Anything – and I mean *anything* – Steven Kostanski’s Leprechaun Returns trotted out as a Celtic franchise continuation was going to outshine 2014’s Leprechaun Origins. You could have forced Warwick Davis’ successor Linden Porco to recite ninety minutes of Lucky Charms product placement and it’d have been an improvement. Thankfully, there’s more to this revival than “hearts, stars, and horseshoes” limericks. How *much* more will depend on your B-grade mileage, given kills and rhyming zingers are at a premium instead of collective packaging. It’s the practical showcase you’d expect from effects guru Kostanski (The Void/Astron-6 productions), hoping to distract from a goopy cauldron of body parts and shallow cinematic depth.
Taylor Spreitler stars as Lila, AU Sorority House’s newest sister and resident. As part of a premiere eco-science college, the ladies of AU decide to upgrade their home sweet home into a “perfect” all-green utopia. Unfortunately for the girls, their remodel frees a leprechaun (Linden Porco) previously trapped for twenty-five years. Now he’s back in search of his stolen gold, and he’ll kill anyone in his way – especially confused Greek life stooges who refuse to help.
Let’s start on a positive foot forward: bloodshed. Writer Suzanne Keilly challenges Kostanski with prosthetic-heavy deaths, and boy does Leprechaun Returns deliver wet, sloppy mutilation. Even the Leprechaun’s reintroduction is caked in mess as he bursts through a heavyset local’s stretchy gut lining. You’ll holler as the film’s resident dudebro (Ben McGregor) gets sliced straight down his coronal plane by a falling solar panel, a garden sprinkler impales one girl and sprays blood, there’s a gnarly hover drone decapitation – slashings are, as a constant, the film’s braggadocious strength. Most spectacularly when the Leprechaun endures harm, since he cannot die despite an assortment of gruesome injuries sustained (skewerings, burnings, beheadings, etc.).
Count Leprechaun Returns among recent franchise additions that neglect multiple sequels to follow only the original. Lila is Tory Reading’s daughter (making Jennifer Aniston’s character mama), and the first person she meets is surviving clover-enthusiast Ozzie (Mark Holton). No talk of Compton’s streets or Warwick Davis’ other zany horror comedy adventures, with the film instead opting for a riff off Child’s Play rebirths as scarred and singed Mr. Leprechaun gets back to his old grind. This connection allows characters to play up Lila’s “craziness” – a descendant of the woman who cried “Leprechaun” – even though Kelly’s writing never tries to blend psychological trauma with the Leprechaun’s very real threat.
Hence the film’s biggest issue: you’re here for the deaths – who cares about the rest? It’s never made abundantly clear *how* the Leprechaun escapes his soggy well prison, or what can kill it, or which rules are in play. We know Lila’s gold coin necklace burns the microfreak’s skin, and clovers are weapons (“You can ferment any plant into alcohol,” cut to a jar of “Clover Juice”). It’s all a bit fuzzy, as plot beats are only ever about isolating characters for another grand death. Splitting up, betraying one another, or my “favorite” horror movie trope, an entire car full of people look away from the road simultaneously – after narrowly avoiding danger – only to then crash thanks to a *completely avoidable* obstacle.
Generic Earth Day warriors motivated by cringe-y coincidences even by horror standards – tell me if you’ve heard this one before (you have).
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Porco’s transformation into the Leprechaun smacks of Davis’ mischievous knee-high meanie only less horrific, but still a *massive* upgrade over Leprechaun Origins’ feral mute. Victims interact with a “despicable troll” who’s keen on toying (aka taking selfies) with dumbfounded prey before brutally murdering them. If Porco’s Leprechaun bashes someone with a hammer, he’s going to squeal “Hammer time!” and shuffle “U Can’t Touch This” style (Lila’s given a “cheat sheet” that notes the Leprechaun’s hacky stand-up routine).
Linden Porco is not Warwick Davis, and nostalgia goggles might be too much for some to overcome, but Porco’s perfectly serviceable as a future-confused Leprechaun 2.0 (“A walkman and a camera all in one!”). He’s a malicious and mouthy trickster who’ll tickle your punny bone before ripping it out, sharpening the point, and slicing your throat. At least when he’s not using his telepathic powers to launch weapons or cleaning up tossed shoes because no one likes a messy closet (still not sure why this scene exists).
Alas, Leprechaun Returns fails to charm via “latex isn’t biodegradable” condom jokes and co-ed sorority humor that distracts from eco-friendly violence. Callbacks to Army Of Darkness evoke a goofier brand of magical midnight mangler, but funny games only provide so much relief. An aspiring filmmaker (Oliver Llewellyn Jenkins) and his “Wener Hertzcog” moment, Rose’s (Sai Bennett) desire to succeed at *any* cost, Katie’s (Pepi Sonuga) ridiculous faceplant into a pile of guts (on par with Alexandra Daddario’s trip over the world’s tiniest fence in Texas Chainsaw 3D) – all weak character development examples that detract from an otherwise good time.
Maybe these devices won’t bother some of you, and if not, you’re clear for takeoff. Those demanding more than desecrated corpses, though? Drink every time you roll your eyes at another overused contrivance or hammed-up Leprechaun jest. You didn’t think you’d escape a “Shamrock Shake” joke, did you?
Leprechaun Returns mixes red blood and green goo with exquisitely gory results, but Steven Kostanski’s command of over-the-top deaths isn’t enough to distract from the film’s flat-footed storytelling jig.