The Big Picture
- Picking a movie for Halloween night is a challenge; you need scares and laughs. The ideal double feature is John Carpenter’s The Thing and Frank Oz’s Little Shop of Horrors.
- Both movies share similarities in origin, premise, and format. They are cosmic horror tales, feature creatures, and started as adaptations from earlier works.
- The Thing and Little Shop of Horrors are similar as ’80s classics with amazing creature effects. They share design elements and parallel plots of an alien menace threatening humanity.
Contrary to what many believe, picking a movie for Halloween night is no easy task. For the perfect film choice, one has to take into consideration that the most frightening day of the year is as much about the spooks as it is about the fun. Thus, to ensure that your own personal Halloween theater will be perfect, you must go with a flick that packs equal amounts of scares and laughs. While there are some good candidates for the role — the Scream and Child’s Play franchises both have amazing entries — the safest bet is to go with a double feature. The problem, then, is how to choose a good combination, one that is both creative and fitting. If you’re struggling to find a double bill for your Halloween night this year, fear not, we’ve got you covered. Whether you’re planning a movie session with friends or creepy night alone, why not pair up two movies that you never thought would go well together: John Carpenter’s The Thing and Frank Oz’s Little Shop of Horrors.
Yes, this might sound like a wild suggestion, at first, but bear with us a little bit. In reality, both movies share a lot of similarities pertaining to their origin, their premise, and their format. Put side by side, they sure prove to be an amazing combination for a good marathon of screams and giggles. You can even tweak the order of the features depending on how you want to begin or end your night. Want something light just to get your friends in the mood while you crack open the first bottles of beer? Then go with Little Shop of Horrors first, and The Thing second. Want to avoid going to bed alone with too much fear and adrenaline pumping through your system? Then the order is The Thing and Little Shop of Horrors. No matter which way you go, you can rest assured that you will have a wonderful night. After all, even if the two movies had nothing in common, they are still incredibly entertaining works of art.
What Are ‘The Thing’ and ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ About?
The first thing that you need to understand about the Little Shop of Horrors/The Thing combo is that you are in for a night of cosmic horror. Released in 1982, The Thing follows a group of men in a US government expedition to the South Pole coming face to face with a horrendous shape-shifting creature. Led by helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell), the members of the expedition find themselves trapped in their station by both the snow and this new, extraterrestrial threat. As the creature begins to take them apart one by one, paranoia settles in as none of them know for sure who is still human.
Meanwhile, 1986’s Little Shop of Horrors takes the alien menace to the inner city instead of the uncharted icy wilderness. Played by Rick Moranis, a plant store employee and amateur botanist Seymour Krelborn comes across a strange flower after a total eclipse of the sun. Named Audrey II in honor of his beloved coworker Audrey (Ellen Greene), the flytrap plant soon shows that it possesses consciousness, a voice (played by Levi Stubbs), and an insatiable thirst for human blood. Catapulted to success due to his amazing discovery, Seymour is turned into an unwilling murderer, forced to kill to keep his beloved plant alive.
Both ‘The Thing’ and “Little Shop of Horrors’ Are Based on Earlier Works
Both movies have their origin in the 1950s to early 1960s, an era that was inundated with monster flicks of all kinds. Well, sort of. The Thing is an adaptation of the 1938 novella Who Goes There?, written by John W. Campbell, but the story had already been translated to the screen in 1951 by Christian Nyby, under the title The Thing from Another World. Little Shop of Horrors, in turn, is an adaptation of the Alan Menken and Howard Ashman 1982 off-Broadway musical of the same name. Said musical, however, is itself an adaptation of the 1960 horror comedy The Little Shop of Horrors, directed by Roger Corman. Actually, it might even be fun to turn these two movies into a double feature of their own, but that’s a subject for another article.
If you are somehow unfamiliar with both The Thing and Little Shop of Horrors, reading the above paragraph has probably clued you into the fact that both movies are entirely different in tone. The Thing is a claustrophobic, straightforward horror with sprinkles of action added in the form of gunshots and explosions. Little Shop of Horrors, on the other hand, is a musical comedy with songs about sadistic dentists and eating human flesh. That, as previously mentioned, is part of what makes the two movies perfect for a Halloween double bill: together, they capture the spirit of the holiday and provide multiple kinds of fun.
How Are The Thing’ and ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ Similar?
Opposites attract, that is true, but the two films aren’t just a perfect match due to their differences. They are also alike one another in many ways. For starters, the two movies are 80s classics. Little Shop of Horrors is by far the greatest musical of the decade, and The Thing is the best in terms of space horror, though audiences didn’t necessarily know it at first: Carpenter’s movie was a bomb at the box office but found new life on home video.
However, being some of the best their time had to offer is not enough. Both The Thing and Little Shop of Horrors are amazing creature flicks with lots of rubber and make up. Whether you’re watching the twisted bodysuits and the fake blood put together by art director John J. Lloyd in The Thing’s version of the Antarctic continent or the puppets designed by Lyle Conway to inhabit Little Shop of Horrors’ derelict Skid Row, you will certainly marvel at the incredible things human hands are able to create. Well, marvel and wretch a little bit out of disgust.
There are even some similarities in design between Audrey II and the bodies possessed by the unnamed creature in The Thing. Looking inside the plant’s mouth — yes, the plant has a mouth — often feels like gazing at the open cavities of the titular thing when it reveals itself to human eyes. In turn, when the thing first opens up its, for lack of a better word, mouth in order to attack the dogs at the research station, it very much looks like a blossoming flower. A vomit-inducing flower, but a flower nonetheless. Though there isn’t enough material to claim that Conway took inspiration from Lloyd’s work, it is pretty clear that both artists drank from the same fountain — the classic monster feature fountain.
The plots of Little Shop of Horrors and The Thing also parallel one another pretty closely, at least on a superficial level. Of course, when we get into plot details, things get more than a little bit different, but the basics are quite the same. Both movies feature an alien intelligence picking apart a human community, using human puppets to do their bidding. But while the thing downright possesses and alters the biology of its hosts, Audrey II merely deceives and manipulates. And, in both movies, there is no way for the protagonists to go to others for help: in the South Pole, they are literally stranded by a snowstorm and a lack of radio signal, while on Skid Row, Seymour is way too in on the mess he created to tell anyone about what is going on.
The Entire World Is at Stake in These Classic Horror Movies
Both the thing and Audrey II, though individual entities, pose a threat not just to the place they are confined to, but to humanity as a whole. The Thing’s Doctor Blair (A. Wilford Brimley) makes it clear that if even a single cell of the creature makes its way to civilized land, it will be the end for all of us. In Little Shop of Horrors, in turn, it is executive Patrick Martin’s (Jim Belushi) plan to sell Audrey II buds around the globe that has the potential for worldwide catastrophe.
Finally, there are the endings of the movies. Without spoiling too much, they both wrap up with a conclusion that may or may not spell destruction for Earth as a whole, depending on your interpretation. That, however, may vary based on which version of Little Shop of Horrors you watch. Though the most widespread is the theatrical cut, there is a director’s cut making the rounds on DVD and Blu-Ray in which Earth is pretty much done for, without any room for doubts.
But even the most tragic version of Little Shop of Horrors is still a good laugh, and it has enough in common with The Thing to make for a perfect Halloween pairing. And if you still need convincing, just think about the delightful singalong Little Shop of Horrors will provide you with. Whether alone or with friends, get ready to loosen up and belt some Menken and Ashman classics. All you have to do is run to Spotify and YouTube to learn the songs beforehand. And, let’s face it, how often do you get to participate in a Halloween singalong?
The Thing is available to stream on Peacock and Little Shop of Horrors is up on Max.