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Leprechaun

Leprechaun

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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Leprechaun 3

Leprechaun 3
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A few years ago, I spent a Halloween doing a full watch through Warwick Davis’s infamous “Leprechaun” franchise. Like most bad movie people, I was already very familiar with the first and fifth installments (“Leprechaun: In The Hood”), but I was curious about the rest of them.

For the most part, they are pretty forgettable. I can’t speak for the new WWE reboot of the franchise (“Leprechaun: Origins”), but “Leprechaun 6: Back 2 The Hood” and “Leprechaun 2” were nearly unwatchable and definitely the worst of the bunch that were out at the time.

“Leprechaun 4” is deserving of a rewatch/review post to itself: essentially, it is a generic sci-fi movie that has the Leprechaun cut in in lieu of an actual alien creature. It is a little bizarre, to say the least.

However, none of the Leprechaun movies (including the original and “In The Hood”) have stood out in my memory quite as much as “Leprechaun 3,” and I’m surprised it doesn’t get more attention.

As with a number of horror movie sequels, “Leprechaun 3” has a ridiculous, gimmicky setting to try and make the story new and interesting (see: “Jason Takes Manhattan”). In “Lep 3”, that setting is none other than Las Vegas, NV.

The more I have thought about it, the more I love the concept of this movie. Leprechauns are all about wishes, luck, and wealth: where better to throw one than Las Vegas? However, the setting is only the surface of what is notable about this flick.

In a baffling turn, the plot of “Leprechaun 3” actually primarily centers around a person who is bitten by Warwick Davis’s creature, who slowly (and inexplicably) starts to become what I can only describe as a “were-leprechaun.” Yeah, that’s the kind of movie we are dealing with.

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As I mentioned, it has been a few years since my “Leprechaun” marathon, so I was curious as to how much I might have forgotten about this film, and if I was perhaps remembering it more fondly as a good-bad movie than I should have. So, I just gave it a re-watch, and here are some of my thoughts on it after a second viewing.

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I totally forgot how this movie began, and what brought the Leprechaun to Vegas in the first place. A one-eyed man (who I don’t recall from the second movie) wanders into a pawn shop in Vegas with the Leprechaun, in it’s dormant stone form, dragging behind him in a raggedy sack. He then sells him to the pawn broker for 20 bucks and disappears. The broker then almost immediately awakens the Leprechaun by removing his cursed medallion, to the shock of no one. Then, the rhyming starts. I almost forgot just how horrible and distracting the lazy and cringe-worthy rhyming dialogue was in these movies.

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Perhaps the only thing worse than Warwick Davis’s lines in these movies are the ones given to everyone else. Here’s an interaction from the film, for instance, after a young boy discovers a woman whose car has broken down:

“Have you ever blown a rod before?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“The engine, I meant”

Oh come on now, that is a bit of a stretch (to say the least). And this is less than 5 minutes into the film, in one of the first lines of dialogue introducing central characters. It doesn’t exactly go up from there, either. Speaking of which, that “young boy” (who supposedly isn’t old enough to walk on a casino floor) looks like he is almost 30.

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Here’s another thing I forgot: the internet hilariously plays a really important role in this 1995 movie. I am a total sucker for movies that include the internet before anyone knew much about it, and this one is no different. The internet in this movie is basically just a poorly animated storybook and guide to everything Leprechaun (and Were-Leprechaun) related.

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Another thing that somehow slipped my memory: one of the main characters is a skeevy magician, who is played as hammily as possible by an actor named John DeMita, who primarily does voice acting nowadays for video games and English dubs of anime series (“Final Fantasy XIII-2,” “Naruto”).

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The leads of the film are the aforementioned 30 year old supposed teenager, who becomes hooked on gambling / becomes a were-leprechaun, and his love interest: an ambitious magician’s assistant. Other notable characters in the unnecessarily and shockingly large cast of “Leprechaun 3” include an over-the-hill roulette dealer who lusts for the beauty of her youth, a casino worker who is in debt to the mob, and, strangely enough, the pawn broker from the opening. Somehow, the Leprechaun winds up stuck in that pawn shop for over half an hour of run time, making the broker a mildly important player in the film. His theft of one of the Leprechaun’s coins is the catalyst of the entire casino-centric story.

When the Leprechaun finally does make it to the casino, the movie somewhat sidetracks as he starts taking out most of the accessory cast while his last lost coin continues to change hands. The most notable of these deaths is of the roulette dealer, who wishes for youth and beauty. As with any sort of crafty and devious wish-granting creature, it quickly goes sideways on her when Leppy tracks her down. This is one of those things that is easier to show than to tell:

There are just no words to describe how ridiculous that is. I have to admit, though, that’s kind of what I assumed happened off screen in “Willie Wonka.”

The whole middle act of the film is basically Warwick Davis hamming it up in the casino, killing off characters, and continuing with all of the worst rhymes that the writers could think up. The best of all of these deaths is definitely the magician’s, who bites it towards the end of the movie in a unique take on the classic “sawing a person in half” trick.

Of course, I have to get into the whole “were-leprechaun” plot. It turns out that it was a little different than what I remembered: the main character is turned into a were-leprechaun because he both bitten and is exposed to Leppy’s blood, which is apparently toxic and burns like acid (very xenomorph-like). Other than that, it is about exactly what you would expect: he starts wearing bad prosthetic facial hair, freckles magically appear on his face, and he starts rhyming incessantly in a fake Irish accent. It is pretty annoying in the moment, but hilarious to look back on.

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There is a particular segment of the film that I forgot about in which the magician’s assistant and co-lead, Tammy, is possessed by the lost coin after the casino boss makes a wish to sleep with her. The coin is stolen again before anything happens, but the whole segment has massively uncomfortable undertones. The casino boss is almost immediately killed afterwards by Leppy, who summons a killer sex robot from his TV, which is one of the more bizarre cases of instant karma in film that you’ll ever come across.

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The finale, of course, features some extensive Leprechaun battles between Leppy and the were-creature, and features lines such as:

For pulling this trick,

I’ll chop off your dick!

and

Cut her nose,

and I’ll hack off your toes!

and

Power to power

You have much to learn

Taller or shorter

I’ll make you burn!

I can’t emphasize this enough: every single line between these two central characters in the last act is like this. Back and forth, back and forth: constant. Again, this is as annoying as anything in the universe to sit through, but I am laughing my ass off thinking about it now.

The Leprechaun is ultimately defeated with the creative use of a flamethrower, but only after he fails to lure Scott, the were-leprechaun, to join him on what he literally refers to as “the green side.” Scott is magically cured of his were-leprechaunism after the bout for reasons that aren’t exactly clear meaning that there’s a happy ending for Tammy and Scott. However, the last line has to be overdone, inappropriate, and cheesy, so the writers decided to rip off the last line to “Casablanca.” I can’t even begin to go into how much is wrong with that.

So, does “Leprechaun 3” hold up as a good bad movie? Honestly, it is way better than I remembered (on a good-bad level, of course). The characters are all hammed up to the max, the plot is the perfect sort of nonsense. I would recommend this one over the original or “In The Hood” in a heartbeat. In general, this is a movie that bad movie lovers should not miss by any means. The only big problem with it is the casino boss sequence’s sexual assault overtones, which could have been fixed really easily with a quick rewrite. It isn’t just unnecessary for the story and shitty to include, but it also messes with the whole tone of the movie. With that caveat, this is a solid good-bad movie recommendation from me.