After watching all seven “Leprechaun” movies, my heart honestly sank when I remembered that SyFy Channel had done one with a similar name. “Well, I’m an obsessed completist,” I thought, “so I might as well give it a go”. And I’m really glad I did! By a mile, it’s the best leprechaun-titled movie we’ve covered at the ISCFC, and there’s lots of fun little things to talk about.
Almost effortlessly, we’re given a short and sweet history of the leprechaun which makes more sense than any of the official series – down on their luck Irish people move to the USA but take a magical creature with them, in a sack. They suck the luck out of this creature and become rich, but one day it escapes, leaving them with nothing (presumably to share the fate of the other Irish immigrants to the USA). The leprechaun, or “luchorpan”, has been twisted by having its luck drained, thus becoming the monster we will see a little later.
The acting is spot-on here, with SyFy and After Dark Films hiring some strong people. Out on a hunt are Karen and her grandad, “Pop”, played by Courtney Halverson and William Devane. Halverson is great, with appearances in “True Detective” and some really interesting movies under her belt, and Devane is of course TV royalty, perhaps best known for a decade on “Knot’s Landing” (but seriously, he’s been in everything). Karen picks a red clover from the ground, which burns her hand and releases the leprechaun from his tree-root prison. And it’s on!
Her Dad, Pop’s son, Conor, is the Sheriff, and he’s played by Billy Zane. Billy Zane! Add in a few other top-level performances, such as Azure Parsons as the Deputy, Karl Herlinger as local investigative reporter Karl, and Kelly Washington as Karen’s best friend Amanda, and this is a strong cast. Some of the high school boys are a bit cookie-cutter, but this is small potatoes for such a fun movie.
The red clover poison / curse causes Karen to hallucinate, and it’s done really well, tying in with the rest of the movie in a much better way than your average dream sequence. There’s also a strong sense of humour on display, such as when the sort-of-but-not-really love interest is reading a book called “MILF” – only it stands for “Medieval Irish Legends & Folktales”. This got me thinking, “I’m sure I recognise the name of that writer” (well, I already knew who it was, but I’m trying to build up some drama for the next paragraph), so I checked and…
Anthony C Ferrante! Now, infinitely better known as the director of the “Sharknado” series, he wrote a few SyFy Channel movies (including “Ghostquake” and “House Of Bones”) and, in perhaps the awesomest bit of foreshadowing in SyFy history, even puts in a “Sharknado” reference in “Leprechaun’s Revenge”…a year before it was made! Karl is trying to interview the Deputy, and she mentions a tornado dropping sharks in a local lake, the dumb headline “Sharknado!”, and that’s why she doesn’t say anything to the press any more. I’d love to know how it happened, if SyFy saw the reference and decided to get Ferrante to make that movie, or it was already being planned and this was just very subtle viral marketing. Anyway.
Unlike “Leprechaun: Origins”, this movie gets to the killing, and gets to it quickly. Gold heals the monster, so that’s why it’s so interested in taking it (unlike other Leprechaun efforts, where he just seems to like it a lot), and happily slaughters anyone who has it. People drop like flies! Including several people you expected to make it to the end, as our heroes try and find the four magic horseshoes to turn into a totem that will kill ol’ Lep – well, I say totem, they describe it as a “four leaf cleaver”, which was a working title for the movie I believe. The end of the movie takes place during a St Patrick’s Day celebration, of course, and it looks like they went to some small town and just filmed their real one, as it’s way too big to have been paid for by SyFy (talking of which, it’s fairly gross for one of theirs).
You can tell this was made by fans of horror, as it’s got some nice references to genre classics in there. The “Silver Shamrock” brewery is presumably a “Halloween 3” reference (okay, I know I said classics, but anyway), and there’s a shot which is lifted from the end of “The Blair Witch Project” too. IMDB also lists a reference to “The Evil Dead”, but I don’t see it myself. Kudos to Ferrante and director Drew Daywalt (whose career seems to have stalled a little after this, sadly) for giving us fans a few easter eggs.
A word about the leprechaun itself, as you might spot from the screenshots, it’s not the highest-budget effect ever, being a guy in a suit, but it’s vastly better than the lazy old Irish stereotype of the other movies (or the frankly crappy effect in the WWE Films version). It looks like something that’s spent a few centuries in the root system of a tree, which is exactly what it’s supposed to be.
One last thing before we wrap this up and I tell you to go and buy this film immediately. Billy Zane, it might reasonably be said, doesn’t always look like he’s delighted to be there. He was in “Titanic”, and he maybe is a little sad at some of the paths his career has gone down – he’s sort of phoning it in a little at the beginning. But, if I was a betting man, I’d say the reason he chose this project was an absolutely amazing monologue he gets to deliver near the end, about how he lost his wife. It’s one of the more insane bits of movie dialogue I’ve ever heard, and Zane clearly loves performing it – I won’t spoil it, but it’s seriously worth the cost of admission on its own.
So, if you were thoroughly bored of Warwick Davis’ rhyming dialogue, and also want a good movie with fun, action, and plenty of decent characters, this could be the one for you. An absolute win for SyFy, and I hope when the “Sharknado” train runs out of steam, we get more great stuff like this. Actually, that’s a terrible thing to wish on anyone – I hope Ferrante gets to work with decent budgets and his own scripts.
Rating: thumbs up