To celebrate the release of the reboot of the Leprechaun franchise, here’s the first part of the original series starring Warwick Davis as an evil little leprechaun who goes to great lengths to protect his gold from those who would be greedy enough to steal it. He starts off by arriving in North Dakota to scare the hell out of Jennifer Aniston in her film debut. He moves on to Los Angeles to find a bride then winds up in Vegas to party down with the rest of the greedy bastards there.
Starring Warwick Davis (Willow, Star Wars), Jennifer Aniston (Friends) and Ken Olandt
Story: In the not quite Irish land of North Dakota, an evil leprechaun terrorizes a small farm town in search of his stolen pot of gold.
Review: Coming back from a visit to Ireland, an elderly man claims to his wife that he found a leprechaun and took its gold. She doesn’t believe him until, sure enough, a pint-sized monster shows up and does away with her. In a bit of revenge, the old man tricks the leprechaun into a crate and keeps him there with a four-leaf clover, which can suck away a leprechauns power. Before he can finish off the creature, the old man suffers a heart attack, leaving the leprechaun to rot in the crate.
Fast forward a bit and a single father with two children buys the old man’s farm house to start a new life. His daughter (Aniston) doesn’t care much for the place until she meets one of the cute farm hands and decides it’s great to live here. That is until they find some pieces of gold and then accidentally release a leprechaun. It wouldn’t be so bad if one of the idiot farm hands didn’t swallow one by accident, so now the creature is out to get his last piece of gold no matter what.
The movie isn’t a winner by any stretch of the imagination, it’s surprising to know that it was actually a theatrical release. Also shocking is that it was a surprise hit and catapulted no-name Jennifer Aniston into superstardom…eventually. The film is more well known for being her film debut than anything else that happens in the movie. She just plays the standard horror heroine who can scream and run while Warwick Davis chases her around.
Davis is the anchor to the whole film, he adds a certain energy and charm to the character that almost makes the film watchable. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a silly character altogether, but he makes it worth watching and provides a few chuckles with his interactions with his potential victims. The film is bad, but his scenes are so bad, it’s good. It’s the Warwick Davis show and nothing else.
The whole film is a formulaic slasher despite the added ridiculous concept of the killer being a magical fairy. There’s not much magic involved, effects-wise, since the movie is very low budget. The majority of the effects are simple in-camera tricks or standard editing tricks, lots of slow motion and speeding the film up. There’s a couple of decent gory effects thrown in, though if it weren’t for those few scenes, the film looks very PG.
It’s hard to believe that this is the one that kickstarted one of the more unlikeliest movie franchises in movie history. Aside from Davis’ wonderfully silly performance, there’s not much to recommend. There are way better horror/comedies out there, but the good news is that the series does get better. Eventually.
Story: 3 – Standard slasher flick with a pretty far out idea for a killer.
Blood: 4 – A deadly pogo attack, a torn out eyeball, a lopped off hand with some clawing and biting attacks.
Nudity: 0 – Thanks for nothing, Aniston!
Overall: 3 – Shocking that this spawned five sequels and a reboot, it’s hardly a great launch pad for a franchise, but it happened.
-Warwick Davis has stated the movie was originally supposed to be a children’s fright film, but the producers felt it’d be a better adult horror movie and filmed extra gore scenes for that purpose. That certainly explains the shift from PG-style to a more gorier look.
-The line “Fuck you, lucky charms” came out of a dispute between the filmmakers and the company that makes the Lucky Charms cereal. Originally a scene where the leprechaun finds and eats the cereal was approved by the company but upon seeing the finished film backed out of the deal forcing the filmmakers to re-shoot with a mock up of the real cereal.
Directed by Rodman Flender
Starring Warwick Davis, Charlie Heath and Shevonne Durkin
Story: Every thousandth birthday for a leprechaun, they have an opportunity to choose a bride. Being thwarted a thousand years earlier, the evil creature shows up in modern times (well, 1994) in order to claim his bride and will stop at nothing in order to do so.
Review: After being denied a bride, the leprechaun follows the family tree of that poor girl until another thousand years pass so he can take the next girl (Durkin) in the bloodline as his wife. In his way is the girl’s boyfriend, Cody (Heath) as well as his alcoholic scam artist uncle, Morty, who’s more interested in where his next drink is coming from than saving the day.
It should be stated early here, that the filmmakers for each sequel play pretty fast and loose with whatever mythology they choose to work with, whether it was established in an earlier movie or they just come up with something entirely different. They’re also basically fish out of water types of movies. The leprechaun always has a problem acclimating himself to whatever situation he’s in, for comedy relief. It works sometimes but not all the time. In fact, moving the creature to Los Angeles adds very little to what’s going on in the story, it’s just another place for him to kill in and nothing more.
The film actually doubles the budget of the previous film, though that doesn’t mean too much. However the effects are a big improvement over the first movie, with the filmmakers knowing they were making a scary adult and not a children’s movie. They upped the gore factor a little bit with scenes involving someone’s face in a lawnmower blade, a stomach being tore open and a face burned via steam are the few gory highlights.
The movie is an improvement over the original, but only slightly. The story isn’t that much better and the writers threw in some weird ideas into the leprechaun’s mythology ie: only able to choose a bride every 1000 years and only if the woman sneezes three times with no one saying “God bless you.” And apparently leprechauns burn at the touch of wrought iron. Where did that come from? It’s an uneven movie where the comedy falls flat and so do the scare scenes.
Story: 4 – He’s still taking out anyone who tries to steal his gold but his primary focus is to get laid.
Blood: 5 – A little more inventive with the increased budget, but still doesn’t seem to go all in with the leprechaun gimmick.
Nudity: 5 – It’s an incredibly obvious body double standing in for the main actress, but hey, topless is topless!
Overall: 4 – They took the leprechaun from a farm and dropped him into the big city, this idea could’ve been played for bigger laughs if done right. Davis seems up for it but instead the movie is just another tedious slasher sequel existing because the first one did well.
-The movie has an alternate title, “One Wedding and Lots of Funerals.”
-Clint Howard (Ron’s ugly brother) has a cameo as a tourist.
Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith
Starring Warwick Davis, John Gatins, Lee Armstrong
Story: The leprechaun finds his way to Las Vegas where his gold once again gets taken by some strangers and he hacks his way through anyone in his way to get that coin back. It’s just one coin, man, let it go.
Review: The movie initially starts off with a man entering a 24-hour pawn shop on the Las Vegas strip. He makes a deal to sell an ugly leprechaun statue just to get rid of it. The deal comes with a warning: don’t touch the medallion around the neck of the statue. Naturally the clerk doesn’t listen and takes the medallion off. He then takes on the leprechaun in several rounds over the pot of gold before getting beaten to death.
Taking a beat from the previous movie in just making shit up as they go, the filmmakers decided that the gold coins can now grant one wish to whoever holds the leprechaun’s gold coins as well as including a magical medallion that was never introduced before but apparently can turn the creature to stone. It’s eventually forgotten by the end of the movie so it doesn’t matter anyway, I guess. Also, apparently leprechaun bites have a vampire-like effect, which I’ll get into in a bit.
Meanwhile, Scott (Gatins) is a college student passing through Vegas who rescues Tammy, a hot casino worker (Armstrong) and gets her to bring his underage ass into the casino as long as he doesn’t do anything. Naturally he spends tons of money he couldn’t afford to lose and goes to the pawn shop to get some money. He discovers the dead body and a gold coin. He makes a one-off wish while holding the coin which actually grants his wish and he’s back at the casino making money. The leprechaun then goes on a search for his one missing coin that gets passed on to many characters including Mitch, the casino’s owner, Fazio, the resident magician who has no chance against the leprechaun and Loretta, the assistant who really wants a lot of plastic surgery. In an early fight over the coin, the leprechaun bites Scott’s arm and turns him into a half-human half-leprechaun with the only way to turn back is to kill the leprechaun. There’s so much going on!
Yeah, there’s a ton of convoluted ideas just tossed in for whatever reason, to be different from the other movies, I suppose. Nothing established from the previous movies is ever mentioned in this film and that would continue on in the next one, forgetting anything that ever happened in this movie. However, if just for this movie, all these additions to the mythology make for a much more entertaining movie. It strikes a nice blend of comedy mixed in with the wacky antics of our villain. If he’s not killing someone in some over the top fashion, he’s interacting with everyone else around him who don’t seem to care he’s a leprechaun. Even Elvis likes his shoes!
Thanks to the effects team, our favourite little leprechaun comes up with some rather ironic or just flat out batshit crazy ways of offing anyone in his way. There’s a variety of kills ranging from electrocution via robot sex to sawing someone in half. It was fun seeing what he would come up with next as he moves from the pawn shop to the casino and even to a hospital.
If there is such a thing, this is about as close to a perfect killer leprechaun movie as you’re going to get. The film doesn’t take things too seriously, offers up lots of little jokes along the way and comes up with some inventive kills. I wish I could say that future instalments learned from this one, but alas that’s not true. But we’ll always have Leprechaun 3.
Story: 6 – Los Angeles was a dull affair in Part 2, but Las Vegas may be the most appropriate setting for the leprechaun.
Blood: 7 – Electrocution, someone sawed in half, someone blown up, an eyeball gag and some stabbings and beatings round out an imaginative and interesting series of kills.
Nudity: 7 – Playboy model Heidi Staley shows off her assets in a great scene.
Overall: 7 – It’s certainly not high art, but this is a great B-movie and the best the Leprechaun series has ever seen.
-The check that Scott cashes is actually signed by the director, Brian Trenchard-Smith.
-Warwick Davis’ favorite of the series.
Stay tuned until next time where I discuss the leprechaun winding up in space taking on space marines and a robotic scientist as well as his triumphant return to Earth in not one, but two trips to the hood.