Today, we’re going to take a look at the catalyst to one of the most notoriously silly horror franchises of all time: Leprechaun.
Leprechaun was written and directed by Mark Jones, who doesn’t have a ton of interesting credits to his name, outside of writing a few episodes of The A-Team. He has directed a few other movies over the years (Scorned, Rumpelstiltskin, Quiet Kill), but none have had the same kind of lasting impact as Leprechaun.
The cinematographer for Leprechaun was Levie Isaacks, who also shot The Dentist and Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice.
The film’s editor was Christopher Roth , who cut such films as The Dentist, The Dentist 2, and Killer Klowns From Outer Space over the course of his career.
The producers for Leprechaun included Mark Amin (The Dentist, The Dentist 2, Trucks, Chairman of the Board, Leprechaun 3, Evolver), Barry Barnholtz (The Dog Who Saved Christmas, The Mangler 2), and William Sachs (The Incredible Melting Man, Galaxina, Exterminator 2).
The Leprechaun effects team included Larry Arpin (The Dentist, Highlander II, Maniac Cop 3, Maniac Cop 2, Maniac Cop, Blood Diner, The Ambulance), Ken Herbster (Superman IV, Ghoulies IV), Leon Stankevich (The Blob, The Secret Agent Club), David Kindlon (Wolf, Hell Comes to Frogtown, From Beyond), Joel Harlow (Battlefield Earth, The Langoliers, Suburban Commando, Blues Brothers 2000), John Deall (It, Virus, Critters 4), Gabriel Bartalos (Dolls, From Beyond, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Leprechaun 3), and numerous others.
The music for Leprechaun was provided by the duo of Kevin Kiner (Hell on Wheels, Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD) and Robert J. Walsh (Zombie Nation, Revenge of the Ninja, Jem, The Transformers, G.I. Joe), both of whom have extensive composition credits for numerous television shows.
The cast of Leprechaun is led by Warwick Davis (Willow, Return of the Jedi, Labyrinth, Leprechaun 3), Jennifer Anniston (Friends, Bruce Almighty), Ken Olandt (April Fool’s Day), and Mark Holton (Teen Wolf), and is filled out by a handful of less recognizable faces.
The story of Leprechaun kicks off when a family moves into a new house that was abandoned after a mysterious incident incapacitated the previous owner. Through their explorations in the home, an evil leprechaun (that the previous owner captured) is accidentally released and reawakened, and immediately goes on a killing spree through the local town in search for his stolen gold. The family has to learn the monster’s weaknesses in order to prevent it from eliminating all of the local townsfolk.
Initially, there was going to be product placement in the film by Lucky Charms, but they pulled out after seeing the final product, leading to a costly re-shoot. I’m curious what the hell they expected from a leprechaun-themed horror movie, other than what is present here?
Interestingly, Leprechaun was apparently initially planned as a scary kid’s movie, but inserts were added to make it more traditional horror when producers worried that it wouldn’t resonate with adult horror audiences.
The film was later re-marketed for home video release to emphasize Jennifer Anniston, who eventually took off as a celebrity over the run of the hit show Friends.
Leprechaun spawned one of the most notoriously goofy horror franchises, which is currently up to 7 installments. The franchise is best known for outlandish location gimmicks, taking the sinister creature to space, Las Vegas, and the ghetto (twice). The most recent film was a rebooted take on the story made in 2014, called Leprechaun: Origins.
The reception to Leprechaun was generally negative, and it currently holds a 4.6 rating on IMDb alongside Rotten Tomatoes scores of 25% (critics) and 32% (audience). However, the entire franchise has a dedicated cult following that has allowed it to survive through the years.
Leprechaun was made on a reported production budget of $900,000, and grossed just over $8.5 million in its domestic theatrical run, making it a profitable little movie.
Leprechaun is, of course, packed with silly rhymes and one liners. However, that is what the movie is all about when it comes down to it: Freddy Krueger without any element of menace, and a penchant for verse. It is a licorice type of movie: you will love it or you will hate it, and there isn’t much room for middle ground in between.
Over the top deaths might be a signature of the Leprechaun series, but there are not as many as you would expect in this first film. I think, all told, only four people wind up dead, and at least half are mundane deaths. That said, it doesn’t get much better than the pogo stick death in this movie.
Leprechaun contains some truly dreadful acting, particularly from the comic relief painters. However, Anniston is also pretty terrible, making it a wonder that she has gone on to have the career that she has had.
Jennifer Anniston’s character in this movie is unbearably bratty as the story begins, and can somehow afford to constantly drop money on things, despite the fact that it is never really established that the family is super-wealthy. She theoretically softens as the film goes along, but she is overall less likable than the Leprechaun himself.
Leprechaun rides the border of being a horror movie at all, and just being a failed comedy. Nothing is particularly scary about it, and from what I have read, that is how it was initially designed. If you think of it as a movie-length Are You Afraid Of The Dark?, the style makes a lot more sense, specifically in regards to the acting and the humor.
One of the key motivations for a couple of characters chasing down the Leprechaun’s gold in this movie is to be able to afford an operation that can supposedly make a mentally handicapped person ‘smart’. The way it is explained in the story initially made me wonder if the kid character who proposes this is just deluded/misinformed, or if the writer actually thought that this sort of operation actually exists. However, the kid acknowledges towards the end that such an operation towards the end, bringing up even more questions about what he was supposed to do with the gold, and why he bothered lying about the operation in the first place.
Overall, Leprechaun is a weird little movie that doesn’t quite know what it should be, and that is painfully obvious from watching it. As far as a bad movie watch goes, some of the sequels are way more fun, but it is worth watching this one to have a foundation. Warwick Davis also definitely has his entertaining moments here and there that make it worth watching. Personally, I found it a little easier to sit through after finding out it was supposed to be for kids initially, which gave me a different outlook on it. As I mentioned earlier, the best way to watch this movie is to think of it as a really long episode of Are You Afraid of The Dark? or Goosebumps.