'Little Shop of Horrors' (1986): Seymour Kind of Deserved to Die
1986's Little Shop of Horrors is a film adaptation of the musical of the same name. Composed by Alan Menken and written by Howard Ashman, the rock musical is about Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis), a dorky florist who finds a weird plant during a solar eclipse and raises it to a giant, talking, carnivorous being.
Let me say that I love, love, love musicals. So this article is not meant to trash the film. I have loved this musical for thirty years and nothing has changed, not even with my sudden epiphany that Seymour Krelborn kinda deserved to die.
Not many people -- people who don't own the dvd anyway -- are aware of the dark alternate ending to the film. In this version, the plant wins. Seymour is eaten by Audrey II, and the alien being then goes on to invade the entire Earth, eating all the humans and destroying a lot of nice cars in the process.
Audrey (Ellen Greene) also dies in the alternate ending. Very sad, I know.
You are probably wondering why I would want to wish harm on this innocent, squeaky-voiced angel.
In fact, I like the happy ending where Audrey gets her "somewhere that's green," and lives happily ever after with Seymour. Who doesn't like a happy ending? My problem is that it feels like a lie. It feels a little too convenient for a dark story where the hero is actually a bad guy.
Those who are familiar with the 1986 version know that Seymour -- despite all the bad things he's done -- gets his happy ending. He defeats the giant talking plant, marries Audrey, and goes on to have his happily ever after.
I'm a fan of Audrey, so I was happy for her. But Seymour? He doesn't deserve Audrey, and he doesn't deserve a happy ending.
That sounds harsh, I know. But it makes sense once you think of all the things Seymour has actually done.
Seymour and Audrey both feel trapped in a dark, depressing city, in dead-end jobs. Audrey is being beaten daily by her boyfriend, who she has little chance of walking away from in one piece, while Seymour is yelled at daily by his boss and as a result, has allowed himself to be whittled down into a meek and groveling worm.
Keep in mind that Seymour has been with Mr. Mushnik (Vincent Gardinia) since he was a child. During the song "Skid Row," he describes being plucked off the street by Mr. Mushnik, given a bed, and used as a personal servant ever since.
Who knows if he's even getting a paycheck.
So in essence, Seymour is an orphan, with no family and no place to go and no skills outside of caring for plants. He's trapped and he's trapped good.
But in reality, Seymour is only trapped by the limitations he's putting on himself. Nothing is keeping him from learning a new skill, finding a new job, hitching a ride out of town and just saying **** it. The only thing really keeping him on Skid Row is his love for Audrey, who he is too timid to pursue because he fears her insane boyfriend.
Audrey's boyfriend (Dean Martin) is a sadistic dentist who enjoys torturing his patients for his own pleasure. It is hardly surprising that he is also a sexist asshole who enjoys beating Audrey and handcuffing her during sex.
Being daily belittled by his boss and watching as Audrey is beaten black and blue has nurtured a silent rage inside Seymour that no one but the plant, Audrey II, seems even half aware of.
The arrival of the plant (Levi Stubbs) during a solar eclipse almost seems like a miracle. It draws a lot of customers, which in turn draws money, and everyone is happy and thriving for a while.
Everyone except Seymour, who has been feeding the plant his own blood in order to sustain it. It seems like even when things are going well, things still suck for Seymour. This poor nerdlette can't get a break, and we, the audience, are supposed to be rooting for him . . . aren't we?
Is Seymour really the good guy? Is Seymour really a hero? Or is he just another villain? A person who let his desperation twist him to acts of evil?
In the beginning, Seymour's motivations are understandable: he just wants to survive. He wants his boss' shop to thrive. He wants Audrey to be happy. So he feeds the plant bloody meat from the butcher.
Eventually, however, Seymour allows the Audrey II to talk him into killing someone to get what he wants, but because the musical does very little to make us pity Orin Scrivello and Mr. Mushnik -- while doing everything to make us pity Seymour and Audrey -- it is easy to overlook the fact that Seymour actually commits murder.
Seymour was an axe murderer.
And he likely would have murdered more people had anyone else got in the way of his happily ever after with Audrey.
Not convinced Seymour was wrong? Think about it. If you heard your neighbor beating his wife, would you a) call the police or b) chop the man up and feed him to a hungry plant?
I'm not naive. I realize that calling the police would have likely done very little to stop what was happening to Audrey. That's where Audrey's agency comes in.
Audrey's problems were Audrey's problems. She did not need someone to rescue her. She needed to recognize that she was worthy of love, that she didn't deserve to be beaten, and then she needed to take her butt to a women's shelter and place a restraining order on Dr. Scrivello.
Again, I'm not naive. I know that escaping abuse isn't that easy or that simple. It also isn't impossible. Audrey needed to learn for herself that she was worthy of more, and she needed to fight her own battles rather than being a damsel for Seymour to save.
Audrey needed to stop daydreaming, get off her ass, and take charge of her life. It was not Seymour's place to do that for her. Audrey was responsible for her own happiness.
Love isn't about rescuing people or fixing people's lives. Love is about falling for someone who already has their shit together and who can enhance your life -- not fix it, because you already have your shit together too. To think otherwise is immature and tragic.
When examined from this angle, the entire musical reads like a Nice Guy's daydream: nerd kills the bad guy, nerd saves the girl, nerd gets the girl -- while beginning a relationship with her based entirely on a lie.
If Audrey knew Seymour had killed her boyfriend, there's no way in hell she would have been with him. And because he didn't tell her, their entire relationship -- and the marriage that followed -- was built on lies.
I've always felt this way. Even though Audrey says that she secretly wished for something bad to happen to her boyfriend, I doubt she would think highly of Seymour if she knew he had chopped up her boyfriend in a fit of rage and fed him to a plant.
All the characters in this musical are really dark, but Audrey's key defining characteristic is that she's the only good person. And as a good person, she would not be willingly cozied up with someone who had gleefully murdered someone.
In a different situation, it might have been romantic. Maybe if Seymour had lost his temper and accidentally killed the dentist in anger -- kinda like on Showtime's Dexter, when Dexter lost his temper and assaulted Rita's annoying and abusive ex-husband with a frying pan. He didn't kill Paul but framed him for drug use and got him put away. Problem solved. Dexter, the cold-hearted serial killer, did this.
Seymour didn't even think to do anything like that. Instead, he premeditated murder. Got the trash bags and the axe ready. Went to the guy's job with a gun and kidnapped him. Makes it all very gruesomely methodical and creepy.
Yes. I just said that Seymour is worse than Dexter, an actual serial killer. Despite the fact that Dexter kept his double life hidden from Rita, somehow, he's still a better person than Seymour.
I mean, damn. Even Dexter had limits.
Don't get me wrong: I was glad when that scumbag dentist died. And you could probably argue that Seymour's motivations were all that mattered. After all, Seymour was just trying to protect the woman he loved, and I know if anyone ever hit my (hypothetical) girlfriend, I'm not sure what would happen to that person.
But I also know that if I killed someone for beating my girlfriend, what I chose to do would still be wrong, and I would still need to go to jail.
The tragic alternate ending was more realistic and made more sense -- about as much realism and sense as you can get from a whacky science fiction comedy musical.
It only makes sense that Seymour's unfortunate choices would lead others into harm's way -- such as Audrey and, in the end, himself. The fairy tale ending where Seymour defeats the plant, saves the planet, and goes on to marry Audrey is just that -- a fairy tale.
The special edition of the dvd has the dark alternate ending that should have been and never was.
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