Plants and flowers are a pretty common sight, including in movies, and they’re not always nice. How can we be afflicted with a killer plant? Between mad scientists, alien invaders, and strange curses, screenwriters have found many ways. To narrow things down, this list seeks to distinguish between trees and plants. Also, just because plants figure into a movie bad guy’s storyline, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a “killer plant” (for example, the aliens in the 1988 “War of the Worlds” TV series eat plants and come from a garden planet, but these elements don’t constitute killer plants). Here’s the list!
1. Day of the Triffids (1963)
Sometimes called “Invasion of the Triffids,” Steve Sekely’s movie probably qualifies as quintessential sci-fi horror. The story involves large, hostile, and mobile carnivorous plants that first arrived courtesy of a meteor shower. It seems these spores came to earth specifically to conquer it, which might seem bad-ass if the creature effects were better. Still, that’s all part of B-movie charm, isn’t it? As you’d expect, these plants march around producing and feeding on corpses. Oh, and the meteor shower has also blinded most people on earth, making the plants an even bigger threat!
Like many great sci-films, these plant creatures do have weaknesses, but they are formidable nonetheless. Surprisingly, no one’s started a band called “Bored with Stingrays,” sourced from a quote by the movie’s chief marine biologist, Tom Goodwin (Kieron Moore). “Day of the Triffids” also stars Howard Keel, Nicole Maurey, Janette Scott, and Mervyn Johns.
2. The Mutations/The Freakmaker (1974)
Known by 2 different names, Jack Cardiff’s “The Mutations” centers on a mad scientist, Professor Nolter (Donald Pleasence), striving to crossbreed plants with humans. The result is, of course, a monstrosity or two. The movie’s convoluted plot prevents us from getting bored with the science of it all, especially as many of the story’s characters run a literal freakshow. Normally one might say “Oh, Donald Pleasance dominates the movie,” but it’s not so easy to say he outshines anyone else here.
For example, Tom Baker as Lynch, the most villainous and domineering character among the “freaks,” does a commendable job. While he treats others dreadfully, the story reveals him as a complicated, tortured character. He may be a bad guy, but he’s the tragic kind, as opposed to someone who’s evil just for the hell of it. Similarly, Dr. Nolter’s madness does have a method, and we can partly see why he’s driven to perpetrate evil for “the greater good.” This movie might suck in some ways, but it’s definitely fun, and obviously pays homage to Tod Browning’s “Freaks.”
3. Creepshow (1982)
With the success of the Shudder series’ first season, “Creepshow” refuses to stay dead. It all has roots in the classic 1982 series, which was an amazing collaboration between director George A. Romero, screenwriter (and actor!) Stephen King, and makeup/effects wizard Tom Savini. Of the stories in the original film, one of the most iconic is “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill.”
Featuring Stephen King as Jordy Verrill, this is the tale of a simple man who accidentally unleashes a massive, invasive “weed” species from a meteor. As we see him overtaken by this uncommon problem, we get to know him as a somewhat sad (but lovable) character. Not only is it a memorable tale, but it seems few people would deny that Stephen King actually has some comedic acting talent. This truly is an iconic killer plant story.
4. Children of the Corn (1984)
Stephen King again? Sure, why not?! This time, the killer plants are linked to a mysterious, Satanic force in the cornfields…or something like that. Basically, nearly all of the kids in the town of Gatlin, Nebraska join the cult of the mysterious and twisted Isaac (John Franklin). Assisted by the more threatening Malachi (Courtney Gains), Isaac launches a revolution in which adults are killed, all for a mysterious force called “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.” While this movie has many detractors, it also has many sequels, and some of them are surprisingly good for what they are. So, if you want to see satan-possessed corn convince children to murder their parents and grandparents, you might want to check this movie (and franchise) out. Also, despite generally being a silly story, “Children of the Corn” has one of the scariest intros to any horror movie, ever. It also stars Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton as the boring-ass adults, as well as rows and rows of corn.
5. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Do you normally hate musicals? Well, you should still give Frank Oz’s “Little Shop of Horrors” a chance. It may just be the best musical of all time! Based on the musical, and the 1960 Roger Corman movie, this version stars Rick Moranis as Seymour Krelborn. Krelborn discovers a plant that’s out of this world, which ultimately requires human blood in order to grow! While this movie’s not exactly a gore-fest, it still has that horror edge, lending the musical numbers more of a humorous bite.
“Little Shop of Horrors” also stars Ellen Greene as Audrey, Seymour’s love interest, fellow Skid Row resident, and abused girlfriend of Orin Scrivello (Steve Martin), a sadistic dentist. It also features Vincent Gardenia as Mr. Mushnik, owner of the flower shop, as well as the great vocal talents of Levi Stubbs, the voice of Audrey II — the murderous, alien plant. While this movie is often preferred over the original film, you might want to watch them back-to-back, just for the hell of it.
6. Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)
Of all the pre-CGI Godzilla movies, Kazuki Ōmori’s “Godzilla vs. Biollante” may have some of the best special effects one could possibly hope for. In fact, Biollante looks really cool by the movie’s end, and it certainly seems like a worthwhile opponent for Godzilla. What is Biollante? It’s a genetically modified giant monster; The result of splicing a Godzilla cell with a rose and a human woman. That’s right! Interestingly, this monster is said to represent the end of Cold War concerns over nuclear energy, as the issue being addressed has to do with genetic engineering.
So yes, Godzilla movies can act as a unique barometer of world affairs. As suggested earlier, this Godzilla’s a little more convincing, not appearing like a mere rubber suit. While there are some cheesier elements to this movie, it isn’t entirely goofy, either. Still, Biollante is what ultimately makes this movie worthwhile. What a monster! “Godzilla vs. Biollante” also stars humans like Kunihiko Mitamura, Yoshiko Tanaka, Masanobu Takashima, Megumi Odaka, and Toru Minegishi.
7. Troll 2 (1990)
A solid candidate for best bad movie ever, “Troll 2” offers plenty of killer plant and corn-based freakishness, and epic overacting. However, it most assuredly offers us Goblins, not trolls! If you can get over that bit of disappointment, prepare to head to the village of Nilbog. People do things a little differently there — probably because they’re not people at all. In fact, they’re not trolls, either. They’re goblins. Of course, these goblins look like small people in cheap-looking masks who hunt down tourists, trying to force them to eat poisoned food that’ll transform them into plants so the goblin tribe can eat them!
Why don’t the goblins just eat regular vegetation so they don’t need this convoluted process? Who knows?! It’s just nature at work — evil nature! There are countless reasons to watch this movie about killer plants. You can see Joshua Waits (Michael Stephenson) prepare to pee on his family’s food! See druid witch Creedence Leonore Gielgud (Deborah Reed) seduce a young man (David McConnell) with a corn cob, only to have him drown in popcorn! See Holly Waits (Connie McFarland) do a bizarre dance in a Garfield shirt! Finally, hear Arnold (Darren Ewing) scream to the heavens, which may be one of the best moments in cinematic history. Of all the bad killer plant movies on this list, this one is definitely a must!
8. Leprechaun (1993)
Jennifer Anniston seems ashamed of being in Mark Jones’ “Leprechaun,” but make no mistake: The Leprechaun (Warwick Davis) has a cult following and a whole bunch of sequels. We could talk all day about those, but let’s talk about a certain plant used in the plot. Marijuana? No, that figures more into “Leprechaun In the Hood.” We’re talking the four-leaf clover. It’s a different kind of killer plant for this list, as it’s a threat to the film’s villain. As the Lep slaughters people left and right seeking his gold, the would-be survivors (Anniston, Ken Olandt, Mark Holton, and Robert Gorman) quest for a precious clover. Basically, it can do to him what sunlight can do to Gremlins. Ouch!
9. The Happening (2008)
Often lumped in with lists of terrible movies, M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening” still has fans. Still, we’re not here to talk about popularity, but about killer plants. “The Happening” has more deadly plants than you can shake a stick at! How do they kill? They emit toxins triggering people to commit suicide, of course! “The Happening” does feature some freaky moments, regardless of what critics say, so you might want to give this a chance to see if it survives the anti-hype. This movie might be considered a more serious killer plant venture. It stars Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, and Betty Buckley.
10. The Ruins (2008)
It’s time for killer vines! Another creative movie about killer plants, Carter Smith’s “The Ruins” features tourists trapped in a Mayan ruin in a Mexican jungle. Should we reveal more? Probably not. Just know that the vines have a few unique, haunting characteristics, which make the ruins seem like a truly cursed place. This movie stars Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey, Joe Anderson.
It’s very possible we missed some key killer plant movies. Feel free to let us know in the comments!