The creepy creeping of creepers

Posted: January 26, 2015 in reading, watching
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This weekend I went to see Little Shop of Horrors at the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre. The plant villain, Audrey Two, was the highlight of the show on so many levels, from the design of the plant models to the intense expressions of the puppeteer singers as they animated this rubbery villain. It reminded me of just how disconcerting I’ve always found carnivorous plants. Plant eats animal is such an inversion of the natural order we expect from the world, I suspect that most people feel a shiver at the idea. It makes carnivorous plants, from tiny venus flytraps to Audrey Two, that bit more disconcerting, and so great as a menace in a story.

Weirdly though, John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids is the only other story I can think of with a plant-based villain (apart from a very hazy recollection of an old Doctor Who episode). I think it’s something I want to try writing, but I don’t want to just re-tread the same old ground, so help me internet – what other plant villains are out there?

  1. everwalker says:

    The poppies in Wizard of Oz, the brambles in Sleeping Beauty, the apple in Snow White – plants get used as evil tools a lot, but I can’t think of any others that are active antagonists.

  2. Swamp Thing! Not technically a villain, but certainly a plant-based power. I know that there are some D&D monsters that are semi-sentient plants or fungi that lure and incapacitate animals/people and then feed on them. I personally have semi-sentient trees that can uproot themselves and walk around a bit, and lure victims with sticky ‘fruits’ then lash them with whiplike branches. 😀

    • I like the sound of those trees. I’m picturing urchins trying to go steal fruit from an orchard only to have themselves punished for their trouble. I suspect your version is more serious and less Dickensian than what’s in my cold-addled brain right now.

      And Swamp Thing, of course. Usually a protagonist, and at least sort of a hero, but all that stuff with the green and the red, dabbling with the raw ferocity if nature, it’s pretty dark.

  3. Sue Archer says:

    Groot in a bad mood.

  4. EsoterX says:

    The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, The Ya-Te-Veo of South America. The mythical Man Eating Trees of Madagascar. The Nubian Man-Eater. We need to be mroe worried about plant monsters.

  5. glenatron says:

    I heard a Radio 4 drama a while ago where a pleasant lakeside town was feeding people to some kind of pond fungus plant monster in the lake, don’t recall the details. The Doctor Who episode was one of the number 6 “Trial Of The Doctor” episodes… *googles* … apparently it was Terror Of The Vervoids.

    I rather like the plant-related enemy faced in Jeff Noon’s Pollen, that is a pretty clever story, though whether it would still be the weird psychedelic sci fi now that it was when I read it back in the 90s, I’m not sure. It’s the kind of thing that might date.

    I rather like the idea of a plant threat that is not a monster of any kind, just a plant, but a super-invasive and totally inedible plant that grows fast, grows everywhere and requires constant effort to keep it back. It can out compete crops, break up concrete and push it’s way through any cracks in structures, gradually tearing them apart. It can be held off, but the price is constant vigilance, which means that everything else is going to slip. It creates an interesting scenario and of course the possible reasons for it’s sudden appearance or spread open the door to all kinds of interesting narrative avenues.

    • That last idea reminds me of a Dan Dare comic I read in an old Eagle annual of my dad’s. They brought a strange seed back from space and it grew berzerk, over-running vast swathes of land. Can’t remember how they dealt with it in the end, but it was probably a terribly British solution involving stiff upper lips and a nice cup of tea.

      Also made a note to come back to that for a future Friday story – so much potential.

      • glenatron says:

        It reminds me of the Insects in the Steph Swainston books, if a bit less horrifying, just a constant, relentless, threat that society is endlessly in the shadow of.

        • There was something more alienating about those insects than many other threats. I wonder if it’s almost an uncanny valley thing – when a menace shows signs of thinking and behaving like a conscious being, but also some element that’s off.

  6. […] to see Little Shop of Horrors, it struck me was that the play uses one of the all time classic character motivations – […]

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