Halloween Endurance Test: Leprechaun (1993)
For a movie that would spawn five(!) sequels, 1993’s Leprechaun sure had an inauspicious start. It begins with the Leprechaun (Warwick Davis) warning the viewers that anyone who steals his gold won’t live through the night. Immediately jump to Dan O’Grady, a man returning from Ireland with the pot of gold. Enter the Leprechaun, who pushes Dan’s wife down a flight of stairs and promises further retaliation.
Ten minutes into the film and we’ve learned the basics behind leprechaun-ing, but we’ve also missed all the major plot points. How did the Leprechaun lose his gold? How did Dan get the gold through customs? How would he claim it? All questions we’re left asking ourself as the film jumps another 10 years into the future.
In the future, O’Grady’s house has been bought by J.D.; who’s father to (future Friends star) Tory Reding (Jennifer Aniston). J.D. has bought the dilapidated house and hired hunky, Kevin Bacon lookalike Nathan (Ken Olandt), younger brother Alex (Robert Gorman), and local klutz Ozzie (Mark Holton) to repaint it. Naturally, it takes no time for Tory to fall for Nathan, and for Ozzie to accidentally release the Leprechaun.
Where we learn that the proximity of the Leprechaun to his gold has an inverse effect on his magic powers. It’s interesting to note what powers the Leprechaun is given this early in the franchise, along with just how little screen-time he gets. Two sequels from now he’d be gambling in Vegas, but here he’s hiding in boxes while Tory flaunts her hair. Also interesting to watch how the Leprechaun’s mode of transportation evolves: from Benny Hill-style, fast-forwarded tricycle riding, to (killing a man with) a pogo stick, a Power Wheels truck, a skateboard, roller skates, a wheelchair, and a go-kart armed with a pitchfork.
This film’s all backwards. Alex is the one who finds (steals) the Leprechaun’s gold. Yet throughout the film, most of the Leprechaun’s victims are supporting cast members: O’Grady and his wife, a pawn shop owner, and a cop. The principal cast barely gets touched!
That said, there is a lot of blood. And “death by collapsed lung courtesy of a pogo stick” does have a nice ring to it. And kudos to director Mark Jones for including a scene where the Leprechaun finds a box of barely disguised Lucky Charms (here Lucky Clovers), chews some, and spits them out in disgust. That’ll teach General Mills to pass up a great cross-promotional opportunity like this!
I also love how Nathan has to get his foot caught in a bear trap to effectively stage a fight between him and the Leprechaun. How else could you get the two characters on the same level?
Continuing with the combat theme, we’re left with the question of “how do you fight a leprechaun?” The Universal/Hammer monsters all had recognizable, cultural antecedents: the Wolf Man is vulnerable to silver and wolf’s bane, Frankenstein’s monster to fire, Dracula/Vampires to stakes, sunlight, rivers, garlic, blood anemia. Much like say, the Troll, we’re in brand new territory here.
The only leprechaun lore most people know revolves around the pot of gold and finding it at the end of the rainbow. The Leprechaun’s weakness to four-leaf clovers is a clever appropriation of more Irish lore. His overpowering fondness for shoes? Entirely new. Who knew leprechauns were pint-sized foot fetishists?
This, along with the Leprechaun’s compulsion to ride every vehicle in the film would quickly be dropped when the sequel rolled around…
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