St. Patrick’s Day is kind of a big deal in Chicago. Half the city participates in a pub crawl of some sort, the city dyes the Chicago River a sickly green and the number of Jackass style accidents significantly increase. It’s a fun time, but I myself don’t participate in any shenanigans for the most part. I’d rather plop my fat ass down on the couch and watch an Irish themed movie or two. So welcome to my coverage of all the films in the cheesy Leprechaun film series.
So here’s a little back story about how the franchise began. In the early nineties Trimark Pictures, who was a low budget direct-to-video film company, was looking to branch out into theatrical releases. The plan was to make mostly family friendly films as well as an occasional horror film, which is basically what they were known for at the time. The idea of a kids’ movie starring a mischievous magical imp was to be their first major project, and with that the Leprechaun franchise was born. As the dailies came in the filmmakers realized that the film wasn’t coming off quite as family friendly as they had expected. It was kind of dark and actually a little creepy. So the decision was made late into production to reshoot some key scenes and make it a full on R-rated horror film. In 1993 Leprechaun was released into theaters nationwide and made a tidy profit.
The story centers around spoiled city girl Tory (Jennifer Aniston in her first major role) who has returned to her country hometown to visit her father for the summer. A mentally challenged local unwittingly releases a vengeful Leprechaun (Warwick Davis) that was trapped in the basement of the summer home he and some friends are renovating for Tory’s father. Searching for his missing pot of gold, the Leprechaun goes on a rampage throughout the town.
Let’s get this out in the open right now… this movie isn’t even remotely scary. It’s primarily played for laughs with an occasionally cheesy death scene mixed in to play up to horror fans. I’ve never seen a movie before or after this with a scene where someone is pogo-sticked to death. It’s cornball city from beginning to end and isn’t all that entertaining to be honest. It’s a slow and tedious affair that spends too much time with the uninteresting main players and not the hilariously silly title character.
What does make this movie watchable is Warwick Davis. He seems to be having a hell of a time playing the villain and his enthusiasm in infectious. His scenes, while stupid and corny, are fun and end up being the highlight of the movie. He overacts like a madman and takes what would have been a trashy antagonist role and makes it into something special. He was so good in the part that the character became one of the major horror icons alongside the likes of Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Chucky and Michael Myers.
The other actors don’t fare so well. Jennifer Aniston looks lost for the whole movie. She can’t scream that well either. Her love interest, Ken Olandt, seems to be trying to take his part seriously, but he fails miserably. The ever-lovable Mark Holton (Francis from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure) does a convincing simpleton, but his part is engineered to be a nuisance to everyone including the audience. Robert Gorman, who plays Olandt’s little brother, is given the part that would normally be the lead of a movie like this. A little kid versus a Leprechaun would have been the logical way to go to sell this as a children’s film, and his character is written as the one person among the main cast with any common sense. Warwick Davis aside, he’s the only other likable character. His final line of “Fuck you, Lucky Charms!” is classic.
The entire production reeks of cheapness, from the chintzy special effects to the sets and costumes. The movie does actually feel like an overly violent kids’ film, but it made money off its tiny budget and the legend was born. As the jumping off point for a franchise this is pretty weak sauce. I recommend to check this out if you already haven’t, but it’s not a good movie or even all that entertaining.
1 out of 5
p.s. Too bad director Mark Jones’ other attempted franchise, Rumpelstiltskin, didn’t take off. Actually it’s a good thing that it didn’t. It sucked ass on so many levels.