Leprechaun Week: 'Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood' (2003)
The sixth and final installment in the Leprechaun series (at least for now; Warwick Davis has expressed interest in making a seventh film, and there are a lot of fan-made posters for Leprechaun vs. Chucky floating around online) brings the leprechaun back to the 'hood but takes a much different approach to storytelling than Leprechaun in the Hood did. That movie was mostly comedic and deliberately goofy, culminating not in the defeat of the evil leprechaun but in his performance of a rap song. Writer-director Steven Ayromlooi takes a much more serious approach with his film, and although there are certainly some comedic moments (including a sequence involving the leprechaun getting stoned), this is overall the most straight-up horror movie in the entire series.
After a surprisingly effective animated prologue that presents yet another origin story for the leprechaun, the movie follows a pretty familiar slasher-movie template. It starts with a scene in which the leprechaun is banished to hell (or something) by an inner-city priest, who dies in the effort. Cut to a year later, and Ayromlooi spends a good half hour establishing his human main characters before the leprechaun makes his return, accidentally released from his underground prison when a trio of inner-city youths stumble upon his gold. After focusing on an alien princess and a magic flute (respectively) in the last two installments, the leprechaun is back to chasing his gold, and of course it wouldn't be a leprechaun movie without a random new addition to the mythology. This time, the gold is in a chest (not a pot as usual), and the chest magically fills back up with gold every time it's shut. In which case it seems rather pointless for the leprechaun to be tracking down every last gold piece, since he can apparently always get more, but that's what he does.
After being set free, the leprechaun sets about tracking his gold and killing a bunch of people along the way, and I'm pretty sure this movie has the highest body count of all the leprechaun movies. The character himself has also been slightly redesigned to look more demonic and menacing, and he's dropped the rhyming that seems to come and go depending on who wrote each movie. The problem of course is that the leprechaun isn't menacing at all, and making him into a joke has always been the more successful approach. This movie's feeble attempts at genuine horror all fall pretty flat. Ayromlooi is also valiantly dedicated to depicting some genuine inner-city struggles, so unlike the goofy aspiring rappers of the last movie, the main characters here are hoping to escape poverty and go to college, and one is a drug dealer who has lost his way.
Tangi Miller, whom I remember best as Felicity's best friend on Felicity, actually brings a bit of authenticity to the lead role, and is probably the most convincing protagonist in the entire series. But even her overqualified presence can't bring any real weight to the struggles of the main characters, especially when their gritty inner-city problems keep coming up against an evil leprechaun. This movie was originally conceived as taking place on a tropical island during spring break, then presumably changed thanks to the relative success of Leprechaun in the Hood, but the different setting probably would have worked better for the tone that Ayromlooi is going for, and brought a little variety to the series. Maybe the seventh installment that Davis keeps hoping for can finally make use of that idea.