Viking Night: Leprechaun
By Bruce Hall
April 1, 2015
Hey, did you hear? There's a storm coming!
Not just in the literal sense, but also in the sense that something really big and important is going to happen. It's a double entendre, you see. Foreshadowing. It's also the kind of hackneyed dreck writers like to throw into scripts when there's something boiling over on the stove, or the UPS guy is at the door so there's no time for imagination. It works in The Terminator because that movie is crawling with legitimate darkness and foreboding – and also because it's about a 250 pound murder-bot with an Austrian accent.
The line lands more lightly in Mark Jones' Leprechaun, and not necessarily because the star of the film is four-feet-tall. It's because what is meant to be a clever play on words becomes more meaningful than it was intended when halfway through the story you're still waiting for something...anything to care about. Despite what should be a really amusing premise - an insanely murderous leprechaun who will kill the crap out of you and everyone you love if you try to steal his gold - Leprechaun is a "storm all right." It's an insipid squall of stupid clichés, plot holes and half-baked idiocy that's hardly enough fun to support a good drinking game.
Although if you're going to try, I would suggest passing around a bottle of Jameson and just drinking every time something doesn't make any sense. You'll be so smashed by the end of the first act you won't even care what's happening.
Which isn't much, as it turns out. What little backstory there is involves a middle aged Irish expatriate (Shay Duffin) who for some reason lives with his equally Irish wife in the great state of North Dakota. He returns from a trip abroad sporting a limousine, swaddled in silk and sauced to the gills. He explains that he acquired a pot of gold from a captured leprechaun. His wife is skeptical, until the malevolent munchkin (Warwick Davis) appears and, as I warned, kills the crap out of her. In the midst of the kerfuffle, the old Irishman manages to imprison the leprechaun in the basement.
Flash forward 10 years. Entitled 20-something Tori Reding (Jennifer Aniston) and her sagely earnest father (John Sanderford) move into the old house. Because she's a disdainful twit who can't tell her Arizonas from her Dakotas, Tori is less than enthusiastic about the decision. She changes her mind after meeting Nate the hunky handyman (Ken Olandt), who likes to walk around with an obviously empty prop bucket, telling everyone it’s full of paint thinner. Nate, his little brother Alex (Robert Hy Gorman) and their oafish assistant Ozzie (Mark Holton) have been hired to paint the place, as well as provide a romantic interest for Tori and a (supposed) comedic counterpoint to the evil leprechaun.
Who, by the way, has very little to do with the story until almost halfway through. Aside from a brief interaction with Ozzie, the little guy is generally absent through most of the second act. What we get instead is an attempt to stretch the development of these trivial people over the bones of an even more trivial plot. Tori is a vapid, self-important city girl. Her dad is sopping over with more homespun wisdom than an oatmeal commercial. Nate is a no nonsense mass of muscles and mullet. Ozzie needs a chew toy. Meanwhile, NOBODY IS BEING MURDERED. The list of problems with Leprechaun is as long as the proverbial magical rainbow. Most of them can be excused by the fact that this is a relatively unambitious, low budget affair that THINKS it’s trying to be fun. But the cardinal sin for ANY self-styled horror /comedy would be this:
It’s not terrifying, and it’s not funny. In fact, it’s horrifyingly unfunny.
Will Tori get in touch with her empathic side and blossom into a mature woman? Can Nate bench press his own body weight without messing up his hair? Does Ozzie eat his own shot? Who cares? I don’t know about you, but I’m more interested in when the leprechaun is going to kill again! And even once it DOES happen - finally - his victims make the kind of irrational decisions that are stupid even for horror movie characters. Everyone essentially runs around in circles with their hands in the air instead of...you know...just running away from the pint size psychopath with the tiny little legs. It’s as though there’s a force field of stupidity covering two square miles of earth, and nobody in this movie is capable of even accidentally wandering outside it.
The lone bright spot in this movie is Davis, who clearly relishes the chance to dress up as a leprechaun and murder people - who wouldn’t? Oddly, Sanderford seems as though he has no idea he’s in a movie about a killer leprechaun, and believes he’s playing a loving father in a family friendly drama about teen drug use. It’s actually a surprisingly decent performance that goes entirely wasted. I suppose I should mention Aniston, shouldn’t I? As you may know, she later enjoyed moderate fame on an obscure television comedy you probably haven’t heard of. But she’s worth mentioning here because she does have pretty good comedic timing, and she shows flashes of it here.
Sadly, it’s not enough to overcome the material. They could have cast Bill Murray as Tori’s dad and Jim Carrey as the Leprechaun and let them go toe to toe Improv City with a pair of t-shirt cannons and this would still be a terrible, horrible, awful movie. Now, you COULD throw in Linda Hamilton as Tori, along with a 250 pound murder-bot with an Austrian accent. Now THAT is a storm.