Leprechaun Returns (Movie Review)

Leprechaun Returns (Movie Review)
7 10

PLOT: When the Leprechaun from the original LEPRECHAUN film returns after being trapped in a well for twenty-five years, the continuing search for his lost gold puts him in conflict with a group of sorority girls.

REVIEW: The LEPRECHAUN franchise goes back to the well, literally, with the latest sequel LEPRECHAUN RETURNS (WATCH IT HERE), which is not only more true to the first six films in the series than the forgettable misfire of a reboot LEPRECHAUN: ORIGINS was (you wouldn't be missing anything if you didn't even acknowledge ORIGINS as being part of this franchise), but is actually a direct follow-up to the first LEPRECHAUN. Released in 1993, that film ended with a melting Leprechaun tumbling into a well after getting a four-leaf clover shot down his throat, but it left the door wide open for a sequel. The final shot was of the well, with the voice of the Leprechaun coming from within to say, "Curse this well that me soul shall dwell, 'til I find me magic that breaks me spell." When LEPRECHAUN 2 came out the following year, I fully expected it to be about the Leprechaun rising out of that well to wreak more havoc. But the films took a different approach. Rather than follow one evil Leprechaun from movie to movie, each entry in the franchise has centered on a different evil Leprechaun. All of them in those first six films just happened to be played by Warwick Davis.

Twenty-five years later, we have gotten the sequel I thought LEPRECHAUN 2 would be. Directed by Steven Kostanski from a screenplay by Suzanne Keilly, LEPRECHAUN RETURNS does bring the Leprechaun up out of that well - but yes, there is some awkwardness here due to the fact that Warwick Davis opted not to return for this sequel, saying he doesn't feel comfortable working in the horror genre now that he's a father. (Although he says he might return to horror after his kids are past the age of 18.) The first time a Leprechaun from a previous film has come back for a sequel, and it's not even played by the same guy. That's a little strange, it takes some getting used to. Taking over the role of the Leprechaun is Linden Porco, who wasn't even born yet when the first LEPRECHAUN came out. Not that age matters much when the actor is buried under the hideous Leprechaun makeup. If you can accept that the first Leprechaun is back but now looks and sounds different, you might find, as I did, that Porco does a commendable job in the role. Davis is missed, but Porco makes for a cool killer Leprechaun in his own right.

Kostanski certainly gave Porco ample opportunity to prove himself. The Leprechaun gets a lot of screen time and a ton of dialogue. This guy is chatty, with a quip for every occasion. There were times when I felt like he was talking too much, as he had already delivered a serviceable one-liner for a situation and yet kept dropping more of them.

The events of this film are set almost entirely at the same farmhouse location that served as the first movie's primary location, a farmhouse that is now owned by a college and has become home to the newly formed Alpha Upsilon sorority. The girls there are very mindful of the environment, planting their own garden, setting up solar panels, and tapping into the old well as their water source. That's the sort of activity the Leprechaun has been needing so he can make his escape.

One of those girls is Lila (Taylor Spreitler), daughter of Jennifer Aniston's LEPRECHAUN character Tory, who has met a tragic fate since we last saw her. Lila has heard all about the Leprechaun, but believed that her mother was mentally ill. Now she has made the unwise decision to join the sorority that lives in the house formerly owned by her family, and she quickly comes to realize that the Leprechaun story was true. Once she does this, she steps up to become a fun and clever heroine.

Another connection to the original film is the presence of Mark Holton as the good-natured Ozzie, who accidentally swallowed one of the Leprechaun's gold coins back in the day. The return of Ozzie was welcome here, and he had a part to play in the film that was both sad and amusing.

The LEPRECHAUN movies have always been dumb fun horror-comedies, and LEPRECHAUN RETURNS follows suit, although this one has a bit of a smarter edge than some of its predecessors. Keilly wrote a funny script, pitting the Leprechaun against members of the modern generation that are obsessed with causes and technology. This allows the Leprechaun to turn environmentally friendly items into weapons, take a ride on a drone, and pose in more than one selfie with potential victims whose first impulse when seeing him is to take a picture with him.

Keilly worked as a writers assistant on the entire first season of Ash vs. Evil Dead, then wrote an episode of the second season, and the humor of that show seems to have been an influence on some moments in LEPRECHAUN RETURNS, especially in a scene where a character played by Pepi Sonuga (an actress who was in several episodes of Ash vs. Evil Dead) has to pass by a dead body, another scene that's reminiscent of ARMY OF DARKNESS, and when Lila gets some guidance from the silent ghost of a decaying, mutilated Leprechaun victim.

With a runtime of 93 minutes, LEPRECHAUN RETURNS moves along at a good pace, and I found that it got more and more enjoyable as it went along. It only takes about 15 minutes for the Leprechaun to make his entrance and Lila knows about him not long after that, allowing for more than half of the movie to focus on the Leprechaun terrorizing the sorority girls, knocking them and their friends off in a variety of ways, most of them gory.

For me, the absence of Warwick Davis was this movie's only drawback, but Linden Porco was a fine replacement, so it turned out to be quite entertaining even if the returning Leprechaun isn't exactly the Leprechaun we knew before. With Davis out of the game, I'd gladly watch more LEPRECHAUN movies starring Porco.

LEPRECHAUN RETURNS is now available on Digital HD and VOD.



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