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 in the Hood (2ooo)
Body Count: 8
How Leprechaun Returns: Somehow the Leprechaun has been turned into a stone statue by the amulet from Leprechaun 3 again (in fact, he’s literally the exact same statue prop). Amulet foolishly removed. Leprechaun back to life.
The Story: The film opens in the 70’s, when two afro-sporting thugs, Mack Daddy (Ice-T) and his flunky, are searching for loot in the sewers when they happen across the stone-frozen Leprechaun. The Leprechaun is freed, kills the flunky, but Mack Daddy manages to freeze the Lep before any more damage is done. Then we cut to the present, where three friends – Postmaster P. (Anthony Montgomery), Stray Bullet (Rashaan Nall) and Butch (Red Grant) – are struggling to break into the rap business. Mack Daddy is now a successful gangster music mogul, all thanks to the magic flute he stole from the Leprechaun. He even keeps the Leprechaun statue in his office.
When Mack Daddy rudely rebuffs our trio, they decide to rob him and steal the valuable looking amulet they saw around his weird Leprechaun statue. Once more, the Lep is freed, but not before Postmaster P manages to get the flute from Mack Daddy. Turns out the flute makes everyone who hears it hypnotized by the owner’s awesomeness, which our trio use to become popular rappers. But both Mack Daddy and the Leprechaun want the flute back.
What Works: Once Leprechaun 4: In Space shattered the Leprechaun franchise mold, there was really no going back. It’s hard to top something as ridiculous as going into space, but I gotta give it to Trimark Pictures, In the Hood was a solid attempt . The inner-city setting isn’t absurd itself, but as far as titles go, calling it out with such weighty implications like that is movie lunacy at its finest.
And for a moment it is pretty funny. Casting someone like Ice-T was a must. And opening in the 70’s so we could see him in a silly afro is good audience pandering. As is having the Leprechaun smoke weed and giving him sexy “zombie fly girl” minions. But unfortunately, then the rest of the movie happens…
What Doesn’t Work: This movie is mostly terrible. Though, I’d still probably put it above Leprechaun 2; at least this has pretty decent acting across the board.
Just objectively speaking, In the Hood suffers from getting too wrapped up in the story of our three heroes. At times you could almost forget you were watching a movie about the Leprechaun and not a dramedy about young African-Americans struggling to make it in a tough business so they call pull themselves out of poverty. I suppose on paper that’s not the worst thing in the world, and I’ll give In the Hood props for legitimately effecting that tone, but it was legitimately effecting the tone of a bad dramedy about young African-Americans struggling to make it in a tough business so they call pull themselves out of poverty. Once we’re this balls deep in a franchise that has gotten this silly, there is absolutely no need for a genuine story.
In Space had an involved story, but it existed purely as a framework for which to house wacky madness. In the Hood makes the mistake of taking itself a bit too seriously. Which is pretty amazing considering how dumb that “in the hood” gimmick is. In fact, I feel like the film wasn’t quite sure what its own tone was at times. The opening sequence features a gag where Mack Daddy is pulling weapons from his fro, including a baseball bat. That is a straight up cartoon bit, signaling that the film will have a Scary Movie style of comedy. But then we are asked to take Postmaster P and his guys seriously. Which is pretty hard to do when his name is Postmaster P and they specifically rap about positive messages, like something out of an awkward rap portion of a kids TV show. And things waffles back and forth this way the entire film. When one of the trio dies, it is played dead serious and “sad.” Then in the next scene the remaining two heroes are reading “Leprechauns For Dummies.”
This could have worked, I suppose, if the movie was better. But it feels cheap at every turn, and not in the way that In Space did. The script feels cheap too. Though there are a lot of deaths, not a single one is interesting or fun, and several happen off-screen, clearly for budgetary reasons.
Warwick Davies is still doing his thing here, not quite as buried as he was in Leprechaun 2, but it’s kind of embarrassing watching him do all the dumb “urban” gags, adopting slang and bling. Then of course, there is this:
If you thought that was amazing (and not just ironically as a two minute clip), then possibly you’ll love Leprechaun in the Hood. But you and I have little in common then. This isn’t a good horror movie.
Best Kill: Uh. I guess when a guy gets an afro pick to the neck. Except that happens off-screen. The kills are all pretty unremarkable here. Not applicable is the honest answer.
Groaniest Leprechaun One-Liner: “A friend with weed is a friend indeed. But a friend with gold is the best I’m told.”
How Leprechaun Is Defeated: He isn’t. He survives. Then raps.
Should There Have Been A Sequel: Only if Brian Trenchard-Smith directed it. By this stage it is pretty clear he had the only good things to offer the franchise.
Next: Leprechaun: Back to tha Hood