Little Shop of Horrors is a 1986 American musical comedy film directed by Frank Oz. It is a film adaptation of the off-Broadway musical comedy of the same name by composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman about a nerdy florist shop worker who raises a vicious, raunchy plant that feeds on human blood. Menken and Ashman’s Off-Broadway musical was based on the low-budget 1960 film The Little Shop of Horrors, directed by Roger Corman. The film stars Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin, and Levi Stubbs as the voice of Audrey II.
Little Shop of Horrors was filmed on the Albert R. Broccoli 007 Stage at the Pinewood Studios in England, where a “downtown” set, complete with overhead train track, was constructed. The film was produced on a budget of $25 million, in contrast to the original 1960 film, which, according to Corman, only cost $30,000. The film’s original 23-minute finale, based on the musical’s ending, was rewritten and reshot after receiving a strong negative reception from test audiences. Before it was fully restored in 2012 by Warner Home Video, the ending was never available publicly other than in the form of black-and-white workprint footage.
Seymour Krelborn and his colleague, Audrey, work at Mushnik’s Flower Shop, lamenting they cannot escape the Skid Row slums in New York City (“Skid Row“). Struggling from a lack of customers, Mr. Mushnik prompts to close the store, only for Audrey to suggest displaying an unusual plant Seymour owns. Immediately attracting a customer, Seymour explains he bought the plant, which he dubbed “Audrey II”, from a Chinese flower shop during a solar eclipse (“Da-Doo“). Attracting business to Mushnik’s shop, the plant soon starts dying, worrying Seymour; accidentally pricking his finger, he then discovers Audrey II needs human blood to thrive (“Grow for Me“).
Audrey II continues to grow rapidly and Seymour becomes a local celebrity. Seymour soon attempts to ask Audrey out, but she turns him down because she has a date with her violent, sadistic dentist boyfriend Orin Scrivello (“Dentist!“). Despite this, Audrey is interested in Seymour, and dreams of marrying him and escaping Skid Row (“Somewhere That’s Green“). After Seymour closes up shop, Audrey II begins to talk to Seymour, demanding more blood than Seymour can give (“Feed Me“). The plant proposes Seymour murders someone in exchange for fame and fortune; Seymour initially refuses, but agrees upon witnessing Orin slapping Audrey.
Seymour books an appointment with Orin and arms himself with a revolver, however he cannot bring himself to use it. Orin, who abuses nitrous oxide, puts on a type of venturi mask to receive a constant flow of the gas. Accidentally breaking an intake valve and unable to remove the mask, Orin begs Seymour for help removing it as Seymour just stands there. When Orin asks Seymour what he ever did to him, Seymour quotes “Nothing. It’s what you did to here.” Orin quotes “Who’s her? Oh, her” and dies from asphyxiation with a smile on his face. Dragging Orin’s body back to Audrey II, Seymour cuts up the body for the plant, only to be unknowingly spotted by Mushnik, who flees in fear.
After feeding Orin’s parts to Audrey II, Seymour discovers the police investigating Orin’s disappearance. Audrey, feeling guilty about wishing Orin would disappear, is comforted by Seymour, and the two admit their feelings for each other (“Suddenly Seymour“). That night, Mushnik confronts Seymour, believing he murdered Orin. Threatening to turn Seymour in, Mushnik offers to let him escape in exchange for the secret to the plant’s care routine (“Suppertime!“). Out of options, Seymour makes Mushnik back up to Audrey II’s open mouth, causing Mushnik to get eaten whole.
Despite widespread success, Seymour worries about Audrey II’s growth and insatiable appetite (“The Meek Shall Inherit“). Offered a cash and a contract for a botany TV show, Seymour plans to elope Skid Row with Audrey using the money, leaving the plant to starve. After Audrey accepts Seymour’s marriage proposal, Audrey II catches Seymour leaving and demands another meal; Seymour agrees, but insists on meat from a butcher. While Seymour is gone, the plant calls Audrey, coaxes her into the shop, and then tries to eat her (reprise of “Suppertime!“). Seymour, returning and saving Audrey, escapes the store with her. Explaining he fed the plant to become successful and win Audrey’s heart, Seymour discovers she has always liked him (reprise of “Suddenly Seymour“). Approached by Patrick Martin, Seymour is offered a contract to breed Audrey II and sell the saplings worldwide. Seymour then realizes Audrey II has plans for world domination, and realizes he has to destroy it.
Confronting Audrey II, Seymour learns Audrey II is an alien from outer space (“Mean Green Mother from Outer Space“). Trapping Seymour, Audrey II collapses the store, attempting to escape. Seymour, trapped under debris, grabs an exposed electrical cable and electrocutes Audrey II, causing it to explode. Leaving the destroyed shop, Seymour safely reunites with Audrey, before they wed and move to the suburbs; arriving at their new home, a smiling Audrey II bud can be seen among the flowers in their front yard.
During production, director Oz shot a 23-minute ending based on the off-Broadway musical’s ending. However, after receiving negative reviews from test audiences, the ending had to be rewritten and re-shot for the theatrical release with a “happier ending”.
In the original ending, after Audrey is attacked by Audrey II (reprise of “Suppertime!“), Seymour rescues Audrey, who is seriously injured. Confessing to Audrey he fed Mushnik and Orin to Audrey II, Audrey requests Seymour feed her to the plant and earn the success he deserves, before she dies in his arms (reprise of “Somewhere That’s Green“). Seymour does so, but soon attempts to commit suicide, only to be stopped by Patrick Martin, who offers to reproduce and sell Audrey II as he had grown a smaller Audrey II from one of the clippings that he harvested. Realizing Audrey II’s intentions of world domination, Seymour is warned that his consent isn’t necessary as plants are considered public domain. Seymour climbs down the roof with the resolution that Audrey II has to be destroyed. Returning to the shop, Seymour confronts and tries to kill the plant (“Mean Green Mother from Outer Space“), who tears down the shop, plucks Seymour out of the rubble, and eats him alive.
The three chorus girls appear in front of the American flag and tell how the Audrey II buds became a worldwide consumer craze, but soon, grew into an army of monstrous plants who take over the world (“Don’t Feed the Plants“). Giant Audrey II plants are shown destroying cities, toppling buildings and eating people. The U.S. Army attempt to fight the Audrey II buds as the final shot shows the plants ascending the Statue of Liberty.
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this film: