Film Review – Leprechaun Returns (2018)
Naturally the person who had been eagerly anticipating the Puppet Master reboot was also the only one who actively volunteered to review Leprechaun Returns. I could have expanded my horizons with Alfonso Cuaron’s reported masterpiece Roma but instead I opted to watch the eighth film of the ridiculously silly Leprechaun franchise. What can I say, I like to suffer for my art.
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Steven Kostanski
Written By: Suzanne Keilly
Starring: Linden Porco, Taylor Spreitler, Mark Holton, Sai Bennett, Ben McGregor, Oliver Llewellyn Jenkins with Emily Reid and Pepi Sonuga.
I’m sure you thought that this year’s Halloween was the only direct continuation of a horror classic that ignored all previous sequels that came before… Well you were right. But, we also have a new Leprechaun film this year, that, just like David Gordon Greene’s Halloween, ignores all other sequels and continues right on from the first film.
Taking place twenty-five years after the survivors harrowing ordeal with the Leprechaun, Lila (Taylor Spreitler), the daughter of one of the survivors is on her way to the cabin of where it all began. She plans to spruce up the cabin with Eco-friendly technology, as part of a college experiment. She will be joined by her three sorority sisters who all their have their neurotic quirks: Rose (Sai Bennett) is supremely uptight about their environmental mission, Meredith (Emily Reid) is a miserable alcoholic and Katie (Pepi Sonuga) seems more obsessed with her love life.
On her way, she hitches a ride of local simpleton Ozzie (Mark Holton), one of the survivors of the original. He fears that the dark powers of decades ago is about to return. And he’s soon proved right when the Leprechaun (Linden Porco) finds a convoluted way to return and when he does, he’s soon back up to his old tricks, reigning bloody hell and looking for his gold.
The Leprechaun franchise has never been famous for its quality. I mean it’s a horror franchise about a murderous Leprechaun who is constantly hunting after his gold and can’t stand dirty shoes. (Well, the latter aspect was only really present in the first film). It’s not exactly supposed to be Oscar material. Probably the most famous aspect of the series is that Jennifer Aniston made her screen debut in the first Leprechaun film.
The first film wasn’t supposed to instigate a moronic slasher franchise, it was supposed to be a “scary kid’s movie.” But the studio, for some reason, saw money in making it more “adult” so they quickly shot some scenes of profanity and gore and inserted it in the proceedings.
Star Warwick Davis initially regretted participating in the film but there were many unrefined moviegoers in the nineties who were aching for a sequel. Due to the cult infamy the little gold-chasing rascal received, Davis began to consider it as one of his favorite films.
The sequels, however, are a mixed bag. None of them can really be considered good films. Sometimes they can have a “so-bad, it’s good” quality around them, other times they are a chore to get through.
Leprechaun 2 was the last one to be released theatrically and ever since then, the limerick spouting homicidal Leprechaun was destined for direct-to-video purgatory. If you’re really aching to see one of these films — and I mean if you REALLY need to — watch Leprechaun 3 which has the titular monster running rampant in Las Vegas. It’s probably the most decent of them all. Don’t worry about any of the continuity because apart from the most recent sequel (which I will discuss below), the sequels mostly ignore each other.
Like any horror franchise on a downward spiral, Leprechaun also went to space in Leprechaun 4: In Space. The production values and CGI effects of this particular science-fiction ‘epic’ are what one would expect. Yeah it’s pretty terrible.
Luckily, in Leprechaun’s fifth outing he returned back to earth and ventured instead to the ‘hood’ in (you guessed it) Leprechaun in the Hood. Despite its obvious stupidity, it is probably the best one alongside Leprechaun 3. If you ever wanted to see the Leprechaun smoke a joint with a Ice-T, this is the movie for you. As anyone would demand of a Leprechaun in the Hood film, the end credits features the Leprechaun “spitting” some horrendous rap lyrics.
Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood was the final time Warwick Davis donned the Leprechaun attire. Most of what I remember from that movie is that Leprechaun smokes a bong and hotboxes himself in the fridge. Leprechaun’s return to the hood might not have been the Leprechaun gangsta sequel we wanted or deserved, but it’s certainly a lot more entertaining than the 2014 reboot: Leprechaun: Origins.
The problem with Leprechaun: Origins is that if the name wasn’t attached to it, you would have no clue this was supposed to be a Leprechaun movie. All limerick spouting charm has been replaced with a rabid creature — who looks like a reject from The Descent — stalking and killing teens in merry Ol’ Ireland. To summarize: all the cheesy charm of the original is gone in favor of a forgettable slasher flick. As horror reboots go, this is the prime example of how not to do it.
So now we have Leprechaun Returns, produced by the always reliable Syfy — cough, cough. A film that goes back to its roots with being an actual continuation of the first movie. Unfortunately our favorite Leprechaun star Warwick Davis does not reprise his role. His reasoning being that he’s a father now and he doesn’t want to do any more horror films until his son turns 18.
Luckily for Leprechaun fans, the replacement, Linden Porco, does his best to emulate Davis’ menacing and, above all else, wacky turn as Leprechaun. Whether he truly succeeds will be discussed below.
So do we actually have a decent Leprechaun movie once again? Well, kinda…
Likable Final Girl
This film does something that most of the Leprechaun films failed to do: giving us a likable lead. No matter how much you might adore Jennifer Aniston, she wasn’t particularly likable in her Leprechaun adventure. The characters in the following films were mostly a mixed bag: the three wannabe rappers in Leprechaun in the Hood being the standout. But it was mostly Warwick Davis’ show and it was the villainous charm he put into his role that made these films watchable.
In Leprechaun Returns, we have Taylor Spreitler as Lila, the daughter of Jennifer Aniston’s character of the first film. Lila is introduced as a fragile young girl, still reeling over the painful death of her mother — who also suffered from mental health issues, particularly agoraphobia, after her experiences with the leprechaun.
Throughout the film, Lila is trying desperately hard to connect with her sorority sisters while also trying to subdue her own sorrows. Spreitler performs these dramatic beats perfectly but also gives the character a neurotic charm that makes her a delightful presence throughout the film. Unlike so many of these movies, you actually want her to make it through to the end. You want her to prevail and when she actually stands up against the oppressive little ghoul, you almost feel like cheering for her.
Some Great Special Effects and Gore
The effects of the Leprechaun franchise have been similar to the acting performances: anywhere from decent to laughable. Luckily, director Steven Kostanski (who also did some impressive effects work on The Void) brings some of the best effects in the series, especially when it comes to the gore.
The gore is deliciously over the top and while most of it is not very inventive (watch The Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich for that), it does look great. The best gore weirdly comes from the Leprechaun who endures a serious amount of damage.
Other effects such as seeing the Leprechaun fly on a drone is laughable, but in a good way. You’re not laughing because it’s fake, you’re laughing because it’s silly — this has often been the other way around in previous Leprechaun films.
Some digital work doesn’t work as well and has that usual Syfy feel to it, most notably the scene that pays homage Fantasia with tiny Leprechauns stalking one of the survivors, but it’s very minimal and doesn’t detract from the overall quality of the effects.
It’s Actually Quite Funny
As you would expect in any half-decent Leprechaun movie, we do get some horribly lame limericks and puns from the Leprechaun. In certain moods they can be very amusing, but they can be very tiresome. Now I can’t really blame screenwriter Suzanne Keilly from working that into the script. She’s being faithful to the franchise. As usual, some are humorous, others are groan-inducing.
But besides that, there are quite a few moments of genuine comedy that work. Most of it comes from the character interactions, such as Rose who becomes increasingly desperate in trying to persuade her sorority sisters to be as passionate about their environmental mission. Many times it almost feels like a satirical jab at pretentious, liberal college students.
Even though most of the characters aren’t that likable in the beginning, mostly in the way they treat Lila, their reactions to the Leprechaun have quite a few comedic highlights. It’s also nice seeing some of the sisters work together by the end to try to stop the Leprechaun — especially in contrast to how cold and distant the characters were in the beginning.
Best of all, Keilly plays up the farcical elements of the story, knowing full well how ridiculous this whole premise is. The script goes all-out in its silliness, which will have many viewers shake their heads but have fans of the Leprechaun series rejoicing.
And yes, the Leprechaun’s obsession with shining shoes is back again!
A Decent Leprechaun
To say this Leprechaun is a step-up from the previous Leprechaun isn’t saying much, especially since that character was a complete revisionist (and bastardization) of the Leprechaun character. Luckily the filmmakers knew they had to return to the shoe-shining, clover-hating menace we all know and love.
Unfortunately they couldn’t get Warwick Davis back. Their replacement Linden Porco does a decent job but he lacks the charisma and comic timing that Davis had. Some of the awful lines Davis spouted in the movies were saved by his delivery. Porco does an admirable job but he does struggle with many of Leprechaun’s puns and limericks.
The make-up on the other hand is fantastic. He is probably the best looking Leprechaun of them all.
Proco’s stereotypical Irish accent is also hit or miss. It just misses that range that Davis’ had. Overall, it’s not a bad impersonation of the classic Leprechaun but he lacks the likability of Davis’ performance. You also get the feeling he’s not really making it his own; he’s harping too much on the Davis’ concept of it.
Though I would say that I wouldn’t mind seeing Porco once again as the Leprechaun. Perhaps he will then grow and become more comfortable in the role.
Mostly Unlikable Supporting Characters
Despite the likability of our main heroine, Lila, the rest of the characters are mostly unlikable. They have their comedic moments but many of them are so unnecessarily cruel and distant towards Lila that you have no feelings for them whatsoever. Perhaps this was the point, as most of them are mere lambs to the slaughter, but a lot of moments feel needlessly mean. A notable example is Lila opening up about her departed mother and her sorority sisters reacting rather awkwardly.
There are some likable characters, such as cinema-obsessed Matt (Oliver Llewellyn Jenkins) whose one act of heroics prompts him to quote a famous director who the survivors have never heard of. (Hint: he’s going to be in an upcoming Disney TV show). Actually the most likable character is Ozzie, the only returning character of the original. Unfortunately he barely gets to do anything interesting, though it was still nice to see Mark Holton in the role again.
Things pick up during the third act, as the surviving characters start to work together. Suddenly they’ve become a unit and you wish you would have seen this connection before. It’s just too little, too late.
It’s a Leprechaun movie, so you shouldn’t expect something too extraordinary. However, it’s certainly a giant step-up from the previous Leprechaun outing as this actually feels like a true Leprechaun movie.
As it stands, it’s certainly one of the best Leprechaun movies. Perhaps even better than Leprechaun in the Hood — though we unfortunately don’t see the Leprechaun toke up with Ice-T.
Horror-comedy fans will find much to enjoy and I’m sure it will win over true-blue Leprechaun fans, even if it misses the presence of Warwick Davis.
The ending certainly leaves it up for another sequel. If the same talents are involved, I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing it.
Thank you for reading! What are your thoughts on Leprechaun Returns? Comment down below!
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