Blame Black Christmas. Or maybe John Carpenter’s Halloween. Regardless, the success of those movies all but guaranteed that horror would adapt just about any holiday on the calendar. Outside of Labour Day, St Patrick’s Day seemed like an unlikely candidate for a horror movie. Years of Saturday morning cartoon Lucky Charms’ commercials didn’t exactly make leprechauns seem particularly frightening. But that didn’t stop Trimark Pictures from trying. And the result was the 1993 horror comedy, Leprechaun. In spite of its utterly stupid concept, Leprechaun was a minor box office success. Even more unlikely, Leprechaun went on to become a straight-to-video franchise, producing five sequels, a prequel, and a recent soft reboot. On St Patrick’s Day, is Leprechaun a guilty pleasure worth watching? Or is it just a bad movie.
Leprechaun a Scare-Free, Mostly Laugh-Free Trip Over the Rainbow
Surprise, surprise. Leprechaun isn’t scary. Not at all. Of course, it’s not really aiming for scares. This is the sort of movie that’s looking for firmly place itself in the ‘so bad, it’s good’ category. For a horror-comedy, this means hitting the right combination of gross-out scenes and dark laughs. And Leprechaun is certainly a dumb movie. In fact, picking out Leprechaun’s dumbest moment wold probably make a fun drinking game. Maybe it’s when the leprechaun drives after his gold on a tricycle. Or perhaps it’s when a police officer pulls over the leprechaun speeding in a motorized toy car. For my money, Leprechaun’s most outrageous Bit is the ‘death by pogo stick’ scene. Director Mark Jones even employs some slow-motion just to drive home what you’re watching.
Surprise, surprise. Leprechaun isn’t scary. Not at all.
Yet while Leprechaun is a stupid movie, it’s not quite bad enough to hit the ‘guilty pleasure’ sweetspot. Unlike Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies or some of Peter Jackson’s early work, there’s a lack of gross-out humour. Leprechaun is relatively tame and quickly becomes repetitive. What’s worse is that the movie overstays its welcome. Jones needed to cut a good twenty minutes out of this one. There’s just not enough here to justify sticking around for over 90 minutes. Lastly, Leprechaun is stupid, but not so much that ‘man-child’ sophomoric stupid. Think more early 90’s sitcom-level humour. All that’s missing from the movie is a canned laugh track.
We All Have to Start Somewhere
As far as horror debuts go, Jennifer Aniston’s Leprechaun role falls somewhere in the middle. Kevin Bacon and Johnny Depp scored with early roles in Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, respectively. On the other end of the spectrum, George Clooney has Return to Horror High on his resume. Poor Renee Zellweger and Matthew McCounaughey – they did The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. In a movie about an evil leprechaun and a ‘pot of gold’, Aniston fares about as well as can be expected. She shows some flashes of talent and escapes the movie unscathed.
Still Davis is arguably why the movie does anything well at all.
Over the course of his career, Warwick Davis has starred in Star Wars and Harry Potter movies. Though the Leprechaun franchise kept him in work, it’s probably not a career highlight. Buried under layers of makeup, Davis channels later Freddy Krueger, playing the role strictly for laughs. It’s probably the right route given the material. Too bad Jones’ screenplay doesn’t offer him the same quality of one-liners. Still Davis is arguably why the movie does anything well at all. The rest of the cast is as bad as one might expect. Most of the performances are wooden, but Mark Holton’s ‘Ozzie Jones’ is Friday night sitcom-level bad circa the early 90’s.
Leprechaun Had The Luck of The Irish on its Side
There’s lots of bad horror movies that make for great guilty pleasure watching. Sadly, this isn’t one of those movies. It drags on too long while lacking the over-top-gross out’s one expects from this sort of move. The cheap effects are early precursor to Sy-Fy’s Sharknado series without fully embracing the cheesiness. And the humour is of the middle school variety, but even the ‘class clown’ would skip it. The most interesting thing about Leprechaun is what followed. Later sequels – Leprechaun In the Hood and Leprechaun Back 2 Tha Hood – seemed to have a better grasp of how to work with the silly concept. And the Leprechaun Returns improved on the original by more fully embracing its potential for gross out horror. But this movie must have had the luck of the Irish on its side to produce any sequels at all. Truth be told, Leprechaun isn’t even good enough to justify an annual, ironic St Patrick’s Day viewing.