Over the last few months I’ve watched all eight movies in the beyond-bizarre horror series Leprechaun. They have a dreadful reputation and I wasn’t expecting them to be anything special, but it was still a shock just how appalling most of these films are.
Here’s my journey into darkness. Happy St Patrick’s Day, everyone…
1. Leprechaun (1993, Mark Jones)
A father and daughter travel to a cabin in the countryside, where they encounter a recently revived leprechaun…
Often described as a ‘comedy horror’, this rotten piece of B-movie trash is not much of either. What it does have is a mish-mash of Emerald Isle cliches – pots of gold, rainbows, wells, four-leaf clovers and drunks – thrown into a standard horror-movie set-up. Bratty teen Tory (Jennifer Aniston, just a year or so before Friends superstardom) travels with her father out to the sticks for some time away from the big city. There, doing up their cabin, are a trio of handymen – a hot one, a grown man who talks like a child, and a child who talks like a grown man. Soon, due to an accident, a 600-year-old leprechaun is released from a wooden crate he was trapped inside due to a curse and he begins to rather tamely terrorise them… The leprechaun is played by Warwick Davis (Return of the Jedi, Willow) and he’s clearly having some fun with the role, which is a Freddy Krueger-style quipster. But the script is abysmal and the direction does it no favours – you’re never quite sure if the film knows how ludicrous its concept is. Aside from Davis, the not-bad incidental music, a spirited Aniston and occasional goofy gags, there’s not much to enjoy.
Four boxes of Lucky Clover breakfast cereal out of 10
2. Leprechaun 2 (1994, Rodman Flender)
In 1990s LA, the Leprechaun is intent on finding himself a new bride – so targets a descendant of his former slave…
Other than Warwick Davis’s title character, this dreary sequel contains no reference to the first movie. We begin in 10th-century Ireland, on St Patrick’s Day, which is the Leprechaun’s 1,000th birthday. (So we’re immediately contradicting the first film’s timeline.) He’s trying to ensnare a bride but his enthralled slave – who happens to be the target’s father – scuppers his plan, so he instead curses the whole family in perpetuity. A thousand years later, the Leprechaun is resurrected in LA. Still keen on finding a young, blonde, pretty bride (aren’t we all?), he goes after a dippy woman called Bridget (Shevonne Durkin). Her boyfriend, Cody (Charlie Heath), is a tour guide trying to deal with a drunken schemer of an uncle – so much so that after Bridget is kidnapped and held prisoner, both he and the film seem to forget about her plight for a while… The cast is mostly dreadful, aside from Davis and Seinfeld’s Sandy Baron as Uncle Morty, and the story beyond terrible. Not even some comic gore – such as a risible scene where a teenage boy is tricked into kissing the moving blades of a lawnmower because he thinks they’re Bridget’s naked breasts (!) – can rescue an exceedingly drab horror film.
Two sacred vows of the wee people out of 10
3. Leprechaun 3 (1995, Brian Trenchard–Smith)
On the loose in Las Vegas, the Leprechaun searches for a lost gold shilling…
The first straight-to-video film in the series has tame scares, crummy gore, and a meandering, focus-free plot about a wish-granting coin, a casino boss, loan sharks who think they’re in Get Shorty, and a desperate stage magician. The story plays out in Las Vegas and our two lead characters are a pair of new friends called Tammy (Lee Anderson) and Scott (John Gatins). You can’t claim the film is taking itself too seriously. Director Brian Trenchard-Smith allows a lot of goofy humour and Warwick Davis has said this is his favourite Leprechaun movie because of the comedy. But *some* truth or drama might have been a help. It’s a film so bad, so risible, so loose and so undisciplined that it almost creeps over into some kind of conceptual art. How can a movie exist with such little tension or substance? However, the increasing amounts of sleaze and misogyny mean you can’t even enjoy the movie for camp or kitsch reasons. It’s 89 minutes and feels far longer.
One Elvis impersonator out of 10
4. Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997, Brian Trenchard-Smith)
A century into the future, the Leprechaun is attempting to wed a princess so he can take over her planet – but then a group of space marines show up, intent on killing him…
A horror franchise resorting to an ‘in space’ story is not unique. Hellraiser: Bloodline, released the year before this Leprechaun film, had taken Pinhead onto a space station in the year 2127. In 2001, the tenth Friday the 13th movie, a pulpy romp called Jason X, resurrected its killer on a space ship in 2455. So Leprechaun 4: In Space is part of a minor tradition. Before you can say, ‘Aliens‘, a gang of rough space marines are on a search-and-destroy mission and are joined by a woman they don’t respect (Jessica Collins’s Dr Tina Reeves). Their quarry is the Leprechaun (Warwick Davis), who is inexplicably in the year 2096 and attempting to marry a distant planet’s princess so he can take over her kingdom. (The princess is played by New Zealand actress Rebekah Carlton and her odd-couple double act with Davis is one of the film’s few highlights.) Meanwhile, Guy Siner (Gruber from 1980s BBC sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo) hams it up something foul as a loopy Germanic scientist. The movie merges lame horror (which is never tense) with crass comedy (which is never funny). As events unfold, we also get the Leprechaun using a green lightsabre (a cheeky reference to Return of the Jedi – which Davis starred in, of course) plus a scene where the Leprechaun has possessed a soldier and then bursts out of his body via his penis (an obvious Alien reference). Add in body horror, cross-dressing, tit-flashing, Yamaha keyboard incidental music and primitive CGI, and it’s all just shockingly terrible. It also has virtually nothing to do with the Leprechaun myth. But at least it’s not boring.
Three mineral rights (and that’s net not gross, no bonus) out of 10
5. Leprechaun in the Hood (2000, Rob Spera)
A young budding rap star and his friends accidentally awaken the Leprechaun when they steal a magic flute from a music promoter…
Just when you think this franchise can’t get any more gob-smackingly turgid… After a 1970s-set prologue in which a character played by Ice-T in an Afro wig discovers the Leprechaun trapped in a statue, we cut to 20 years later. Mack Daddy is now a music mogul, who signs a young rapper called Postmaster P (future Star Trek: Enterprise star Anthony Montgomery). He has that name because, unlike many other rap stars, he delivers a positive message – but Mack then drops him when he’s reluctant to be more lyrically aggressive. In order to get back at him, Postmaster P and his hangers-on break into Mack’s office to steal his prized magical flute. (No, honestly.) But in doing so, they awaken the malevolent Leprechaun… This appallingly directed, sloppily written dross is full of blunt dialogue delivered in direct-to-video close-ups. It’s also loaded to the point of collapse with black-culture stereotypes and clichés: incidental music that sounds like the theme from Shaft, lots of uses of the N-word, an obsession with spliffs, a reference to Martin Luther King, mentions of bitches and hoes, a cantankerous granny character, an evangelical church scene and a cameo from Coolio. It’s also the second Leprechaun film in a row to attempt to wring laughter by mocking crossdressing. We then end with a music video showing the Leprechaun rapping in a nightclub surrounding by vacant-eyed dancers.
One “Smack your bitch up, shoot your motherfucking homeboy in the face”-type shit out of 10
6. Leprechaun Back 2 tha Hood (2003, Steven Ayromlooi)
When a group of friends discover the Leprechaun’s stash of gold coins, he’s awoken from his hibernation and attempts to kill all those who have acquired them…
An animated prologue effectively returns us to the Dark Ages/fairy-tale context that had been abandoned in the more recent sequels. (Although, the map of the British Isles involved in telling the backstory is… missing the island of Ireland!) Then the bulk of the movie takes place in modern-day downtown LA: a group of young friends are dreaming of better lives but are being terrorised by local gangs. When the likeable Emily (Tangi Miller) finds an ancient chest containing gold coins (which glow on people’s faces, a la the briefcase in Pulp Fiction), she generously shares the wealth around with her pals. However, Warwick Davis’s Leprechaun has been awoken and begins to hunt down the coins, killing anyone who has ‘stolen’ one… Back 2 the Hood is certainly a poor film. However, because it features characters with a *bit* of depth to them, it’s not as bucket-fillingly pukeful as some of the previous movies. It also remembers that this series is meant to be *both* horror and comedy: so next to a funny scene that deconstructs the use of the N-word is some enjoyably graphic violence.
Five beached whales out of 10
7. Leprechaun: Origins (2014, Mark Lipovsky)
Four American friends run into trouble during a day trip in rural Ireland…
This reboot of the series abandons any comedy and replaces it with dreary torture-porn. It’s six of one, half a dozen of another whether this makes it worse, but it certainly makes it tedious. A group of naïve American students (Stephanie Bennett, Andrew Dunbar, Star Trek Beyond‘s Melissa Roxburgh and Brendan Fletcher) are on holiday in the Republic of Ireland and visit a village with some interesting Celtic standing stones. When they get chatting to a man in a pub, he offers to show them some local culture and – nothing suspicious here! – drives them into the countryside and locks them in a cabin with no electricity. Obviously, they’re soon being attacked by the Leprechaun. However, it’s not the Leprechaun we’ve been watching for the previous six films. Warwick Davis has departed; so has the idea that the Leprechaun is a quipping trickster character. Now he’s a savage monster, more like the creature in the movie Alien, and all he seemingly wants is to murder the tourists violently. Nothing that happens in this film is interesting or engaging. You also have to contend with Irish accents that veer all over the place.
Two lucky charms out of 10
8. Leprechaun Returns (2018, Steven Kostanski)
The daughter of Tory from the first film visits the same house in the countryside to help renovate it – but the Leprechaun is soon resurrected…
This made-for-TV sequel is one of those modern sequels that ignore all the previous sequels. Lila (Taylor Spreitler from US sitcom Melissa & Joey) is the daughter of the Jennifer Aniston character from the 1993 original. As part of a sorority project, she visits the same rural cabin from that movie, but – GUESS WHAT! – the Leprechaun is soon awakened and starts his normal brand of low-urgency terror. Warwick Davis declined the chance to play the eponymous villain again, so Linden Porco has taken over (and is doing a fairly accurate recreation), while Mark Holton from the first film reprises his minor character of Ozzie. It’s a surprisingly watchable conclusion to one of the limpest horror franchises going. Spreitler is a really good lead (strong, brave, clever, funny), while there’s some inventive gore and the whole thing is directed more confidently than any other entry in the series. What’s most impressive is the tone, which steadily gets both funnier and more horrific the longer the movie goes on. By the last third, it’s close to the arch, baroque energy of Evil Dead II.
Seven solar panels out of 10