Leprechaun  (1993)    Trimark/Horror-Comedy    RT: 92 minutes    Rated R (violence, language)    Director: Mark Jones    Screenplay: Mark Jones    Music: Kevin Kiner and Robert J. Walsh    Cinematography: Levie Isaacks    Release date: January 8, 1993 (US)    Cast: Warwick Davis, Jennifer Aniston, Ken Olandt, Mark Holton, Robert Gorman, Shay Duffin, John Sanderford, John Voldstad, Pamela Mant, William Newman, David Permenter.    Box Office: $8.6 million (US)



 Killer leprechaun on the loose in North Dakota…. NORTH DAKOTA?!!! It sounds like a story you’d read in a trashy tabloid rag but it’s actually the premise of Leprechaun, a goofball horror-comedy in which a group of moronic kids are terrorized by an ugly, homicidal leprechaun looking for his stolen pot of gold. I know, it sounds like a colossally stupid movie and it is but I expect it’s intentional on the part of writer-director Mark Jones making his feature film debut. How seriously can you take a movie about a killer leprechaun? It defies sound reasoning as well as any form of logic.

leprechaun I went to see Leprechaun on opening day because I knew, I just knew, that it would be a complete hoot. I even braved a snowstorm to go to that first matinee at the newly-opened 69th Street Theater (Upper Darby, PA). It was totally worth it! I had a blast. I laughed almost the entire time. One of the biggest laughs occurs early on when we learn that a four-leaf clover is to a leprechaun what a cross is to a vampire. I know a lot of Irishmen that would choke on their whiskey upon hearing this tidbit of info. It wouldn’t be accurate to say Leprechaun goes downhill from here. It’s more like it takes a left turn into Loonyville (Loonyville, ND, that is).

 The trouble starts when a native Irishman steals a leprechaun’s gold during a visit home. Leprechaun (Davis, Willow) follows him back to the States and murders his wife. He wants his gold back. The man incapacitates the evil creature with a four-leaf clover and nails him inside a crate but suffers a severe stroke before he can burn it. Ten years later, JD Redding (Sanderford) and his teenage daughter Tory (Aniston, Friends) move into the now-dilapidated house. She’s your typical spoiled teenage Beverly Hills brat; when she sees the dirt, dust, cobwebs and spiders, her first instinct is to check into a hotel. I mean, isn’t it bad enough that North Dakota isn’t L.A.? She changes her mind, however, when she meets Nathan (Olandt, Summer School), the guy painting her house. It’s a meet-cute for the early 90s; she spills his paint thinner while gabbing on her portable phone (an ancient relic of one!). Instead of apologizing, she gives him money and keeps walking/talking.

 It’s simple-minded Ozzie (Holton Teen Wolf) who releases Leprechaun from his crate, stored these past ten years in the basement, dried-up four-leaf clover preventing his escape. As he’s prone to making up stories about UFOs and the such, nobody believes his story of an evil leprechaun looking for his pot of gold which must lie at the end of the rainbow that magically appears in the sky even though it didn’t rain. Ozzie and Nathan’s preteen brother Alex (Gorman, Sometimes They Come Back) find the bag of gold coins hidden in a rusted-out pick-up truck and decide to keep it for themselves. Naturally, this doesn’t set well with our pint-sized antagonist who chases after our heroes on a tricycle (I’m not kidding).

 Unless you watched the short-lived Ferris Bueller TV series, this is Aniston’s first major credit. This is her before a certain 90s sitcom, before a certain hairstyle that briefly became a craze, before a years-long “will they or won’t they?” relationship with a certain paleontologist. The actress is reportedly embarrassed by her involvement with Leprechaun; I say “why?” How many actors got their start in cheesy horror flicks like this? The list is quite long. Okay, I’ll grant that it’s not a great performance, it isn’t even good. BUT she must have caught the attention of the right people. The following year, she was part of the Friends ensemble. The rest, as they say, is history.

 As for Leprechaun, I think it’s a riot! Davis does a great job in the title role. He injects a great deal of humor into the role. He didn’t want to make Leprechaun straight-up evil so he goes for laughs. It works largely because the movie doesn’t take itself seriously either. Incidentally, Warwick isn’t exactly proud of his involvement in Leprechaun either (even though he’s reprised it in six additional movies). I met him about nine years ago at Disney World and when I mentioned my fondness for it, he smiled and said that it isn’t something he brags about. As for the other performances, what is there to say? The acting is bad. Bad, but no worse than most low-grade horror flicks.

 The dialogue in Leprechaun is hilariously terrible. I predicted that it would contain at least one reference to Lucky Charms cereal. It actually has three. My favorite is at the end when young Alex says, “F--k you, Lucky Charms!” before an attempt to take him down. In another scene, a local deputy pulls over Leprechaun who’s driving down a dark road in a toy motorized car. The exchange goes as follows:

Deputy: “Say, aren’t we a little young to be out this late?”

Leprechaun: “No. I’m 600 years old.”

If anybody else said that to a cop, they’d be trying to walk a straight line along the side of the road while the cop gets the breathalyzer ready. Warwick may have a killer sense of humor, but Leprechaun is still a killer. The best kill scene is when he bounces up and down on a man’s chest on a pogo stick. Death by pogo stick, now that’s original. The makeup and special effects are cheap-looking yet still look more convincing than CGI. It’s part of the appeal of low-budget horror flicks from exploitation studios like Trimark (their first in-house production). It cost less than a million to make and it shows. I LOVE that about Leprechaun, a movie I thoroughly enjoy despite better judgment. It’s a total guilty pleasure!

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