Director: Mark Jones
Released: 1993Starring: Warwick Davis, Jennifer Aniston, Ken Olandt, Mark Holton, Robert Gorman, John Sanderford, Shay Duffin
Plot: Daniel O’Grady (Duffin) returns home from a trip to Ireland, having managed to steal a leprechaun’s (Davis) pot of gold. Unbeknownst to him though is that the evil Leprechaun has followed him back to the U.S. Having captured the creature for a second time and sealed him in a crate O’Grady suffers a stroke while trying to burn the crate. Now ten years later J.D. (Sanderford) and his teenage daughter Tory (Aniston) rent the O’Grady farmhouse for the summer were they unwittingly release the imprisoned Leprechaun, who once again sets out to find his pot of gold
Review: While perhaps not as big a franchise as “Friday the 13th” or “Nightmare on Elm St”; “Leprechaun” like “Critters” has still managed to garner a cult following which in turn has spawned five sequels. Still despite this for one reason or another it has taken me until now to finally get around to watching the first of the series, which is also renown for also being the first movie role for Jennifer Aniston before she shot to fame the following year on “Friends”, joining the long line of actors who got their first big break in horror and one which includes luminaries such as Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween), Kevin Bacon (Friday The 13th) and Tom Hanks (He Knows That Your Alone) to but skim the surface.
This film really is a mixed bag to say the least, most of all because it falls in that tricky place between horror and comedy, with director Jones seemingly never sure what tone he wants for the film, as it frequently switches between the two only without any of the smooth transition that “Gremlins” and “Critters” featured. So while Davis plays the Leprechaun largely for laughs, there are frequent moments throughout the film where he suddenly switches to a much darker side of the character and often with no warning. At the same time the frequently violent and gory attacks which accompany this darker side drag the film back to horror, while generally leaving the viewer confused over what they should be feeling, especially when it is not being played with any of the dark humour that Peter Jackson brought to his early splatterfests like “Bad Taste” or “Braindead” which showed that splatter and laughs could work together without losing any of the potential horror. This however is something which really doesn’t happen here, as everytime I felt a good horror vibe being built, it would suddenly be side lined by some misfire attempt at humour.
Most of these attempts at humour though come from the titular Leprechaun, with director Jones clearly using “Gremlins” as his basis for the film, especially seeing how the Leprechaun seemingly can’t do anything without wheeling out a wacky prop, so hence we are treated to him following the group into town on a tricycle which he is somehow able to ride as fast as a car and making me wonder if he take the same steroids the kids in “E.T.” were obviously taking to outrun the feds on their BMX Bikes. Elsewhere he also manages to kill one minor character using a pogo stick!! Seriously how much does he weigh!?! Still my personal favourite has to be the toy car which once again seems to be faster than other car, aswell as somehow being able to T-bone a car so hard it flips over, as clearly the laws of physics don’t apply here, along with it seems logic and reason.
As frustrating as these misfire attempts at humour or general randomness are, were the film gets really irritating is when the supposed heroes Tory and her father are joined in the fight against the Leprechaun by token love interest Nathan (Olandt), his bratty little brother Alex (Gorman) and their man child friend Ozzie (Holton) who run the painting company “Three Guys Who Paint”. You see what they did there….yeah well that’s the kind of tortured attempts at humour the film specialises in. Still for some reason Jones feels that the relationship between Ozzie and Alex is adorable enough to make it one of the main plotlines, much to the misfortune of the viewer who has to endure their grinding conversations and plans to fix Ozzie’s brain using the gold. Still seemingly these numskulls are Tory’s only hope for surviving the night as she seems frequently helpless on her own with even the most easiest of things over whelming her, after all this is a woman who has to be shown how to paint, when you would have felt it would have been kind of obvious, while her father randomly disappears around the halfway point.
What really surprised me about the film though is how surprisingly gory it was, as the Leprechaun attacks frequently get quite bloody, thanks to his penchant for clawing and biting his victims. The real gooey fun though is kept for the finale, were it turns out that Leprechaun’s tend to die in a similarly slimy fashion as Gremlins. Still for those of you fond of a bout of dwarf bashing, then you may find much to enjoy here, as it turns out that Leprechaun’s are also tough as old leather, especially seeing how over the course of the film he is beaten, shot and frequently clubbed with a variety of blunt objects while still coming back for more, which really saying something when you also consider that he is supposed to be 600 years old, he really is quite the spritely Leprechaun.
While the film has its flaws it is hard to deny the effective Leprechaun make up, which reminded me of how effective old school effects can be, especially in these times were it has been largely made a defunct art form in favour of frequently ropey looking CGI. Credit also has to be given to Davis for bringing this creation to life, even if he never seems to quite nail an Irish accent, he still manages to atleast bring a sense of fun to the character, even when the character choices become increasingly random as the film goes on. Still it would seem something about the character appeals to Davis who has gone on to star in all five sequels showing the sort of devotion to a character that Robert Englund showed for Freddy Krueger.
A flawed film to say the least and one which if more tweaked could have been something special, which sadly this one fails to do, especially when it frequently gives with one hand and takes with the other, as its pro’s and con’s seem to be in constant conflict, something I’ve yet to see if it improves with the sequels. Meanwhile WWE films currently have taken of the series rights with plans of making a prequel and sequel as a vehicle for Hornswoggle their Leprechaun gimmick wrestler / sidekick, which at the time of writing still remains in development hell. In the meantime though I doubt this is the last time I will be seeing him again, even as frequently painful this film was, it still leaves you curious to see more though if these pros are picked up and built upon still remains to be seen.