Leprechaun Returns Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by Lionsgate
Directed by Steven Kostanski
Written by Suzanne Keilly
2018, 86 minutes, Rated R
Released on December 11th, 2018
Taylor Spreitler as Lila Reding
Linden Porco as The Leprechaun
Mark Holton as Ozzie
Pepi Sonuga as Katie
Sai Bennett as Rose
Emily Reid as Meredith
The beautiful thing about life is that it teaches you to expect the unexpected. Wouldn’t you agree? When I first heard about a “direct sequel” to the original Leprechaun, I literally laughed out loud. Yes, for the record, that’s an LOL. I thought to myself, “That’ll be a shitshow”. I believed it, too. I really did.
I must give full disclosure here: while I give full faith and credit to Warwick Davis and the character that spawned seven sequels and a minor cult phenomenon, I have never been the biggest fan of the series. I haven’t even seen the entire series! A big chunk of my Leprechaun connection (past the first three movies, anyways) comes from Wayne’s World 2. I mean, we all love Warwick Davis (Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi, Willow, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2), but it just didn’t tickle my pickle like the darker genre stuff did.
Here’s the rub though, Leprechaun Returns, for better or worse, is indeed a legitimate sequel to an early ‘90s film that shouldn’t have been that big, a film that also starred a then-unknown Jennifer Aniston (over a year before Friends ever hit it big). People tend to forget the importance of the series as a whole, ya’ dig?
The point is that those diminutive footsteps are surprisingly large ones to follow in.
Leprechaun Returns picks up 25 years after the original film (as if the seven sequels never occurred). Lila Reding (Taylor Spreitler; Days of Our Lives) is the daughter of Tory Reding (the original Jennifer Aniston role), a recently deceased headcase who never got over her fears. Her mother and friends defeated the evil Leprechaun by jamming a four-leaf clover in his mouth and stuffing him down a well. Unfortunately, you must utterly destroy a Leprechaun in order to finish him off. As Lila returns to the proverbial scene of the crime, he awakens. Using the body of Ozzie (Mark Holton; Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure) and extracting vengeance in the process, the Leprechaun returns to our world to find his lost pot of gold and kill as many people as he possibly can. Lila and her newfound sorority sisters, easy-as-pie Katie (Pepi Sonuga; Ash vs. Evil Dead); anal-retentive Rose (Sai Bennett; Lake Placid: Legacy); and the shockingly alcoholic Meredith (newcomer Emily Reid) are about to experience the vengeance of the little people!
What really caught me off guard is just how much it feels like a true sequel. In the wake of Danny McBride and David Gordon Green’s success with Halloween in 2018, the studios are snatching up the “true sequel” scripts. I have no beef with this. Horror is a beautifully recycled monster, and you pay homage to the ones who put your genre on the map. I repeat: zero beef. It’s all good. At the end of the day, I’m all about furthering horror in the mainstream and the fringes.
The new Leprechaun, Linden Porco (Channel Zero: The Dream Door), has the chops to carry a franchise into the next generation. I expected to be jarred into damn near submission by the difference between he and Warwick, and I simply am not bothered by it. I’m just being honest. If anything, there’s a freshness to his performance that you can’t duplicate.
Bottom line: Leprechaun Returns is a lot of fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, instead eschewing to the classic horror mantra of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. The kills are gory enough to satiate the urge without being so over the top that it becomes parody or camp. That’s a hard line to walk, maintaining a classic horror vibe without going full Troma (not that Troma is a bad thing depending on subject matter).
While the Leprechaun isn’t quite on a par with Freddy or Jason, he isn’t that far off, either. There’s a level of reverence that must be maintained for the franchise, and director Steven Kostanski (the criminally underrated The Void) understands that. That’s damn refreshing to see.
It’s a nice nod to return Mark Holton (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Leprechaun) as Ozzie. He carries a certain weight and humanity that ties you back to the original while keeping you grounded. I’ll be damned if there wasn’t a small tear in my eye at the end of the movie. Excellent work, sir. I hope more horror filmmakers require your services.
In short, Leprechaun Returns is a return to form for a franchise that takes itself just seriously enough to restart a franchise in the proper fashion. I hope to see Linden Porco and company again, complete with four-leaf clovers, archetypal characters, and cheesy limericks sometime in the near future.