Formally Welcoming Audreys to Halloween

Everyone loves carnivorous plants - everyone! - and they've been a mainstay of horror fiction since before anyone alive today was ever even born, factoring heavily into "weird fiction" as far back as the 1800's.

...And yet, as someone who scanned Halloween merchandise high and low for most of my life, I can tell you that plant monsters were staggeringly rare as seasonal props or decorations for most of our collective existence. So rare, the only and for real the only carnivorous plant "figure" I ever personally found in connection with Halloween was this lovely, rubber pencil topper I somehow lost entirely a few years later. The only one, that is, until the Halloween season of 2018.

...Because in 2018, it happened. Michael's craft stores cobbled together these simple, potted plant monsters from plastic foliage they already produced, and slapped them with an amazingly hefty price tag that still didn't keep them on the shelves for long. People snatched these things up so quickly, Facebook Halloween groups were raffling them off and fighting over them, even as easy as it would be to make one of your own.

They weren't alone, however; a three-headed, metal sculpture and finely detailed resin statue were available the very same year, as though multiple manufacturers were inspired simultaneously to fill this painfully obvious holiday niche, and these, too, became a hot commodity with quite a bit of buzz.

It was all it took to open the floodgates...

One year later, Target stores decided to strike while the iron was hot, introducing the "Ghoulish Garden" product line in 2019, and this time the demand far outweighed the supply, with some people scalping even the smallest plants on ebay for up to five times their shelf prices.

Other franchises offered their own twists on this particular Rennaissance, and along with Target, continued the trend into 2020. Now, I'm writing this in 2021, and have already documented a handful of newcomers. In four short years, my personal experience with Halloween plant monsters expanded from a whoopie cushion and a pencil topper to more choices than I ever even needed in my life, and certainly far more than I'm willing to spend money collecting - two statements I say with nothing but joy in my heart. The day has come at last that a giant, mutant, man-eating fly trap is getting to be almost as "ordinary" this time of year as a Dracula, a Ghostface or Jason, and like these famous faces, most of these voracious vegetables are mutations of the same classic horror villain.

Though carnivorous plants are an actual, natural phenomenon, the vast majority of their appearances in popular media - even Nintendo's Piranha Plants - have always shared some DNA with the star of Little Shop of Horrors. Originally a cheap, non-musical and now public domain B-movie, it was later adapted as a Broadway musical that, in turn, brought us what is widely agreed upon as one of our all-time greatest cinematic masterpieces.

As you likely know, Audrey II was named such by dorky florist Seymour in a desperate plea for the attention of his hapless dreamgirl and coworker, Regular Audrey, and otherwise has no official "species name" or "truer" name, but just as we all tend to recognize a stapled-together, blocky-skulled ogre as "Frankenstein," I think it's perfectly fair to use "Audrey" as a shorthand for any botanical predator you could picture in the same role for one of Little Shop's many, many independent stage productions. It's the same thing that surely would have happened in "real life," isn't it? Once Audrey II started seeding the planet with hungry offspring, I'm sure the name would have permanently stuck, but maybe just dropped the "II" once there got to be more like MCMLXXXVI of them.

We can assume that "generic" Audreys can have almost any background; exotic products of nature, genetic mutations or even magical creations. However, it's worth noting that while the original 1960's Audrey II was simply a "cross pollination" of various carnivorous plants, the musical decided such a being could only have extraterrestrial origins, as the first Audrey II seedling apparently manifested from a bolt of strange lightning. I'm a big fan of weird, killer plants from space, though I wonder if the entity didn't simply take an Earthly plant as its body? I guess I'm getting a little off track here.

If Mean Green Mothers (from outer space or otherwise) are here to stay - we can only hope - as a core Halloween creature, then there's just one major thing still missing:

We all love Audrey II's, Piranha Plants and Venus Fly Traps, yes, we all appreciate the whimsy of a vegetable that bites, but there are many other ways that a plant can eat people! Even many Little Shop of Horrors stage performances have shaken things up with an Audrey II more like a pitcher plant, and plant monsters in our popular culture also commonly include the lovely "tooth lined flower" options. We've seen all of these at least once or twice in the recent blitz, but I hope we'll be seeing more experimentation in the coming years, more horrors fashioned after a wider range of botanical forms. Audrey II is a perfectly acceptable fallback, just as vampires commonly take after Dracula to some degree, but it's still cool when we see a Count Orlok in there, too!