Almost all of horror’s great icons have their own lengthy franchises; from the comedy tinged sequels to the original Nightmare on Elm Street through to the atrocious Rob Zombie Halloween movies, as well as Jason Voorhees ill fated trip to New York during the Friday the 13th saga, horror series’ tend to allow their sequels to dampen the legacy left by their original films and by their protagonists. That’s why i’m delighted to be able to inform you that the Leprechaun film series features 5 sequels that only get better as they progress, leaving you with a film saga that ranks somewhere between The Godfather and The Lord of The Rings trilogies in terms of cinematic impact.
On a fateful Tuesday night, one like any other that had gone before it, I was perusing the Honest Trailers section of the excellent Screen Junkies YouTube page (as I often do) searching for a trailer I hadn’t yet seen when I stumbled across the image for the original Leprechaun film with Warwick Davis of Return of the Jedi and Life’s Too Short fame in grotesque green make-up. After watching the largely negative trailer, which described the first film in the series but alluded to the 5 sequels which take the main character, a blood-thirsty Irish Leprechaun, from the poker tables of Vegas, into the heart of a gang war in an African-American neighbourhood, into space and then back into an African-American neighbourhood bizarrely, I decided to delve deeper into the series and what it entailed. I was not disappointed. A quick scan of the Wikipedia page for the films revealed that only one of the films had a score above 30% on Rotten Tomatoes and three of the films had a 0% rating. To paraphrase Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Django Unchained, the Leprechaun had previously had my curiosity but now he had my attention.
I decided to purchase the series immediately and did so at a snip, getting the first 5 on DVD for only £11 before enlisting my younger brother to help me complete the Leprechaun marathon (or Leprathon if you will). We set a date and the countdown began.
As we approached the Leprathon, I noticed that the boxset included only one trip to the “hood”, as the film described it. I rushed back onto Wikipedia and to my chagrin discovered that we were missing Leprechaun 6 – Back 2 Tha Hood (yes, that is the full title). My brother and I discussed whether we needed a 6th film in our already lengthy marathon – but we were left with no choice once we read up on the film and discovered that it was voted the 3rd worst sequel of all time by Entertainment Weekly with the explanation, “if a movie could spark a race riot, this is it.” Needless to say, I downloaded it instantly.
The fateful day arrived and we eventually settled into the first Leprechaun film at around 11:30am. I think it goes without saying, but Leprechaun is absolutely hilarious; mainly unintentionally but at rare moments, produces a laugh out loud moment that it almost seems may have been on purpose. Me and my brother spend most of the film riffing on the bizarre group of characters who find themselves staying at a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere; Jennifer Aniston playing the whiny teenage girl role to nasally perfection, her father who she describes as a “drunken hick” but is never filmed having a drink and the three painters who they hire to the farmhouse over the summer – the muscly, mulleted love interest whose name escapes me, the chubby, comic relief character Ozzie, who spends all 90 minutes being talked down to for being stupid but is the only character with any sensible ideas and a young boy (pictured below) with possibly the most annoying voice of all time, with a mullet to rival the love interest. This character is also a blatant rip off of Dennis the Menace, wearing the same patterned jumper and carrying slingshot in tow – however, we began to muse that perhaps he grows up to become Freddy Krueger as he keeps threatening his apparently dim-witted sidekick with a worrying amount of violence.
Freddie Krueger the Menace, rocking a sweet mullet.
I won’t spoil the plot too much because I can only assume that if you are reading this you will be hoping to host your own Leprathon – but my personal favourite moments of the film include an extended fight scene in which the main characters beat the ever living shit out of the hopeless Leprechaun (in which it sounds like Warwick Davis is no longer in character and is actually just crying out for help) and the Leprechaun’s various different methods of transportation which include a skateboard, roller blades, a tricycle, a tiny car full of stuffed animals, a pogo stick and a go kart with a pitchfork attached to the front. The plot is fairly basic: Leprechaun has gold, Leprechaun loses gold, Leprechaun wants gold back. The Leprechaun tells the group roughly 485 times across the ninety minute run time that he wants his gold back, and it becomes strangely satisfying being able to correctly predict what the Leprechaun will say whenever he appears on screen. We began to suspect that gold was slang for Oscar, and this film was Warwick Davis’ attempt at Academy Award success.
Come the close of the first film so far we had learned thus about the Leprechaun:
He wanted his gold.
He could teleport, but only if there wasn’t a four leaf clover on top of the box he was trying to teleport out of for 10 years (obviously).
He wanted his gold.
He hated four leaf clovers, they were his kryptonite. Which is bizarre because I always thought Leprechauns loved them.
He could imitate other people’s voices.
Did he mention that he wanted his gold?
Due to a ridiculous amount of breaks and a stoppage to get food supplies, it is now closer to 2:30pm when we begin Leprechaun 2 or as Wikipedia refers to it, Leprechaun 2: One Wedding and Lots of Funerals (it’s worth mentioning that the DVD makes absolutely no reference to this name, however, they probably should adopt it because it’s great).
Leprechaun 2 makes absolutely no reference to the events or characters of the first film, which is more than welcome after spending ninety minutes with Ozzie the man child and his sidekick, Freddie Krueger the Menace. In this instalment, we follow the journey of Cody and his girlfriend Bridget as they battle the Leprechaun mainly in his underground lair. What’s spectacular about this one is the fact the Leprechaun’s hideout is located beneath a tree in Los Angeles. Which is gifted to the city from Killarney in Ireland. In memorial of Hungarian born magician Harry Houdini.
Along with this misplaced tree, other highlights include a scene in which the Leprechaun tricks a young pervert into putting his face into two spinning blades while believing he’s kissing a girl’s breasts in perhaps the only good death scene of the entire franchise. It’s at this point we realise he has only killed 6 people across 135 minutes so far, meaning he’s only averaging a kill every 22 and a half minutes. The plot equals out to something about the Leprechaun wanting to marry Bridget because she’s the loose descendant of some medieval girl he stared at from behind a tree once but it’s hard to follow once again, especially when new elements are introduced – like the Leprechaun suddenly granting three wishes to anyone who captures him despite him being locked up in the farmhouse for a decade in the first film and granting no wishes. Leprechaun 2 also provides the grossest point in the series, with the Leprechaun licking a tied up Bridget with a forked tongue while she’s tied up. It’s at this point that the first Leprechaun begins to look like a masterpiece.
Leprechaun 3 (the first in the series that goes straight to DVD) swiftly follows – and this time we’re off to Vegas! The film begins in a Vegas pawn shop, where a stranger who has clearly stumbled into the wrong film dressed as a pirate comes through the door complete with eye patch and hook hand, dragging a statue that vaguely resembles a Leprechaun behind him. This provides us with the first hilarious moment of the film in which the worst negotiation scene in movie history takes place:
SHOP OWNER – “I’ll give you 10 dollars for that.”
PIRATE – “No.”
SHOP OWNER – “Okay, here’s twenty.”
Not the pirate from Leprechaun 3, obviously
This film is quite simply the best of the series so far in terms of comedy and terrible story. For starters, the Leprechaun first appears as a statue with an amulet around his neck which he is apparently afraid of. However, there is no explanation of why/how he has been turned to stone or what the relevance of the amulet is. The shop owner conveniently already possesses a CD-ROM (remember the days?) on Leprechauns. It is approximately 40 minutes into the film before the Leprechaun finally kills off the shop owner despite being released within the first 5 minutes.
Our hero in this installment is Scott, a college student just arriving in Vegas with $23,000 to blow when he (wouldn’t you know it) stumbles upon Tammy, a magician’s assistant who happens to work at a local casino named The Lucky Shamrock (!). Scott picks Tammy up and drives her to work and despite her showing no or little interest in him, she spends the entire film berating him for gambling. This is the crux of this story – Scott blows his wad at the roulette table then stumbles upon the Leprechaun’s gold coin which allows him one wish (a plot point not mentioned in either of the first two films) leading the Leprechaun to hunt down his gold once more. What makes this tale special is the first showdown between the Leprechaun and Scott: in which the Leprechaun bites him, transforming him into a Leprechaun also – but into the most offensive Irish stereotype of a Leprechaun, who feasts solely on potatoes and only speaks in limericks.
The painful to-and-froing of the two Leprechauns rhyming every sentence for 90 minutes begins to grate severely come the end of the movie. My personal highlights of Leprechaun 3 include the Leprechaun taking longer to recover from a baseball to the head than a 10 storey fall, the sight of a Leprechaun-man hybrid (Lepraman?) wolfing down a plate of potatoes, Warwick Davis blatantly ripping off lines from Star Wars and a Mafia boss type being murdered by a sex robot that he is in the middle of having sex with. It’s at this point that Leprechaun 2 begins to look like a masterpiece.
LEPRECHAUN 4: IN SPACE
Leprechaun 4 is the installment i’ve been most looking forward to; Leprechaun 4: In Space. Yes, not Leprechaun In Space or Leprechaun 4 but Leprechaun 4: In Space.
However, it begins and it becomes immediately clear that this is the lowest budget sequel to date. Groans go out around the room as the apalling title credits come up and a space ship sputters across the screen, puppet strings almost visible behind it. Needless to say, once the title character appears on screen dressed in a tuxedo that would put James Bond to shame, the muttering subsides. Leprechaun 4: In Space has a very loose plot in which the Leprechaun is trying to marry some form of princess for some reason or another and ends up being killed almost immediately by a group of space marines. Unfortunately, the film did not end there. Somehow, the Leprechaun transports himself into a Marine’s dick as they piss on his dead body which does provide the film with one of it’s best moments in the form of a chestburster style scene, with instead of John Hurt’s stomach being ripped apart by a xenomorph we get a Leprechaun hat emerging from a space marine’s penis.
At this point, it becomes apparent that our riffing is becoming less vocal and we are becoming wearier. Scenes that would have normally raised a laugh now bring groans; dialogue between characters is muffled only by sighs. The best thing I can say for this film is that the Leprechaun is back to speaking in sentences and has left his terrible limericks behind in Vegas. Our patience with the Leprechaun franchise is growing thin – especially in a film that features a lightsaber style… bright green light knife? Who can tell anymore… also along for the ride is a part man-part robot hybrid named Dr Mittenhand (pictured below, right) who is blatantly ripped off of Davros from Doctor Who and becomes a part man-part robot-part spider-part scorpion hybrid as the film progresses.
Someone probably should have been sued for this.
The highlights (who am I kidding) of this encounter with the Leprechaun feature a Marine Sergeant dressing in drag and having a Gollum style argument with himself, the Leprechaun’s princess exposing her breasts to the group of marines for absolutely no reason at all and the Leprechaun being blasted into space only for his middle finger to appear back in front of the ship’s main window a minute later. It’s at this point that Leprechaun 3 begins to look like a masterpiece.
LEPRECHAUN IN THE HOOD
We switch on Leprechaun 5 – simply called Leprechaun In the Hood – reluctantly and immediately are transported back to the opening scene of the first Leprechaun movie, which has been replicated for no reason as to save money presumably. Suddenly, the Leprechaun is back as the stone statue that we first saw in Vegas and I no longer care anymore. Ice T is doing is best attempt at acting onscreen in shots that make Leprechaun 4 suddenly look like Pulp Fiction, in between jabbering about a magical flute which has never been mentioned across any of the four films that have preceded this but my attention has long gone and we are forced to turn the movie off just a little before 9pm, to preserve our sanities.
Someday I will return to the Leprechaun franchise to complete the work I have left off but probably not within the next fortnight, to ensure the adequate rest my doctor has recommended that I take from the saga. I believe we could have completed the series in one day had we prepared a little better and stretched out our day a bit more because as the old saying goes – you don’t want to start late and end up having to watch five Leprechaun films in a row.
With a bit more planning and the knowledge about Leprechaun’s I have learned from this experience I am sure that the Leprathon can only go onto bigger and better things. So if you’re reading this Warwick Davis – same time next year, Mareel Cinema 1, Lerwick, Shetland?
I’ll bring the potatoes.
Our Leprechaun-y hero.