Leprechaun (1993)

*. I have one distinct recollection of seeing this movie on its theatrical release nearly 30 years ago. There’s a scene where the Leprechaun (Warwick Davis) drives a tiny electric car into a pick-up truck and knocks it on its side so that it rolls all the way over and back up again. A guy sitting somewhere behind me in the cinema yelled in exasperation “Oh please! Be real!
*. I can understand what he was objecting to, but it’s a tricky point. I mean, this is a 600-year-old leprechaun with various supernatural powers, including teleportation and incredible strength (he tears the door off a police cruiser with his bare hands). So what does it mean for such a movie to “be real”?
*. I think it just meant that, while the Leprechaun has magical powers, the laws of physics still apply in most situations, and that if he’s going to use a mechanical tool, the toy car in this case, to achieve a certain result it has to be able to achieve that result on its own. Now obviously such a car would simply bounce off a truck, not send it into a roll, which was in turn offending these rules.
*. The bigger takeaway, however, is that by this point in the movie the audience had already given up on Leprechaun. It was obviously a Very Stupid Movie that was meant to be heckled. And coming out of the cineplex I think we all agreed it was just terrible. I wasn’t eager to renew my acquaintance with the little man in green. But, on this the first time I’ve been back to take a second look, to my surprise I rather sort of liked it. It’s still a terrible movie, to be sure, but it seemed like a harmless bit of fun.
*. It didn’t start out that way. Apparently writer-director Mark Jones had just wanted to do a horror film but Davis lobbied for more humour. Then some parts had to be re-shot to make it gorier for the target audience. The result is a bit of a tonal mess, but there were a number of movies occupying the same ground at the time. Jones admits being influenced by Critters and I was thinking of Arachnophobia while watching it. Not really funny or scary then, but at least something different than the usual slasher murder rally.
*. You can tell it’s not the usual slasher right away because these are all sympathetic characters. We don’t immediately want to see any of them get killed. And indeed all of the major characters will survive (the movie has a total body count of only four, which is a tally you’d expect Jason to hit in a pre-credit sequence). It’s harder than Disney, but it’s not hard.
*. After a long intro/credit sequence it’s ten years later and we kick things off with . . . an overhead/aerial car shot! I’ve wondered before about where this became obligatory in horror movies. I also wonder if directors are even conscious of borrowing it (from The Shining?), or if it’s just become a reflex.
*. Introducing Jennifer Aniston, who would be embarrassed by it in later years. I don’t know why. Everyone gets their start somewhere. Scarlett Johansson got her break in Eight Legged Freaks. Charlize Theron? Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest. Which is the same discount franchise that introduced us to Naomi  Watts in The Gathering. Leonardo DiCaprio’s debut was Critters 3. These things happen. I mean, Ken Olandt co-stars as Nathan here, a more buff version of Kevin Bacon wearing a wifebeater and a tool belt. I even thought he was Kevin Bacon the first time I saw him. And what was one of Kevin Bacon’s first roles? A soon-to-be-corpse in Friday the 13th. You see? Everyone starts somewhere.
*. OK, being critical I have to say there isn’t a single funny line or good kill in the entire movie. But Aniston is watchable and the evil little guy is amusing with his obsessions over his gold on the one hand and shining everyone’s shoes on the other. This was a character with a lot of potential: a trickster with a bag of gold and a heart of pitch. Unfortunately he doesn’t get a lot of help here from the script, relegated to repeating the same dull catch phrases, and not sounding terribly Irish either. What’s even more depressing is that his potential would largely continue to go unrealized for another seven movies (as of this counting). And all he ever wanted was his gold!

12 thoughts on “Leprechaun (1993)

      1. Alex Good Post author

        Alas, I’ll only be doing the Lep’ films (he calls himself that, when in tha hood). I do have write-up on the Critters movies ready to go at some point though.

  1. Tom Moody

    Despite the decline of tag line quality since the ’70s we’ve been discussing, “The luck of the Irish… just ran out” is pretty good, I think. Maybe good bad?
    Having not seen this I struggled a bit with your image of the tiny car and the pickup truck.
    He crashes a tiny car into the side of the truck, causing the truck to do a 180 degree flip (at a right angle to his tiny car)?
    At first when I read “drives a tiny electric car into a pick-up truck” I thought he was going up a ramp into the bed of the truck and was even more lost.

    1. Alex Good

      I didn’t remember that tag line! That’s great! Of course all of them are good bad. I like the matching ones for Dr. Giggles: “The doctor is out . . . of his mind.” “The doctor is in . . . sane.”

      The awful/awesome car scene can be enjoyed here:

  2. Tom Moody

    Yikes, that is pretty much Three Stooges humor without the comic timing. Not to defend this movie, but the truck’s 180 degree roll *does* take place on a downhill slope, so gravity is doing some of the work. It’s funny it was a theatregoer’s “be real!” tipping point, though.

    1. Alex Good

      I think it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I like how the scene is edited so you don’t actually see the car pushing the truck over. Because it sort of looks like it would be too low to even hit it squarely.


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