Written by Jonathan Wojcik
TARGET'S 2019 "GHOULISH GARDEN!"
One of the biggest players every Halloween season, Target really blew me away these last few years and especially in 2018 with their "Hyde and Eek Boutique" line, which included such instant hits as a brain in a tube and a telephone monster. Do their new 2019 items meet the same standard? YOU BET! Thanks to their official online catalog, we get a full preview nearly a month before any of it hits shelves, and I am 200% HERE for what we're about to review. There are other, unrelated items I'll probably give an article of their own later into the season, but today, we look at just the Ghoulish Garden product line they're rolling out!
The entire new series is perfectly summed up by its only "animated" item; a trio of carnivorous plants in a Jack O' Lantern who sing about candy in a clear homage to Audrey II's performance of "FEED ME!"
ANIMATED PUMPKIN PLANT
-CLICK FOR VIDEO!
Where the heck did the avalanche of Audrey II imitators come from since last Halloween, anyway?! I'm actually kind of bitter that didn't happen when I was a child. I was so damn excited by every single plant monster I'd have been in heaven to have one of these, or absolutely any one item we're about to see...
Listed on Target.com for only four bucks, this is one of the smallest and cheapest of the new items at only 3.25 inches tall; even short than the average Star Wars action figure! You could actually recreate Little Shop of Horrors with Kylo Ren as Seymour! He totally would be, don't deny it, the pipsqueak.
SPOOKY SUCCULENT I
Had these, in fact, come out when I was a wee kid, this single, perfect little Audreyoid would have been THE ONE I wanted most of all. My only criticism, and it unfortunately applies to the rest of the Ghoulish Garden, is that the foliage is made from glued-together felt. Not only does that not hold together as well as other materials, but it feels nasty to the touch and clings so tenaciously to every speck of dust it ever gathers, no felt-textured item ever looks as good as the first five minutes it was unwrapped.
Not that big on chomping-style plant monster? How about a more lamprey-like mouth at the center of a tropical flower?! I was getting worried we might never see some other type of flesh-eating botanical in official Halloween merchandise, but I'm not surprised Target broke the trend. Like the other "succulent," this one also holds a single bone in a poseable-looking vine, and it also looks pretty cool coming out of a predominantly white pumpkin!
SPOOKY SUCCULENT II
Not that big a fan of mouth-plants? Don't worry! The Ghoulish Garden offers at least a couple good old eye-flowers, too, and not just the usual eyeball roses we've seen more often. This is another more "exotic" or "rainforesty" looking flower, its cool blue and purple nicely complementing a gothic black planter!
SPOOKY SUCCULENT III
Nicely averting what I was just saying about felt, you'll also be able to buy an entire decorative clothe containing two of the sucker-mawed flowers. At $15, this is over three times the cost of the single "succulent," but I guess that makes sense, since you get twice the plant monster along with a whole classy display case!
The piranha plants get a glass display case as well, in a rather different style, and I only just really processed that each mouth has three sculpted plastic tongues. There's sadly no glass case item for the eyeball plant, but a distant cousin of it is included in this one, which I think makes it a little better of a deal than the cloche, especially because it's listed on the site for three dollars cheaper. I also really like those fuzzy blue balls in there; that's more like some kind of accompanying fungus than a plant, I'd say!
This still larger, triple-headed specimen finally gives an official name to the "species," though if you ask me, the ones with the fanged suckers should have been the "blood succulents," shouldn't they? I guess it was blood that the real Audrey II craved anyway. Not much to say here except that, if this is your favorite of the plant designs, this one is exactly fifteen bucks for three mouths, and there's ALMOST no beating that.
But, hold on a second...what's this?! We actually get some whole other species of green, biting plant from the same collection?! That's quite the surprise, since they seemed to like recycling the same mouths for most of these. It's a nice surprise that they bother offering such a subtle variation on the concept, this one lacking the animal-like teeth or tongues for a slightly more "plausible" carnivorous plant look. At $20, however, I feel like it looks a tad cheaper than the other options. Even the tongues are felt.
A VERY welcome return to the eyeball plants, you get an entire half-dozen eerie blossoms with this one, and the coloration of the petals brings to my mind some sort of fleshy carrion-flower. I'd say this is easily the most striking looking item under this branding, all those lifelike, penetrating doll-eyes sure to catch attention even quicker than a bunch of plastic mouths.
...But if it's still the plastic mouths you want, we finally have the "star" of the Ghoulish Garden collection, the Ghoulish Garden itself, presumably the largest of the bunch at a steep 35 bucks. It's certainly the most impressive of the "Blood Succulents," with a fuller collection of leaves, a larger central head unique to this specimen, some realistic fly traps thrown in for variety and a strange blue structure I want to assume is a blood succulent's flower. Is that based on any actual plant? It almost reminds me of a Portuguese Man O' War. If you can afford it, I'd say this is the one to get! But while we've now gone through all of the "artificial plants" in the collection, we're still not exactly finished!
These are really only referred to as "Halloween Eyeball Decor," but they're part of the "Hyde and Eek" branding, of which the Ghoulish Garden is a sub-collection. Together with the bright green, spiny flesh, I'd say these have to count as another botanical monster, possibly even the seed pod or fruiting body of one of the other strains we've seen. Either way, they look awesome!
This isn't sold under "Ghoulish Garden" either, but the intense green vines fit in very nicely, and I love that their pond-scum coloration is shared by the skull. I kind of wish it said something a little more serious than "Stay Scary," but that's a very minor critique. I also count this as part of the Ghoulish Garden's extended family because it's part of a set that also includes...
"STAY SCARY" TOMBSTONE
AWESOME!!! Target introduces a novel new tombstone almost every year now that has now included a spider themed tombstone, a tombstone with an eyeball, a tombstone with octopus tentacles and now the very, very first carnivorous plant themed tombstone I have ever seen. It's also just gorgeous, from the coloration of that warty plant to the human bone stylishly clutched in its jagged maw. If any combination of carnivorous plants, general gardening and Halloween are meaningful to you, it seems like Target is extremely devoted to draining your bank account this year, and the gardening headstone is especially begging to be a part of your home.
"IMA GARDENER" TOMBSTONE
The only odd thing is...this collection gets more than a little repetitive for how big it is, doesn't it? We have ten different artificial carnivorous plants from just one retailer, half of them reusing the same design in slightly different ways. It's like a very large selection of one very specific thing, when they could have definitely put some of those resources into some other product types. Those Blood Succulent heads could very easily be sold as accessories such as hair clips or corsages, and some hanging decor like a wreathe or garland might have looked pretty killer!
Perhaps I'm being spoiled here, though. JUST ONE STORE is offering more than a DOZEN different KILLER HALLOWEEN PLANTS this year, which is just outstanding, and I'm wondering if they're even going to be the only retailer throwing their hat into that particular ring again. It feels like it took decades for anyone to catch on to how much the world loves Chompy Monster Vegetables and how appropriate they are for Halloween, and I'm hoping we can look forward to Audrey II's out the Wazoos for many Halloweens to come.
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