Hollywood loves a good franchise. The movie-going public does too. Horror, action, comedy, sci-fi, western, no genre is safe. And any film, no matter how seemingly stand-alone, conclusive, or inappropriate to sequel, could generate an expansive franchise. They are legion. We are surrounded. But a champion has risen from the rabble to defend us. Me. I have donned my sweats and taken up cinema’s gauntlet. Don’t try this at home. I am a professional.
The Franchise: Leprechaun. Following the murderous misadventures of a gold-loving shoe fetishist sprite, the franchise has six installments spanning from 1993 to 2003.
The 1990’s are a much maligned period for horror movies. For the most part, rightly so. But it wasn’t the 90’s fault. The 80’s were all about excess, and the two genres the Reagan era did best were action and horror, and both genres followed a similar arc, pushing their envelope and crescendoing into sheer madness around 1989, at which point they both pulled a hammy. Early 90’s horror is actually kind of interesting, in a archeological sense (it’s really the mid-to-late 90’s that truly suck). The genre was clearly struggling to figure out what to do with itself now that common Slashers had run their course. Many filmmakers turned towards magic, giving us films like Candyman, Warlock, and of course, Leprechaun.
The Installment: Leprechaun 2 (1994)
Body Count: 5
How Leprechaun Returns: He’s been magically living inside a tree from Ireland, that was gifted to Harry Houdini and replanted in Los Angeles a hundred years ago. The smell of a hobo’s whiskey draws him out on his bday.
The Story: The prologue takes place in Ireland, 1000 years ago. The Leprechaun (Warwick Davis) is chasing down his personal slave (a man who tried to steal the Leprechaun’s gold). The Leprechaun informs the slave that the day is March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, and his birthday, and he’s decided to claim a bride. He’s got the lass all picked out and his courting scheme is simple – “She sneezes once, she sneezes twice, she’ll be me bride when she sneezes thrice.” And if no one says “God bless you,” the girl is his. What sort of cosmic nonsense governs this law, we don’t know, but apparently it will work. When the slave discovers that the Leprechaun has chosen the slave’s own daughter, the slave says “God bless you” – so dramatic! – foiling the Leprechaun’s schemes once and for all. Or so we think!
Cut to the present. The descendant of that Irish chick, Bridget (Shevonne Durkin), lives in Los Angeles, where she dates Cody (Charlie Heath), the nephew of a lowlife Hollywood tour guide, Morty (Sandy Baron). The Leprechaun quickly finds Bridget once he emerges in LA, determined to make her his bride. Cody wants to stop this. Morty wants the Leprechaun’s gold. Stuff happens.
What Works: Sandy Baron as Morty, the drunk shyster tour guide. Baron was a classic “Borscht Belt” stage comic way back in the day, and sadly his acting roles were too few and far between, cause the guy is fucking great (and passed away 2001). Most people probably remember him (if they remember him at all) from his semi-reoccurring role on Seinfeld as Jack Klompos, a resident of the elderly community where Jerry’s parents lived (he was the guy who had the “space pen”). Baron was the best part of the 80’s horror-comedy Vamp, and he’s most certainly the best thing in Leprechaun 2. Frankly the movie doesn’t deserve him, and the veteran funnyman is essentially functioning on a slightly different level than amateur actors around him, which only serves to make poor Charlie Heath, our hero, seem even more less-than.
The film’s best moment is brief. It is when Baron spots the Leprechaun sitting a ways down the bar from him during a St. Patrick’s Day party. It lasts but a moment, but it is good fun. If the whole movie could have retained the magic from that 10 seconds, who knows what could have been. There’s also a weird several second moment of a dwarf (a different one) dubiously eying a regular-sized urinal that I liked.
And the Leprechaun mobile is a fun-stupid idea.
What Doesn’t Work: Everything. I thought Leprechaun was bad. Holy shit. Now I am fondly remembering the delightful tone, pacing, and Oscar-worthy performances from Mark Jones’ opus.
It’s always a minor suspension of disbelief hurdle sequeling a movie where we witnessed the villain thoroughly die. The Leprechaun was melted, then blown up at the end of the first film. But unlike Jason or Michael Meyers, the Leprechaun was a magical creature. Bringing him back shouldn’t be too tough. On the one hand, I respect that they decided not to really bother with an explanation here. It sets a good precedent for future installments in the franchise. But on the other hand, while the first film stank, the fact that L2 has absolutely zero connection to its predecessor, makes this feel more like a reboot than a sequel. Cause it’s not so much that Jennifer Aniston and co. failed to effectively kill him in the first film, L2 seems to act like the first film never existed. The Leprechaun went right from the prologue of this film 1000 years ago, to Los Angeles in the present.
This film comes from Rodman Flender, who would introduce me to Jessica Alba’s hotness a few years later in Idle Hands. If Flender’s film were actually a reboot, there never would have been a sequel. Even Warwick Davis, who shown like a beacon through the mire of the first film, can’t seem to find his footing in this mess. The Leprechaun maybe became a little too magical in this film. Now he really is just Freddy Krueger, able to make people hallucinate, conjure up go-carts from thin air (he had to steal a tricycle in the first film), use telekinesis to lift foes in the air, not to mention his Leprechaun lair magically contained within the Houdini tree.
As annoying as I found Jennifer Aniston in the first film, I wanted her back now. Shevonne Durkin was not destined to be an actress. Her delivery of the line, “I can never stay mad at you,” to Cody is so uncannily atrocious I can’t even imagine how bad the takes they didn’t use were. She also seems to be harboring an accent that pokes out at inopportune times. Or maybe she was deaf or something. I don’t know. She sounds weird is what I’m trying to say. And L2 returns to the theme of putting the lead actress into terrible legwear. Aniston had those hideous 90’s shorts; Durkin’s costumer belongs to the camp that thinks tights are a good substitute for pants.
While the first film had the problem of too many daylight scenes, at least that kept the film looking nice. L2 looks cheap and murky, and the Leprechaun’s lair belongs on a 70’s BBC series, not a movie. And once again the kills are insufficient. Of the five deaths, only three of those actually feel like horror movie deaths. Though, at least there are two maimings (in which the Lep lets the person go) to offset things slightly.
I guess each of these installments may find me griping about something sort of pointless, but… The basic premise of this movie makes no sense. The Leprechaun is stopping at nothing to get Bridget. Why did he give up so immediately 1000 years ago with her ancestor? It’s not cause his slave said “God bless you,” because Cody does the same when the Leprechaun is trying to make Bridget sneeze. Also, why didn’t they call this movie Bride of Leprechaun? That just seems obvious to me.
Best Kill: Causing a horny teen to hallucinate into thinking a pair of whirling blades are two naked breats. The teen’s attempt to motor-boat them titties ends in a faceless mess.
Groaniest Leprechaun One-Liner: “Pour all you want, pour all you can, you won’t beat me, ’cause I’m a Lepre-CAN.” Said while drunk during a drinking contest.
How Leprechaun Is Defeated: After establishing earlier in the film that leprechauns can’t touch wrought iron, Cody jams a wrought iron pole into the Leprechaun’s chest. This causes the Lep to explode.
Should There Have Been A Sequel: Yes, because third time’s the charm, right?
Next: Leprechaun 3