Judge John Floyd finds Leprechaun 3 scream queen Lee Armstrong magically delicious!
"Nathan! That was no fuckin' bear!"
In Leprechaun 2, a greedy con artist traps the titular antagonist in a safe and demands the three wishes to which anyone capturing a leprechaun is, according to legend, entitled. If I had three wishes right at this moment, the first would be that Leprechaun 2 was as much fun as the tongue-in-cheek Leprechaun or the almost defiantly ridiculous Leprechaun 3. My other two wishes would involve world peace, and having my own Star Destroyer crewed by the Deal or No Deal models (including the alternates).
Facts of the Case
Lionsgate has repackaged the first three (and best) films in the Leprechaun series, just in time for National Drink-'til-You-Puke Day—er, St. Patrick's Day
A young Jennifer Aniston stars in Leprechaun, a 1993 Trimark film that successfully apes the time-tested Full Moon formula by pitting relatively unknown actors against a completely absurd monster, on a budget seemingly scraped together from between the seat cushions of Executive Producer Mark Amin's Mercedes Benz. I say "successfully" because the film not only turned a tidy profit and spawned (to date) five sequels, but it also manages to be a very entertaining ride. Of course, the filmmakers don't take the tale of a murderous leprechaun out to reclaim his stolen pot of gold from the unsuspecting family that has inherited it very seriously, but that's the way it should be. We're not meant to, either.
Warwick Davis (Willow) has an absolute blast underneath the excellent make-up (by Gabe Z. Bartalos), taunting his amiable costars with sinister limericks and chasing them around like Chucky on an Irish whiskey bender. Aniston is cute and personable in what could now be viewed as a screen test for her Friends role. Here she plays Tory Redding, a pampered city girl who is decidedly out of her element spending the summer in her father's rundown, fixer-upper cottage in North Dakota. She and the supporting cast throw themselves wholeheartedly into the ludicrous action, fleeing from Davis as though he was the devil incarnate, and reacting with suitable horror when he stops to eat a wriggling cricket or replace his own ruptured eyeball with one plucked from one of his victims.
Best of all is the Mark Jones script, which is remarkably tight for such a low-budget and inherently silly horror spoof. Genre conventions, like a car that won't start at the worst possible time or weapons handily left in opportune places, are actually cleverly set up earlier in the story, rather than simply being thrown in haphazardly for narrative convenience. There are plenty of Irish and leprechaun gags throughout (my personal favorite being the fact that the antagonist, a "shoemaker by trade," can't resist the urge to shine every shoe he comes across, even if it means letting his victims get away), most delivered very effectively and without distracting significantly from the action. In fact, things get rolling fairly early on in Leprechaun and never really let up. Before you've had a chance to realize with great embarrassment that you're actually enjoying a film about a psychotic leprechaun, the end credits (which include a Special Thanks to then outgoing Vice-President Dan Quayle!) will be rolling across your screen.
Leprechaun 2 is the only one of the three films included presented in widescreen—ironic, considering that it is easily the worst. When Davis is chewing the scenery, it's a reasonably enjoyable, bargain basement horror-comedy. When he's absent, this one is a task to sit through.
The plot involves the leprechaun trying to make good on a 1000-year-old vow to marry the fairest descendant of a disloyal servant. Predictably, in the course of securing the lass in question, our evil imp misplaces a shilling from his beloved pot of gold. The coin falls into the hands of the girl's boyfriend, who must find a way to exchange it for the woman of his dreams before she starts churning out little lucky charms all over Los Angeles. Screenwriters Tori Meyer and Al Septien completely ignore logic, characterization, and continuity in this half-hearted follow-up, introducing throwaway plot devices like the antagonist's inexplicable aversion to lead and the "three wishes" bit mentioned in my Opening Statement with all the care of a blind drunk college kid trying to cook a three-course meal at 4:00 a.m. Despite a few clever kill scenes (a man is magically duped into kissing whirling lawnmower blades; the aforementioned conman receives the pot of gold he wished for inside his own stomach) and a funny drinking contest between the leprechaun and an eventual victim, the whole affair is as dull as it is inane.
The worst part of the film is female lead Shevonne Durkin, whose subsequent achievements include a single episode of Silk Stalkings and one installment of The Love Boat: The Next Wave before apparently leaving Hollywood in 2001. Miss Durkin is pretty enough, I guess, but hardly so stunning that her absolutely abysmal performance could be forgiven by even the most oversexed male viewer. Her stilted, emotionless delivery is reminiscent of a non-English speaking tourist reading phonetically from an English phrasebook. Her best opportunity to prove her worth to the production—a topless scene—is obviously handled by a body double, and at no time is the audience even close to rooting for costar Charlie Heath to rescue her from her fate. As long as she's in the leprechaun's hands, Davis is there to carry her scenes. Though it's fair to reiterate that Durkin isn't given much to work with by the writers, it's equally fair to say that she does even less with it than one might reasonably expect from an aspiring scream queen. With all the shapely starlets in Tinseltown seeking their big break, this is the best the producers of this movie could do?
Until Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood in 2003, one endearing quality of this series was its penchant for finding a new gimmick for each successive entry. Leprechaun 3 finds our greedy little goblin stalking the streets of a town tailor-made for him, Las Vegas. Having somehow been turned into a statue by a magical amulet of unknown origin, he is sold to a Sin City pawnbroker for $20 by a fellow sporting two prosthetic limbs. While the pawnshop owner is inadvertently reviving the malevolent leprechaun, a farm boy (John Gatins) passing through on his way to college in L.A. picks up a stranded magician's assistant (Lee Armstrong) and gives her a ride to her place of employment, the Lucky Shamrock Casino. The naïve kid immediately blows all of his tuition check on a rigged roulette wheel, stumbles upon one of the leprechaun's gold coins, uses its power to clean up at the casino, becomes infected with leprechaun blood during a confrontation with the angry little bugger, and eventually begins turning into a gold-hording gremlin himself. Only his shapely new friend and the mysterious necklace medallion can save him from an eternity of starring in direct-to-video sequels to this flick.
As convoluted as it is, Leprechaun 3 is great fun if taken in the right spirit. Davis outdoes himself, clearly enjoying the opportunity to spend a week hanging out with showgirls and harassing tourists while in full costume. Horror fans will be overjoyed to see Caroline Williams ("Stretch" from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) stealing the show here as an opportunistic casino worker, and old-timers like myself will enjoy veteran character actor Michael Callan (Mysterious Island, The Magnificent Seven Ride!) giving as good as he gets as her lecherous boss. Others having a grand old time with the silly material include TV and voiceover actors John DeMita, Marcelo Tubert, and Leigh Allyn Baker. Gatins is decent throughout, but especially fun when he begins to transform into Davis' taller twin. Best of all is the gorgeous Armstrong, who is not only an immeasurable improvement over the female lead of the previous installment in the acting department, but gamely spends most of the film in her eye-popping stage outfit—high heels, fishnet stockings, and a skimpy leather maillot that shows enough cleavage to justify the film's R-rating even without the graphic violence (and a later topless appearance by a bit player). Perhaps it's a bit sexist to dwell on the aesthetic appeal of Miss Armstrong (who would later serve as an intern on The Howard Stern Show), but this is, after all, an exploitation movie. Her youthful beauty is also a minor plot point, and the producers clearly picked an actress perfectly suited for the role.
Some of the gags in the film are too much, such as an EKG test result consisting of little shamrocks that spell out "FUCK YOU," or a scene in which Callan is dispatched by a sex robot (Don't even ask!). For the most part, though, the crude absurdity of the humor is perfectly in keeping with the cartoonish concept and garish setting. In one scene, a third-rate magician is doing his act in the lobby of the casino. As he's about to make something materialize in his hand, Davis waves his shillelagh and leaves the inept illusionist with a palm full of green leprechaun poo. Charming? Hardly. If you've come this far with the series, however, you're unlikely to be offended by this and other, similar bits of bad taste on display here.
One final note about Leprechaun 3: Despite its low-rent execution and lowbrow comedy, it does have an air of authenticity that anyone having spent a night or two in Vegas will appreciate. Hollywood rarely shows you the seedier side of the gambling Mecca, film and TV producers preferring to shoot even the grittiest of crime dramas inside the most lavish, upscale casinos and hotels. If you've been there, though, you know that there are plenty of dives on the outer edges of the famous Strip where the faded carpet is stained with cheap liquor and barely tacked down, the air is heavy with the pungent aroma of broken dreams, and the uninspired décor is nearly as rundown as the poor Joes and Janes working the battered tables. The casino featured in this film is just such a place, and the filmmakers deserve kudos for giving it to us straight, whether by design or budgetary necessity.
There are no extras in this set. The best one can say about the presentation is that the video and audio are decent, and each film is on its own disc, rather than having all three crammed onto a single DVD at the expense of visual quality. Thankfully, the suggested retail price of $14.98 is less than you'd pay if you bought these exact same threadbare releases individually.
If you enjoy Child's Play and Seed of Chucky equally, despite their radically different approaches to basically the same material, you will probably appreciate Leprechaun and Leprechaun 3. Leprechaun 2 is worth watching only with the fast forward button close at hand.
These are movies about a killer leprechaun, starring that Ewok guy from
Return of the Jedi. If you know that much about this set and are still
considering picking it up, go for it. Hardcore fans might find the bare bones
presentation a bit disappointing, but even they are likely to view a release
like this one with the proper perspective. Not guilty.
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