THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Directed by Mark Jones
“It’s stupid, but somehow it works.”
It’s that magical time of year, ladies and gentlemen. Today is St. Patrick’s Day, better known as my old man’s birthday (his name is Patrick no less). Happy birthday, Dad! He appreciates the fact that many of you will honor him by dressing in green today and then later venturing out for gallons of green beer. Thank you in advance all for celebrating his birthday. And since we’re now all in the celebratory mood, what better time to revisit the ultimate Irish horror movie: 1993’s LEPRECHAUN.
In case no one has ever stolen a leprechaun’s coins (or seen the film), the story starts when Dan O’Grady (Shay Duffin) comes back home from Ireland after stealing a Leprechaun’s gold coins. Things go bad quickly when his wife gets dead, but O’Grady escapes by locking away the Leprechaun and hiding the gold coins. Flash-forward a decade and some new folks move into their house, dad J. D. (John Sanderford) and daughter Tory (Jennifer Aniston one year before Friends…by the way, I initially thought they were a couple as Aniston seems a bit old to be moving around with her dad). Thanks to a kid (Robert Hy Gorman) and Pee Wee Herman’s nemesis Francis (Mark Holton), the Leprechaun ends up loose and on the hunt for his precious gold coins…meaning people end up dead while he rhymes goofy limericks (though not always to the strict three long and two short lines formula).
Now, I have to admit that of the seven entries into the LEPRECHAUN franchise (with the last one a reboot in 2014) LEPRECHAUN IN THE HOOD remains my favorite. For whatever reason, that one works nearly perfectly as a horror/comedy…so utterly stupid that it's completely enjoyable. However, that doesn’t mean nothing good waits at the end of the rainbow of the original. If anything, LEPRECHAUN is unique. On the surface, it’s a garbage movie with juvenile writing, clichéd characters, and a murderous villain that no one can take serious (he rides a tricycle and wears roller skates for god’s sake). But like I said, it’s a horror/comedy, so that’s all on the surface. It's actually meant to be funny.
To start, writer/director Mark Jones smartly cast Warwick Davis in the title role and he kills it. Meaty roles for little people aren’t exactly bountiful, and those that do exist usually don’t amount to more than goof characters or sidekicks. But thanks to George Lucas, Davis received a hell of a role in 1988’s WILLOW. Davis was the Peter Dinklage of his day (though Dinklage’s talent has truly transcended his size). Anyway, while superstar Jennifer Aniston grabs any headline, Davis makes the movie something more than utterly forgettable. He doesn’t have a lot to work with, but he gives life to a ridiculous character while dropping lines like “What do I look like, me lad? See the hat? The buckles on me shoes? Why, I’m a leprechaun!” Or when he sings, “This old Lep, he played one. He played pogo on his lung.”
The rest of the cast really doesn’t matter because of Jennifer Aniston. Thanks to her, I never realized what a 1990’s time capsule LEPRECHAUN actually is. Not exactly the hippest movie ever made, but boy does Aniston look “hip” (and hot). She sports LA Gear shoes, a leather jacket, and patch covered jean shorts while saying things like, “I need my portable!” If the movie had a budget, I’m sure it would have had a killer grunge soundtrack.
Originally conceived as a kid’s horror movie (it could have ruined the holiday for a generation), Davis and company smartly made LEPRECHAUN an adult horror flick by adding a little gore and carnage, which they still could have amped up a bit more, as they did in the sequels. But still, LEPRECHAUN has some decent gore with some pretty funny moments like the Leprechaun hops on a pogo stick on a dude’s chest (until he dies) only to allow his OCD nature to force him to shine his dirty shoes. Actually, the funny shit stands out more. Like when he upgrades his tricycle for a low rider kid’s car. My favorite moment comes when Aniston tries to escape the farm to find O’Grady, so everyone keeps tossing shoes at the Leprechaun, because he can’t help himself but to shine each one of them. It’s stupid, but somehow it works. Just like the movie itself.