Film Review: Little Shop Of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors is one of those films that seems to be a family staple for a lot of people, a pleasant childhood reminder of simpler times, thought of fondly but not often seen or revisited. For me, that is exactly how I treat it. It’s a memory. A title that raises a smile but something I wouldn’t even know where to start with my guess if you asked me the last time I actually saw.

However, while scrolling past the internet equivilant of the much loved and sadly missed “bargain bucket” I stumbled across a copy of it on Blu Ray for less than £5 and to be honest, it’s hard to argue why you shouldn’t push “buy it now” when it’s less than a round down the pub and gives you just as an enjoyable evening but without the fear of a headache the next morning.

I can’t believe that there will be many people out there who are unaware of the story, a man eating plant is hard to forget, but you may be surprised to learn that is in fact based on a stage musical and so, involves singing and song to narrate it’s plot. It does appear that currently I’m unintentionally going through a musical “phase” with Begin Again, Sunshine on Leith and now Little Shop of Horrors! But whereas both Sunshine On Leith and Begin Again suffer from a sense of over production musically, disconnecting the sounds and songs from the images and performances on screen, Little Shop of Horrors manages to avoid this. Whether it’s down to the age of the film, it’s 27 years old now, or the simple fact that technology was far more basic back then I don’t know but it still feels real and connected. They feel like that are singing live and not miming to an overly polished and later dubbed backing track. Which is nice.

Talking of being 27 years old, that can lead to the problem we all face in life, aging. There is of course a risk that things start to look dated and old fashioned but for me, Little Shop of Horrors once again manages to avoid this. It’s got a grimy, comedic and simplistic construction to its set, characters and their interaction so that everything just feels right, just like Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, it’s a world that feels almost stuck in a bubble that will never age. It’s borrowed techniques and ideas from the stage production where the physical confines of theatre define what is and isn’t possible rather than push the boundaries using the latest film technologies, and it’s this embrace that I think that served to keep it feeling rooted.

Steve Martin & Bill Murray - Little Shop of Horrors

Even the cast just fit and work. You’d be forgiven for thinking that just as we’ve seen with a lot of things, when you take “big names”… Rick Moranis, Steve Martin, Bill Murray and ask them to sing, you risk everything falling apart as soon as they open their mouths, but once again, it just doesn’t happen. I admit, it’s not operatic tone and range of astounding quality but everything just fits, every song, every note, just blends into the world and you never once, get pushed away. You never once cringe as they fail to hit the high note. Mainly because they are never asked to.

However, while there is much to love and adore about the Little Shop of Horrors, and it’s a film that will always be remembered fondly by millions, there are two things I would point out about it. Firstly, I’m amazed that it’s only a PG. When you’re older than the film like me it’s not really an issue, but the subject matter and language at times would certainly make me question this film really being PG, in today’s money I’d have expected it to get a 12A but then I’m just old and boring and am regularly amazed that a lot of films are rated 15 and not 18.

Secondly, is the source material. The stage show. Now I’ve never seen it, but to me, the movie feels like it tries as much as possible to stay true to it. It’s set in very few locations and the cinematic style of essentially only looking into each room or set from one fixed vantage point, as the audience would if watching it on stage, seems to reinforce this.

Stage Musical - Little Shop of Horrors

But I found myself, as a result, feeling that they were sailing too close to the stage show and lost a bit of their own identity. I can’t help but feel that the stage production would be better, somehow more enjoyable. I said Little Shop of Horrors hasn’t dated because they’ve kept everything simple rather than pushing the boundaries, and while that’s a good thing on one hand, it’s meant that the film has lost any sense of richness. It feels a little like you’re not a million miles away from simply watching a recording of a stage performance which ultimately, leaves you flat, because it’s lost the charm and roundness you get from seeing it physically live when sat in the audience.

Don’t get me wrong, the film isn’t bad, I enjoyed it, I liked it, but for me it just felt like it doesn’t engulf you in the way a live performance would. I felt I was just staring at it through the window. Looking at the unusual plant through the safety of the glass. And that’s left me feeling slightly cold.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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