It was only a few short months ago Leprechaun: Returns silently crept into the horrorsphere (by that I mean Twitter and Instagram, where I get all of my content in self-esteem depleted doses). Doing like they do, small teaser photos and stills revealed a taste as to what this SYFY Original had in store. 25 years after the original, no longer with the trademark voice, humor, and physicality of Warwick Davis in the titular role of the Leprechaun, and with an exhaustive back catalog of cheeseball sequels (which we’re not going to fault them for too much. Jason Voorhees also took a tour of the Space Station) – could Leprechaun: Returns really, actually be any good?
The answer is – heck yes.
“Thankfully, 2018 appears to be the year of shedding your sequels like an ambitious-less high school boyfriend, and like Blumhouse’s Halloween, Leprechaun: Returns‘ timeline kicks off immediately after the first one.”
I’m going to be totally upfront and honest in saying that my Leprechaun series knowledge is a smattering at best. I know he went to the hood, space, I know Jennifer Aniston was a quasi-vegetarian in the first one – hard facts only. Thankfully, 2018 appears to be the year of shedding your sequels like an ambitious-less high school boyfriend (maybe too personal a metaphor, but I’m keeping it), and like Blumhouse’s Halloween, Leprechaun: Returns‘ timeline kicks off immediately after the first one. Only, 25 years later. And that’s fine by me. Less research into a character’s evolving one-liners and mini modes of transportation. (Seriously, just in the first film he has a tricycle, TWO tiny cars, roller blades, skateboard moves, and a pogo stick kill)
So where does that leave us? Well, Leprechaun OG ended with our heroes (Jennifer Aniston and the overnight paint trio) speedballing a four-leaf clover into the feisty sprite, and kicking him 300-style into the old well. Now, 25 years later, Director Steven Kostanski and writer Suzanne Keilly have our
camp counsellors sorority girls setting up a new, eco-friendly, off-grid sorority, and have tapped the well for their water source. Uh oh, Leprechaun-os.
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Also, in some far stretch of the imagination (WHERE TIE-INS ARE NECESSARY AND MUST OCCUR) the new sorority sister Lila (Taylor Spreitler) also happens to be the daughter of Tory Reding, Jennifer Aniston’s character in the original film. And now she’s attending a sorority, at the house her mom sort of lived at- yeah. We’re just going to blaze on past this like it’s plausible. Tory is since deceased, spending much of her life as a shut-in and eventually dying of cancer. This in turn made her primary caregiver, young Lila, resourceful, slightly unhinged, and as socially awkward as Anna Kendrick in a rom-com.
Unfortunately, the rest of the sorority crowd don’t fare much better, all getting pretty one-note characterizations. There’s Meredith (Emily Reid) the alcoholic, Rose (Sai Bennett) the anally-retentive-do-gooder, and Katie (Pepi Sonuga) who plays a charming kind of ditzy smart. There are also two male tagalongs, who join the party purely to up our bodycount and have less personality than a rock in the well. But we didn’t come here to dissect and break down the tropes of a 40-year old sub-genre – that’s not the task for an eighth(!) installment of a franchise. We came to watch a psychopathic little Leprechaun quip funnies while dancing atop the corpses of society’s youths.
“We came to watch a psychopathic little Leprechaun quip funnies while dancing atop the corpses of society’s youths.”
And dance he shall. Linden Porco does a fine job as the Leprechaun. Though he isn’t the exact same as we remember – his coat’s been given an update, his beard and hair have been laid longer and fuller, and his face has been etched with wear and tear (..of being a well gremlin, I suppose) – he’s still able to convey the charm and wit of the feisty little foe we remember. And I’ll admit – at first, a Leprechaun movie without Warwick Davis sounded like A Nightmare on Elm Street without Robert Englund. And we all remember how that went. But, surprisingly – the our new Leprechaun is hip to the jive of 2018; taking selfies, drinking pressed juices, and riding drones.
And that’s not the only thing Leprechaun: Returns got right. The kills are spectacular fun. Without spoiling them, our Leprechaun is resourceful as ever; plucking solar panels, hoses, drones, and harnessing his own brand of Gaelic magic to dispose of the eco-conscious tots. And at round eight, original gore is really the only area you need to nail. Get those teens sliced and spliced as creatively as you can, and we’ll forget that Jennifer Aniston tie-in ever happened. Although we’re keeping Ozzie (Mark Holton). His was a delightful return.
At the end of the day, Leprechaun: Returns is as ludicrous and campy as it is a delightfully fun romp. Linden Porco does a find job picking up the hat and jigg of his predecessor – and after a heavy year of social commentary and deeply driven metaphors, it’s refreshing to return to some silly, slashin’ roots.
Leprechaun returns premiered on SYFY and is now available on VOD.