Tuesday, October 27, 2015

MR:Quickies Leprechaun series

The Leprechaun series was never known for its quality. But let me keep the records straight - they're pretty fun "dumb" movies.

The real star of the franchise's always been actor Warwick Davis, mostly know as the star of Willow, Labyrinth and a few Star Wars projects in which he played the lead Ewok Wicket. Warwick played our titular Leprechaun in all six films.

Leprechaun is a fun little slasher horror franchise. They've never been great films, but our slasher villain really sold this series. Warwick's performance is truly what made these flicks fun, trying his best to make this a fun memorable killer that somewhat falls in between a Freddy Krueger and a Chucky. And he actually manages to bring quite a lot of charm to these films thanks to his over-the-top persona.

The films got increasingly more silly over the years, in fact after some boringly named Leprechaun 2 and Leprechaun 3 we would quickly get the likes of "Leprechaun In Space", "Leprechaun In The Hood" and the infamous silly but fun "Leprechaun Back to tha Hood".

Let's dig into these films right away!

Movie title: Leprechaun aka Leprechaun 1
Directed by Mark Jones
Release date 1993
Genre Horror comedy/B-movie

Our tale begins in medias res, as someone was able to steal the Leprechaun's gold and ran from Ireland to America, in North Dakota. But if you steal the Leprechaun's gold be prepared to have him chase you all over across the entire world.

Our Leprechaun followed the man a continent away. The man was able to seal the Leprechaun inside a crate by using a 4-leaf clover... just before he died from a stroke!!

Ten years later, a family's moving in his old home. They accidentally free the Leprechaun, and hop he goes on a new killing spree to get back his gold!

They later find out his weakness and try using 4-leaf clovers on the ol' Irish creature...

Overall: This first Leprechaun is a pretty funny horror comedy film.

It was written and directed by Mark Jones who really wanted to make the transition from TV to film and saw a low-budget horror film has the best way to do so. He was actually inspired by the Lucky Charms commercials and took some notes from the likes of the Critters films. The film was originally to be a proper horror film, but they added a lot of dark humor to it, which is the tonal hift that would define the rest of the series.

As for Warwick, he was having a tough time following his work on Willow, and he really wanted to play a villain for a change.

As a slasher, it's a pretty funny film. You rarely see films like this take place in mid-day. And not that many people die actually. It's kind of slow paced but fun.

While it's not a classic on the same level as your others Freddys, Jason Voorhees, Chuckys and what have you, it has certainly a lot of charm of its own.

Kind of like George Clooney's debut with the films Return to Horror High and Return of the Killer Tomatoes, Leprechaun marked Jennifer Aniston's acting debut. And... it's quite something. He acting's pretty ok when you get down to it, specially compared to some of the other actors in this film. It's always funny to see these early roles of future-mainstream actors.

When it's all said and done, Leprechaun is a pretty fun and original film. Recommended for a watch, easily one of the better entries in the entire franchise.

The film debuted in 1993, two years after its actual filming, in a year that would see the likes of Jurassic Park, Mrs. Doubtfire and The Fugitive. Yet despite being made of the very tiny budget of about $900'000USD the film would go on to make back over $9 million (!!) with this first film alone. No wonder TriMark Pictures would make 5 more of these over the next few years! (Leprechaun was their first theatrical release!)

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Leprechaun 2 also known as Leprechaun II and strangely enough under the title One Wedding and Lots of Funerals
Directed by Rodman Flender
Release date 1994
Genre Slasher/Horror comedy/B-movie

Unlike most traditional slasher film series, Leprechaun 2 doesn't pick up where the previous film left. But actually none of these Leprechaun films seem to be connected to one another in any sort of way.

It all begins in 994 A.D., that's right about a 100 years ago when our Leprechaun attempted to take a bride.. when he was fooled by the girl's father.

We now jump to St Patrick's Day 1994, in modern-day Los Angeles. We are introduced to the descendant of his original would be-wife, a girl named Bridget. Our Leprechaun is able to capture her and takes her back to his lair connected to our world via a tree. Her boyfriend Cody gets cursed by the Leprechaun who's after him after stealing one of his gold coins.

Our young couple try to face the vengeful creature in his own domain...

Overall: Leprechaun 2 would be the only other film in the entire series to receive a theatrical release.

The film tries to build some more lore to the titular character, but it just feels like more of the same. The film is pretty bland all things considered.

The best thing in this entire film is to see the Leprechaun making this guy hallucinate he's kissing Bridget when he's really moving towards the lawnmower fans.

Our main actress Shevonne Durkin who's mostly known for these types of B-movie schlocks has some pretty odd acting or lack thereof.

All said and done, Leprechaun 2 is probably one of the worst entries, it's just so dull...

I give this one a: 1 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Leprechaun 3 also known as Leprechaun in Las Vegas
Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith
Release date 1995
Genre Slasher/Horror comedy/Fantasy/B-movie

We meet our Leprechaun once more killing anyone in the path of his gold coins (or is it really another one? It's only the third film in the series and the continuity is barely making any sense from one movie to the next one.. ).

The movie opens in the middle of the action, as most films in this series. The Leprechaun was somehow changed into a statue by using this magical medallion. They end up selling him in some pawnshop in Las Vegas. The store clerk removes the medallion... which frees the Leprechaun who immediately kills his savior and goes on a killing spree in Las Vegas!

While looking to get his hands back on his gold coins, one single coin manages to pass around one people to another as they use it to grant their deepest wishes.

This young college student Scott McCoy gets bitten by the Leprechaun and he soon starts turning into a Leprechaun himself!! He gets some help from this girl Tammy Larsen who's working as an assistant magician.

Overall: Leprechaun 3 was the first direct-to-video entry in the franchise.

It's a really, really funny film. We get our Leprechaun at his finest. Somehow having the Leprechaun bite someone has a werewolf/vampire-style curse! The film is pretty campy and fun, fully embracing its silly premise. I like how everyone got the information from some children's encyclopedia on floppy disks!

The film tries to add some clever ideas. But the rules behind the Leprechaun mythos is starting to get pretty complicated and there's no much sense from one film to another (except... if you accept it's a different Leprechaun with a different set of powers and weakness each film). I liked how everyone was trying to make their wishes come true against one another.

At the time of its release, Leprechaun 3 became one of the best selling videos in 1995! In fact Warwick has gone on to say himself Leprechaun 3 was his favorite in the series. And for good reason, there's a lot more humor. They were able to make so much on so little money.

And compared to another similar film in the slasher genre which also tried getting its titular slasher outside on a famous location, Jason Takes Manhattan, Leprechaun 3 actually managed to have said slasher in said promised city for most of its running time!! They even got a lot of funny sequences around town!

On another hand, you can clearly see the moment the Leprechaun series "jumped the shark" when our Leprechaun is seen posing with some Elvis impersonator in the streets of Las Vegas. After that point the series was just never the same, getting increasingly sillier has time moved on, adding a lot more humor and jokes and barely any scares anymore from that point onwards.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Leprechaun 4: In Space also known as simply Leprechaun 4 or just Leprechaun In Space
Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith
Release date 1997
Genre Slasher/Scifi/B-movie

Forget our modern day setting and Earth. Leprechaun 4 now takes place in the distant future, in Spaaace!

It all begins with everyone's favorite evil killer Leprechaun trying to force this alien princess as his bride. He promises her lots of gold, she starts to change her mind regarding this possible wedding. But the wedding's night is quickly interrupted when a platoon of space marines comes up and blows the Leprechaun to pieces in an attempt to rescue the princess.

But our Leprechaun resurrects and starts killing the marines one by one, Alien-style.

This half-cyborg Dr. Mittenhand wants to regenerated his lost body by using our unwanted guest. Meanwhile the Leprechaun is looking for his stolen gold and missing bride.

At the end of the day he gets enlarged by accident with this scifi ray gun! Long story short, they blow him up through the exit hatch.. but not before he's able to give everyone the finger!

Overall: Another direct-to-video entry, Leprechaun 4: In Space was also directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith.

Of course, this one had to be a lot more cheesy. It brings a lot more comedy to the table.

It's a really silly entry, nobody making this film was expecting this film to be any serious. So they just ran along with it. It gets pretty stupid. The marines are cardboard cutout stereotypical run the mill soldiers. Their general is really stupid.. and then manages to get even stupider!

As most of these really silly cheesy "In Space" entries in long running slasher films, just like Jason X and Critters 4 before, it actually turned out ok despite what you might think. And it's really fun.

I liked how Leprechaun was quickly able to get someone to marry him to become king. There's so many classic hilarious scenes, with the best/worst one possibly being how he gets through someone's penis. And the main scientist gets turned into this ugly mutant scorpion creature for absolutely no reason, almost stealing the scene as the only real villain of this film. The giant Leprechaun is stretched a bit too long but it was pretty funny too.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Leprechaun in the Hood also known as Leprechaun 5: In the Hood or just Leprechaun 5
Directed by Rob Spera
Release date 2000
Genre Slasher Comedy horror/B-movie

We leave the distant future of Leprechaun in Space to go back to Earth. More precisely, Compton, California.

We find our Leprechaun, now back to stone once more. The ridiculously titled "In the Hood" is the story how this little gangsta Mack Daddy O'Nassas (friggin' Ice-T!!!) was able to become this huge successful pimp daddy by stealing a magic mind-controlling flute from the Lep'!

20 years later he's now a successful businessman and music producer. A trio of wannabe rapper kids decide to steal from Mack Daddy after he's turned them down and mocked them overtly. While robbing the guy they accidentally free the Leprechaun and steal some of his gold and the flute. With these magic items they can finally catch the break they deserve!

But they end up hunted down by both Mack Daddy and the Lep'!

Incidentally enough, the movie ends up with this silly "Irish" rap sang by the Leprechaun. (Which is clearly a deleted scene from earlier in the film which would have explained how the Leprechaun was able to get these "henchwomen" following him around.)

Overall: Leprechaun in the Hood has completely ditched the little horror aspect the franchise still had.

After an episode taking place in a spaceship, we get this random hip hop-themed sequel. It's a really dumb film.

Despite his awful acting, Ice-T is the only real saving grace in this film because he's fun to watch, but even so he's barely in the film and gets killed before the finale. There was some clear potential in his character, but he never really lives up to the expectations. At least his character's the only real memorable protagonist of this entire film.

It's kind of an obvious play on blaxploitation films.. only, it's played straight for some reason. How much ridiculous can the Leprechaun get?

Even by Leprechaun standards, it's pretty bad. They tried a new direction for the series and it just feels amateurish. It feels like this was a pretty cheap made-for-TV movie.

And the rap is so cringe-worthy, I can't stand it...

I give this one a: 0.5  / 3 Score!

Movie title: Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood also known as Leprechaun 6
Directed by Steven Ayromlooi
Release date 2003
Genre Slasher/B-movie

Despite one might think because of the brilliantly-spelled "Back 2 tha Hood" title, this once once more another completely unrelated disconnected sequel from the previous film.

This film tried to go back as much as it could to the original first few Leprechaun films. First there's a great animated prologue.Leprechauns were once summoned by this wizard king to protect his gold. After the wars they all disappeared into nature, except this one greedy Leprechaun which grew corrupted obsessed with the gold it still protects to this day.

After that it all begins with the ending of some other previously unseen adventure as this priest is trying to escape from the Leprechaun's wrath. He apparently stole his gold and he's able to drag the Leprechaun into the hell it came from, by using 4-leaf clover-laced holy water against the demon. Yes. Leprechauns are now clearly demons. We finally get some backstory to the Leprechaun lore.

Some time has passed. And this girl Emily finds the Leprechaun's gold once more. She decides to share it with her friends to fulfill their wildest dreams. Of course one gets completely stoned with tons of weed and only thinks to part-ay with the loot!

Which releases the Leprechaun back into our world. He goes back into a killing spree, after one kid after another, killing anyone on his path. They finally face him over this building in construction and are finally able to defeat him for good... or is it?

Overall: Back 2 tha Hood was the final straight-to-video Leprechaun entry and overall last episode in the series.

Originally they wanted to have the story take place on some tropical island during spring break, but they later changed the location back to this "urban" setting of the previous film after its decent success.

And.. It's not as bad as you would think on a first look. It doesn't look as cheap as the previous films. In fact even the cast's much better than the last few films. It begins with this really interesting opening, a newly animated sequence telling the origins we never got in the first place. And it all kind of makes sense, explaining how Leprechauns were meant to protect the king's gold and all.

It's a return to the roots of sorts. going back to the simplicity of just having the Leprechaun after his own gold. No more silly amulets or flutes. Just the 4-leaf clovers as his only weakness. It also attempts to get the horror movie tone back, the Leprechaun doesn't even talk that much anymore!

This marked the last entry to star Warwick Davis in the titular role. For the occasion they gave the Leprechaun an all-new creepier appearance, with a great cape.

The film is very reminiscent of the first two Leprechaun films, they even get him drunk in a similar situation.

There's some pretty weird occurrences though. This fortune teller suddenly gets magical powers at the end for no reason. And there's these awful digital transitions I never saw in any professional commercial movie before like someone just learned how to use Windows Movie Maker. But otherwise the film is a lot better than the last few installments and even show some clever ideas like the kids mixing the 4-leaf clovers in the bullets.

It's a lot more enjoyable than it's given credit for. The film's funny. The only issue I have with it is due to its lack of blood, no death are particularly creative either. But it's strangely one of the most well-made films in the entire series (awfully amateurish cuts aside). The characters are decent and the film's entertaining.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

The Leprechaun series' never been huge but it's managed to leave a mark in the genre and get a decent fan following.

It's also been adapted into comic books and whatnot.

A lot of people, heck even fans of the series, seem to have problems with the continuity issues in this so-called "Leprechaun franchise". But I always saw each Leprechaun in the different movies as separate Leprechauns. It's just easier to see it that way, it also explains how he can be over a 100 years old in one movie, or trapped for ages in another and not affect the story of the other films. Others have some weird theories about the movies not being told in chronological order, but that sounds like going into a lot of trouble to enjoy such silly B-movies.

The rules were never truly settled. Details are changed from one film to another. The real reason the series ever had any success is thanks to Warwick Davis' acting as our titular villain. There's really zero connections from one film to the next. We got a few callbacks to the first film or the amulet. Sometimes the Leprechaun is only after revenge from who stole his gold, other times he's killing everyone for fun. Sometimes he wants his gold back, others he wants revenge.

Speaking of the films themselves, Back 2 tha Hood was originally meant to take place during Spring Break, but we never got that film. I still think it would work great in a Leprechaun 7 if they’d ever done that.

Brian Trenchard-Smith also had another idea for a Leprechaun in the White House, which would have made a nice last hurrah for a series built on such silly concepts. It would have been a great cloer for the series.

I mean, really, the most stupid to take this series would be to reboot the franchise with an entirely different actor, since Warwick Davis was really the only thing that made any sense and worked in this series.

So of course they had to reboot it and recast the role with WWE star Dylan Postl, aka Hornswoggle, in the 2014 the reboot Leprechaun: Origins, directed Zach Lipovsky...

That's all for this time's Quickies!

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