Sunday, March 18, 2012

Leprechaun Week: 'Leprechaun 2' (1994)

The original Leprechaun was such a surprise success, making $8.5 million on a budget of less than $1 million, that the producers did what any enterprising horror-movie producers would do: They rushed a crappy sequel into production in hopes of kick-starting a franchise and milking fans for every possible dollar. Like Friday the 13th Part 2, Saw II and Paranormal Activity 2, Leprechaun 2 was released just a year after its predecessor, and although it did end up kicking off a franchise, it was the final movie in the series to make it to theaters (it barely grossed more than its $2 million budget).

Also in time-honored horror tradition (for some series, at least), Leprechaun 2 essentially ignores all the events of the first movie and puts the leprechaun in a new situation with new powers, a new goal and a new backstory. None of the forgettable characters from the first movie return (surely Jennifer Aniston was devastated), nor does writer-director Mark Jones (although he's credited as a co-producer), replaced by writers Turi Meyer and Al Septien and director Rodman Flender. The leprechaun is now living in some sort of magical tree house in the middle of Los Angeles after having been shipped over from Ireland (whatever). A prologue establishes that on his thousandth birthday a thousand years ago the leprechaun was thwarted from claiming a bride, and now that a thousand years have passed again, he's ready to once again take a wife.

So he ventures forth to abduct vapid teenager Bridget (Shevonne Durkin, whose performance could best be described as "sedated"), a descendant of the woman he tried to wed a thousand years before. One of the silliest elements of leprechaun mythology invented for this movie is that the leprechaun's intended will become his once she sneezes three times without being told "God bless you." Bridget is nearly "God bless you"-ed by her equally vapid boyfriend Cody (Charlie Heath), but the leprechaun gets his hands on her anyway, and whisks her off to his tree house where he locks her up and tells her to prepare for the wedding. Cody and his alcoholic uncle Morty (Sandy Baron, possibly best known as Jack Klompus from Seinfeld) track down the leprechaun, whom they attempt to defeat first in a drinking contest, and then by attacking him with wrought iron, apparently the leprechaun's only weakness (never mind that in the first movie, his only weakness was four-leaf clovers).

Leprechaun 2 is a slight improvement over the first movie, with funnier one-liners and more rhyming from the leprechaun. Maybe Warwick Davis and/or the producers realized that they could have the next Freddy Krueger or Chucky on their hands, so they made the villain the real star of the movie. That's smart, since Davis is a much better actor than the blank teenage leads (although Baron is amusing as the old lech). The plot still essentially makes no sense, and the lack of even the most cursory acknowledgement of series continuity is frustrating, but at least things move along quickly. There are nods to horror-movie conventions with a little gratuitous nudity (from an obvious body double for Durkin) and slightly more gore this time around, but no one would ever mistake this for a real horror movie. Davis seems to know that, and he plays everything for laughs, but the rest of the movie just grimly slogs through the motions.

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