Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Faith and Boggorah, top of the mornin’ ta yae, boyo, kiss the Blarney Stone, merrily we go along... It’s that time of year again where everybody wears green or gets pinched, the beer is green, and everybody is a little bit Irish. As someone of actual honest-to-god Irish heritage (although not evident in my name, like many modern Caucasian Americans, I got a solid streak [a little over a third] giving me a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism.)
Were this a serious blog, I might discuss “real” Irish-ness, through something like The Secret of Roan Innish. But I won’t. See it. It’s good. But I won’t.
If there is a more Irish symbol than the Leprechaun in the American popular consciousness, I’d be hard-pressed to imagine it. They fight, defending their pots of gold, and people are always after their lucky charms. But this Leprechaun…
Leprechaun (Mark Jones, 1993) is part of a series of horror films going spanning a decade. From Leprechaun’s 2 and 3, to Leprechaun 4: In Space (set in, as Wikipedia will tell us, in Space, with a hyperlink to Space, as in “the boundless, three-dimensional extent in which objects and events occur and have relative position and direction”) and taking a turn in 2000 with Leprechaun: In the Hood and 2003 with Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood (and, unfortunately, not followed by Leprechaun: Back 3 tha Hood (In Space). This sequel, unfortunately, writes itself.)
I will admit that, until deciding to write this, I have never seen Leprechaun. I saw a clip of it on TV at one point in my early childhood and, traumatized, refused to watch the rest of it (I had similarly feelings towards The Goonies, primarily because I stopped watching after Chunk, tied to his chair, first met Sloth. I ended up turning off the TV, wondering what that strangely deformed man did to that little boy until years later. I believe I squealed and hid under my bed.) But, Leprechaun is most noteworthy for having a young Jennifer Aniston, and little-person and nerd hero Warwick Davis as the titular Leprechaun.
Warwick Davis’ other credits include Marvin the Paranoid Android in the unfortunate film version of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (where, as the character tends to do, he stole the show,) Labyrinth, Return of the Jedi, the Harry Potter Franchise, and Willow, the latter is the primary reason I don’t try to sneak under George Lucas’ bed every night with a garrote wire. Thus, as you can see, he is a friend of nerds.
Look how hard they try to hide the little guy. I can only imagine the disdain of those who paid to actually see this in theaters. But, even then, you knew what you were in for.
I’m going to try my damndest to take this seriously and not damn this movie immediately. My thoughts, more or less as they happen, here we go…
20 seconds in and we get a rather interestingly lit shot of the Leprechaun limping down a flight of stairs. Warwick Davis certainly is taking this seriously, to his credit, he does get top billing appropriately. The production values are pretty standard early 90s. We learn immediately that those who try to steal the leprechauns gold are doomed to death.
Beginning with a woman with a pretty lame Irish brogue and the drunken Mr. Daniel O’Grady provide charmingly accented exposition and the chauffer with an American accent. And then gold! Leprechauns’ gold. Based on what we know, and the lightning, this is not going to end well.
Say what you will, this is actually very professionally edited. The camera isn’t awful and direction isn’t enough to make me gag. We have our first death within the first six minutes, when, posing as a child, the leprechaun bursts out of the suitcase (posing as a suffocating child) and knocks the lady down a flight of stairs.
It turns out the lady is his wife, although I realize this wasn’t well-established. But we do set up some good facts about the leprechaun’s limitations: it’s afraid of four leaf clovers but can only be temporarily stopped by bullets. Putting a clover on the crate, however, seems enough to hold it in a crate.
Now (pre-nose job) Jennifer Aniston is in a jeep with her “hick father” in North Dakota when she’d rather spend the summer in LA. I am aware Jennifer Aniston’s character has a name (Tori,) but I’m just going to call her by name. They happen to stay in the house where the Leprechaun’s being kept. Wait. What were a pair of stereotypically Irish people doing in North Dakota? Where did he find the leprechaun? Is it an American leprechaun? Have leprechauns followed the Irish diaspora? How in the world is any of this plausible? There’s also a tarantula. North Dakota is known for its massive tarantula populations. They also call this the “O’Grady Place,” which doesn’t answer the question at all.
Everything starts falling together: there’s a theme about Jennifer Aniston being materialistic, and she has a love subplot with a Joey Lawrence lookalike who is very much a salt-of-the-earth blue collar guy. For convenience, instead of calling him by his character’s name (Nathan,) I’ll call him “Joey Lawrence lookalike.”
Joey Lawrence lookalike convinces Jennifer Aniston to stay, although, even after rewatching it I’m not entirely sure how.
I’m trying to pick out just who the leprechaun is going to kill. My money’s on the painter (Ozzy) they just introduced and the dad. The skeptical little kid hanging out with the painter, Jennifer Aniston, and Joey Lawrence lookalike may all very well live.
There’s some more awkward flirting between Jennifer Aniston and Joey Lawrence lookalike.
Of course the leprechaun gets out, and he still wants his pot o’gold. He tricks the dumb painter guy into knocking off the four-leaf clover using the same “fake voice” trick. I wonder if this is the only gag in the Leprechaun’s playbook: hiding in something, using a different voice, then bursting out and killing someone.
The lighting is generally awful when they try to light the leprechaun. This is probably to conceal the makeup work, which seems passable at best. Best line in the movie: “There’s a leprechaun in the basement! Oh there’s a leprechaun in the basement!”
Another leprechaun rule: uncontrollable compulsion to polish shoes. Nathan grabs a ridiculously thin twin to defend himself from the leprechaun when investigating. “It was just a rat.” Lame, but could be worse. This would be my general review of the film, I suppose.
About twenty minutes in, and near the end of the first act, begin greatly regretting decision to watch movie.
Ozzy, however, is the best part of the movie, he has the best lines: “Hey, hey look up in the sky!... It’s a magic rainbow! Leprechauns and rainbows! It’s a sign! … No, no, no, no, we gotta go, gotta go see what’s at the end … C’mon, go with me, we gotta get to the end of the rainbow! There’s always a pot of gold!”
Half an hour in: leprechaun follows people on truck on tricycle in high speed. This shot somehow comforts me for a while.
Ozzy and the little kid find the leprechaun’s gold. The Leprechaun attacks Jennifer Aniston for some reason. Ozzy and his little brother get the gold appraised, and the appraiser keeps a coin. The Leprechaun somehow leaps out of a safe to attack him. This strategy seems to work for the little guy, so I can see why he keeps using it. He then kills on him by jumping on him with a pogo stick singing a version of “This Old Man.” I now somehow simultaneously hate and love this movie. He later attacks a state trooper by first ripping into his face then snapping his neck. If he can do this, why does he rely on his “hide in container and surprise people” strategy?
Over halfway through, not writing so much as being kind of bored. The film’s trying really hard to remind us of the leprechaun’s OCD urge to polish shoes, so that’ll definitely be relevant later. He hates Lucky Charms (easy joke.) He also uses a bear trap on Joey Lawrence lookalike, but he survives (everyone in this movie survives.) Somebody needs to light this movie better.
They call the police, but the police don’t believe it. Duh.
Leprechaun bleeds green blood. They think they killed him with a shotgun, but the Leprechaun jumps out of the hood of the car and then punches through the car windshield. Again, I must question the leprechaun’s tactics. It seems like he could easily force his way to his gold, if he didn’t have to rely on this ridiculous method.
Later, when Jennifer Aniston finds the gold as part of a plan to appease the Leprechaun, he teleports out of nowhere to claim it. Again, if he can do this, why in the world does he rely on the same “hide in OBJECT X and ambush them“ tactic? He’s upset because he has all but one coin, the one Ozzy accidentally swallowed earlier. I suppose he couldn’t just cut his losses and let them keep one gold coin. But meh.
“High diddly dee, a Leprechaun is me!” This is part of the way I can simultaneously love and hate this movie.
They pull the shoe trick, distracting him with polishing shoes.
I sincerely wish I’d watch this movie on fast forward. Cool shot of Jennifer Aniston walking down a hallway in the hospital.
After watching him chase Jennifer Aniston in a wheelchair I have a thought: for a guy with limitless magical powers, the Leprechaun’s primary tricks are using unusual vehicles and jumping out of tiny spaces. That is, of course, when he isn’t using superhuman strength and teleportation.
Suddenly, it’s just Jennifer Aniston running around being chased by the Leprechaun, appropriate for the “final girl” (per Carol Clover.)
Think they kill it, of course, Leprechaun comes back for one last scare. They think they kill it again, but of course not.
As to my predictions: The dad doesn’t die, but is hurt, but then again everyone is to a minor degree, but there are very few actual fatalities (by my count 3, 2 in the beginning, the sherrif’s deputy. For shame Leprechaun. That is not a respectable kill total.)
I was going to propose a Leprechaun-Chucky crossover but the end result would be so one-sided (say what you will about Chucky the Killer Doll, but at least he’s creative.)
Overall, the script is a solid C from director Jones. It’s got a couple of good lines, like “I traded me soul for me gold, you’ll trade ye life!” It’s definitely self-aware of what it is, but doesn’t cross the line into enjoyable self-parody (like it’s closest competitor, the Child’s Play/…Of Chucky series.) Direction closer to a C+, but still not exactly great.
I’d give this movie a C. It’s not great, but I really can’t say I hated it. That’s not true. But there are parts I definitely didn’t really really hate, and I was generally more bored than angry, and I’ll admit, I laughed a few times. You are not missing out for missing it.
So, this is Son of Double Feature, wishing you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and High Diddly Dee, a Leprechaun is me!