, it includes at least one pun). He also shares some delightfully twisted screen time with Bill Murray (who I always like better in small roles than leads). It’s interesting to note that this is not Steve Martin’s only dentist role. See Novocaine if you want to watch him pull teeth in something even darker.

All in all, my wife and I (and our weekend house guest — Hi T!) enjoyed this one. Sure, the special effects looked like they came out of the Muppet Movie, but that’s half the fun. Until next month!

4 Responses to 7/15/11 – Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

  1. Chris Laguna says:

    Ya know, it’s amusingly appropriate that you mention the special effects looking like they’re out of the Muppets…Frank Oz was, to paraphrase, half of the Muppets you ever laughed at!

    Did you watch the old one, with Jack Nicholson as the dentist?

  2. Greenbandit says:

    We haven’t had the chance to watch the older version yet. That weekend was a little crazy, what with some birthday festivities going on.

    And yes, I’m well aware that Frank Oz is a prolific Muppet voice actor.

  3. Amanda says:

    You know, I had totally forgotten that Bill Murray appears in this movie until you mentioned it…

    Have you ever seen the stage show? It’s got a much darker ending than the movie, and feels a little less “Muppet” like (sorry Frank Oz).

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