An evil, sadistic Leprechaun goes on a killing rampage in search of his beloved pot of gold.
When I was a kid, there were lots of cereal commercials during the Saturday morning cartoons. (Yes, they used to show cartoons on Saturdays, in case you were born after the 80s) Most of them I could ignore or actually enjoy (Oh, Freakies cereal, how I miss you!). But one series of commercials always rubbed me wrong, and that was Lucky Charms. I liked the cereal well enough. What pressed my buttons was the snarky leprechaun who passed as their spokesperson. His tone and mock peril antics made him someone I wanted to punch in the face. Screw his cereal and/or his pot of gold; I just wanted to inflict pain on the little imp.
I offer that exposition up only to explain that I don’t really care for leprechauns. They make me think of Randy Newman’s song “Short People”. They seem like rather single-minded creatures and likely to smell a bit. I wouldn’t invite one over for green beer on St. Patrick’s Day. And you can forget splitting a plate of green eggs and ham with one of them.
Having said all of that, I found that I am quite comfortable with a leprechaun terrorizing a group of people who seem to suffer from some radical IQ-lowering illness. Except for Ozzie. He’s a special kind of guy, so we’ll just consider him to be differently-minded. The others are just straight up dense.
We start off with a guy who has managed to do what everyone wishes they could do: he snatched a leprechaun’s gold stash. He thinks he has made it back to safety once he is home. Unfortunately, the titular character, played to over-the-top perfection by Warwick Davis, appears, offs the guy’s wife “accidentally”, and demands his gold back, preferable with more than an ounce of flesh as interest. Luckily for the guy, he is able to seal the squat little monster into a container with a four-leaf clover working as a ward to prevent the Leprechaun’s escape. Not so luckily, the guy then has stroke.
Enter the classic “10 years later” that seemed to be a part of every slasher flick and about 80% of most other horror films from the 80s and 90s. Then we meet the cast of likely corpses:
The Dad – He’s just a plot device, so you are perfectly correct to ignore him, except where he’s needed by the plot, of course.
Tory, the Daughter – She is the stereotypical white chick who freaks at the sight of pretty much everything in Nature, yet she is tougher than we first realize.
Nathan, the Hunk – Fairly nondescript character who only needs to look sexy and masculine but ultimately is saved by the fluffy city girl when she goes Rambo-lite.
Ozzie, the Friendly Giant – He is there to provide comic relief, slow down the plot progression so the film isn’t over in 20 minutes, and act as a surrogate for the audience so exposition can be doled out in a semi-acceptable fashion.
Alex, the Key to Marketing the Film to Kids – Other than his main purpose already mentioned, he acts a control for Ozzie as well as filling in for various injured characters when the plot needs to get to the next point.
The only problem is that none of them die. Get mauled, bitten, semi-tortured, and beat to hell, that happens, but the core is safe. We’ll touch on that again soon.
To justify being a horror movie in the 90s, the filmmakers needed some death candy, so the Leprechaun kills characters brought in to be little more than items on a checklist. A couple of protracted stalk-and-kill scenes? Mark them off. Worse yet, the tone of the film changes from a modified Looney Tunes cartoon to weird-yet-still-brutal slasher flick during these scenes. Yeah, it isn’t torture porn, but the shift does tend to pull you out of the film.
“Leprechaun” works best when it is in full-blown Scooby Doo mode. The bulk of the film focuses on the actions of the core group, and almost exclusively on the younger members. They set up jump scares, provided silliness as in throwing shoes to distract the Leprechaun (former shoemaker who has to shine every shoe he finds), provide eye candy (yes, Ms. Aniston, I am DEFINITELY looking at you), and make the whole thing relatable to the target demographic. Face it, the whole idea is a bit silly, so the slight tongue-in-cheek quality makes the events easier to accept and even enjoy. About the only thing missing was a scene with a cheesy generic 70s pop tune playing as the Leprechaun chases the gang from room to room.
Sure, there are issues with the film, but there isn’t anything so troublesome that it should stop most people from just kicking back and enjoying it. Mainly, let Warwick Davis charm you with his wild performance before the character overstays its welcome in the five sequels that followed, and I say that from having sat through all six films a couple of years ago.
While the others are not recommended, definitely give the original a spin, if for no other reason than to marvel at Ms. Aniston in that fantastic dress near the beginning of the film.