The Big Picture

  • The 1980s produced some of the best horror remakes, with Frank Oz’s
    Little Shop of Horrors
    being a standout of the era.
  • Corman’s original film was a simple yet effective gem, but Oz’s remake expanded on the concept and characters with brilliance.
  • The legendary cast of
    Little Shop of Horrors
    , from Rick Moranis to Steve Martin, elevated the film to iconic status with their quirky performances.

Making a film is a challenge in and of itself, but to remake a classic is even more difficult. However, there are plenty of quality-made remakes found across the history of cinema, and some might even improve upon their predecessors. Frank Oz‘s Little Shop of Horrors is the perfect type of remake as it pays tribute to the original and expands upon the world established by Roger Corman‘s 1960 original film. The late Corman was a pioneer in independent filmmaking who altered the perception of how to budget and gather around a motivated cast and crew. Not all of his projects are remembered as classics necessarily, but his legacy lives on in his craft as well as inspiring the next generation of movie masters. 1960’s The Little of Horrors is a horror gem with a great sense of humor, and it also brought us one of Jack Nicholson‘s earliest roles! However, this is a case where a creative team had an interesting concept, but it was not until years later that the formula would be perfected. Its 1986 counterpart is where all the best elements of this story came together, resulting in one of the most worthy remakes in cinema.

The 1980s Were Full of Worthy Horror Remakes

First and foremost, it is imperative to consider the film era that Oz’s remake is a part of. The 1980s was an especially powerful decade for remakes and a lot of these titles are remembered more fondly than the originals. A prime example is John Carpenter‘s The Thing, which initially received mixed reviews yet built an audience over time, finally earning its place as on of the greatest horror movies of all time. Other remakes range from David Cronenberg‘s emotional The Fly to Chuck Russell‘s The Blob (penned by Frank Darabont). With so many remakes that became horror classics in their own right, it makes Frank Oz’s twist on the Corman original stand out more. The Oz version arguably exemplifies this era to the max because it simultaneously functions as a tribute and update to the original.

Roger Corman’s ‘The Little Shop of Horrors’ Is Simple But Effective

Jack Nicholson in The Little Shop of Horrors
Image Via The Filmgroup

Like any classic film growing in popularity, this 1986 masterclass feels like a loving tribute to the Corman film while also serving as an adaptation of the 1982 off-Broadway musical by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. The template set by Corman’s picture functions well enough because a florist taking care of a monstrous plant is already a wild plot. However, adding musical numbers, expanding on the bizarre world, and furthering the dimension of the characters are what this story needed. Corman’s version may not be regarded as one of the best in all cinema, but it should be celebrated for how effective it is with such a simplistic approach to the plot. It functioned like a lot of his films in terms of the efficiency of the crew and minimal budget; and yet, despite having such personality, it has somewhat faded into obscurity.

Frank Oz Was the Perfect Director to Remake ‘Little Shop of Horrors’

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Image via Warner Bros.

However, many saw something special in the craft, and, of course, Corman’s ability to recognize talent as well as heart in a story. As a result, it would soon turn into a stage musical with elaborate set pieces, followed by a movie adaptation from Oz. Just like the best remakes of the ’80s, this is an incredible film from a technical standpoint. Audrey II is a beauty to behold, who proves to be as terrifying as they are hilarious. Much of the puppeteer work behind it was unique for the time, and, of course, Frank Oz was the perfect director to helm a project like this. The demonic plant hits the right notes of comedy and malice because for a musical like this to work, it needs to strike that balance between horror and levity. Not only does he have an extensive background in comedy, but Oz’s work as Yoda alone proves he is more than capable of dealing with complicated effects.


Roger Corman Was the Mastermind Behind Some of the Best Edgar Allan Poe Adaptations

The late filmmaker’s experimental Poe Cycle includes adaptations of ‘House of Usher’ and ‘The Raven.’

Little Shop of Horrors feels like the perfect storm as every single department, from actors to crew members, is bringing it their all from past films. Oz, in particular, gets to show off his technical merits as well as the emotion he injects characters with, which he proved in his work with The Muppets. Little Shop of Horrors was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Visual Effects. Oz’s confidence resulted in a film that was able to pay tribute to both the stage version and the original film. It can be hard to play to different audiences, but somehow this turned out to be the most iconic and revered version of this story. Even the modern stage play takes notes from this film, which is a testament to Oz knowing exactly what type of tone was needed to bring this story to its full potential.

The Cast of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ Is What Elevates It to Legendary Status

The technical accomplishments of the film greatly complement the cast, especially the quirky performances of Rick Moranis and Steve Martin. Moranis excels as the nerdy florist, Seymour Krelborn, who yearns for a relationship with Audrey (played by Ellen Greene). Their romance adds a lot of gags and earnestness as Moranis always succeeds in playing a lovable goofball. Even in a film where he is tricked into feeding humans to a giant plant, there is still an endearing quality in Moranis’ Seymour, reminding the audience that he is still an average guy everyone can relate to. Steve Martin almost steals the show here as sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello, who slides in and pretty much treats everyone horribly in and out of the office. His maniacal performance of “Dentist!” is as absurdly entertaining as it is terrifying for his ill-fated patients. While the entire cast is giving it their all, John Candy is a particular delight to see onscreen.

His performance as DJ Wink Wilkinson hosting “Wink Wilkinson’s Weird World” is not only an endearing sequence, but it almost serves as commentary for the rest of the film. Some of what he is showing is completely bizarre and potentially dangerous, and yet he has so much fun showcasing random citizens with their gimmicks or deadly plants. This might have been unintentional, but his commitment to putting on a great show regardless of the outcome makes him feel like a stand-in for the filmmakers themselves. Many of the memorable set pieces possess the perfect wink at the audience, giving the film a self-awareness as it relishes how insane this universe is. However, the true power of a film like this is the heart, and how it feels like it was a labor of love putting it together.

Little Shop of Horrors is available to rent on Amazon in the U.S.

Rent on Amazon

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