Saturday, March 17, 2012

Leprechaun Week: 'Leprechaun' (1993)

I've used the past two Halloweens to cover horror franchises Halloween and Hellraiser, but St. Patrick's Day seems like a more appropriate holiday to kick off a look at the six movies in the why-does-this-exist Leprechaun horror series. Yes, there are six Leprechaun movies, which find the murderous little imp heading to Las Vegas, "the 'hood" and outer space, although this first installment starts in a much more mundane setting. It's a pretty unassuming beginning for what has become a camp-classic horror franchise, albeit one that most people probably know more by reputation than firsthand experience.

That's probably for the best, since there isn't much here worth seeking out. Writer-director Mark Jones clearly isn't going for straight-up horror, but the comedy is extremely feeble, and the story is pretty incoherent. Aside from the series' notoriety, this movie's biggest claim to fame is featuring a pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston in the lead role, as a spoiled young woman (possibly a teenager or possibly a young adult; it's never quite clear) who moves with her father to a dilapidated farm house in rural South Dakota and accidentally unleashes the leprechaun. Aniston is totally game for the ridiculous material, but that only counts for so much, and her character is pretty inconsistent, moving from fragile girly-girl to tough independent woman and back sometimes several times within the same scene.

The supporting characters are quite cartoonish, and either budgetary concerns or filmmaking ineptitude resulted in a town that appears to be populated by no one except the main characters, one of whom (Aniston's character's dad) basically disappears halfway through the movie. But who cares about characters and plotting -- how's the murderous leprechaun? Warwick Davis plays him with obvious glee, and although he's not at all scary, he isn't really meant to be. The leprechaun's motives are a little muddled; he keeps harping on getting back "me gold," but he also seems happy to kill and maim people who have nothing to do with keeping his gold from him. And his magical powers seem to be able to transport the gold around at will, so it's not like he really needs to chase people around anyway.

Jones went on to make horror movies about Rumpelstiltskin and an evil ventriloquist's dummy (although not any more Leprechaun movies), so he clearly has some affinity for scary imps, but Leprechaun never quite pinpoints what might make leprechauns scary. It uses bits of the creatures' mythology in an awkward way, turning four-leaf clovers into the leprechaun version of crosses for vampires and giving the little guy an obsession with shining shoes. The haphazard movie gets by on the novelty of a jolly evil leprechaun, and Davis makes the most of it -- which he'll continue doing for five sequels.

No comments: