It has been said that Leprechaun is a bad movie. In fact, when the film was released in January of 1993, that opinion appeared to be the consensus. The truth of the matter is, though, that everyone in 1993 was wrong. They were too focused on their flannel over-shirts, their outrageous collection of Tyco Beanie Babies, and newfound Jurassic Park obsessions to realize that Leprechaun, the true cinematic masterpiece of ’93, packed more power than a four leaf clover.
Despite the overwhelmingly negative responses from critics, the staying power of Leprechaun is a testament to the actual quality of the film. As proof of its excellence, and in celebration of its 25th anniversary, here are three reasons why Leprechaun is pure cinematic gold.
There’s a reason why Leprechaun has multiple sequels (Including Leprechaun 4: In Space, which is honestly just the greatest film ever made) despite the frequent panning from critics, and it’s that the central villain is entertainingly addictive. Be it in Vegas, outer space, or deep in the heart of the hood, horror fans flock to spend more time with the “little green bastard” due to his naturally evil charisma and darkly hilarious quips. The Leprechaun is sadistic, not only in how he disposes of his victims, but in the way that he taunts them with a joke and a smile while doing so. He relishes his evilness in a similarly fun manner to killers such as Freddy Krueger and Charles Lee Ray/Chucky– but only one of the three frequently rhymes to his victims, thus making The Leprechaun truly superior in sheer entertainment value (If only by my logic). Warwick Davis shines as the character, bringing the signature element of cheeky humor to a film that was otherwise meant to elicit straightforward terror. Though Lep is considered against type for Davis, he owned the role brilliantly through several films, giving horror audiences one of their greatest- albeit most underappreciated- movie villains.
It Embraces Absurdity
Writer/director Mark Jones rarely, if ever, gets the credit that he deserves. Though he was mostly known for TV shows at the time, Jones desired to make his own film, eventually deciding that a low budget horror movie would be his best opportunity for a breakthrough. The director was heavily influenced by Critters and the use of small antagonists, but the idea of creating a villainous leprechaun was actually inspired by Lucky Charms commercials (A magically delicious fun fact if there ever was one). Trimark Pictures embraced Jones’ idea, and the final product was steeped in every bit of ridiculousness as you could possibly hope for when tuning in to a film about an evil, murderous leprechaun.
The film is filled to the brim with charmingly quippy and horrendously quotable dialogue from our heroes and villain alike. From “Fuck you, Lucky Charms!” to “Little girls shouldn’t look for four leaf clovers,” Leprechaun implements pull-string dialect throughout the 88-minute runtime. The absurdity runs far beyond just dialogue, however, as Jones crafts scene after scene of smile-inducing lunacy that are reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons. Scenes such as Leprechaun exiting a barn in a car made of scrap materials and a pitchfork, chasing Jennifer Aniston in a wheelchair, and killing a chap with a pogo stick transcend Jones’ film to the type of gloriously insane movie that demands to be witnessed multiple times, preferably in a room filled with friends in search of a hilarious experience.
It’s a Holiday Classic
As a cinema buff, and as a horror fan, I gravitate towards holiday-themed movies when specific days arrive each calendar year. In the case of Saint Patrick’s Day, when very few films are actually about the holiday itself, Leprechaun is, and has always been, my go-to. Though its Irishness is questionable and likely offensive, the film presents an Irish legend as its selling point, and what more could you ask out of a St. Patty’s film? Just as other stations do Christmas and Halloween films, the Syfy channel adheres to the holiday spirit and celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day with Leprechaun and its sequels each year. I have my doubts that Mark Jones or Warwick Davis knew at the time that their film would one day become an unconventional holiday classic, but here we are, watching Leprechaun more often than The Godfather or Citizen Kane due to its holiday connection.
1993 was a rough year for Leprechaun, but the film has since established a strong cult following. Now, 25 years later, we can acknowledge the horror comedy for what it really is- an absurdist masterpiece. It sounds like gold, it smells like gold, and it tastes like gold. Me golden delicious gold.
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