Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Thursday, March 14, 2019

A YEAR OF SLASHERS: Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997)

By the time a horror series has reached outer space, it usually means the series has irrevocably jumped the shark. It has reached that magical point where it’s no longer believable, where all good will has been spent, where it’s impossible to take it seriously anymore. To say the “Leprechaun” series jumped the shark with “Leprechaun 4: In Space” implies the series had any respectability or realism to loose. If anything, shooting the Leprechaun into outer space was an inevitability, a fulfillment of the series’ inherent ridiculousness. With this in mind, it’s not a surprise that “Leprechaun 4: In Space” is easily the most entertaining entry in the misbegotten franchise. The film seems to laugh off any and all detractors with its on-the-nose subtitle. “The Leprechaun is in space this time. Of course he is. Why wouldn’t he be?”

Since there’s zero continuity between the “Leprechaun” films, no time is wasted explaining how Warwick Davis’ impervious imp got into outer space. This is, seemingly, an alien leprechaun who just happens to look, sound, and act exactly like the same character from the last three movies. In the distant future, a squad of space marines land on an alien planet, with plans to rescue an alien princess from the Leprechaun. When the fearsome fairy is exploded, a marine pees on his corpse. Using his powers, the Leprechaun stowaways onto the ship inside the man’s ball sack. Meanwhile, a mad cyborg scientist notices the princess’ blood has healing properties. When the Leprechaun escapes, he reestablishes his plans to marry the princess, steal his gold back, and gruesomely murder anyone who gets in the way.

All the previous “Leprechaun” films have been shamelessly dumb. Part three, with its magically growing asses and robot strippers, pushed the series even further into nuttiness. “In Space” gleefully leaps off that slope. The film is genuinely demented. Look no further than the way the Leprechaun survives his opening death. Has any other horror series featured its main villain bursting forth from a man’s neither regions? The movie’s bent streak runs wild on its supporting characters. The hard-ass general, who happens to have a metallic dome for a head, is suddenly transformed into a lisping cross-dressing. The strangest subplot is reserved for the mad scientist. When introduced, he is half a torso sputtering around on a set of wheels, various tubes pumping in and out of his body. His quest to regenerate his body goes horribly awry with the Lep’s help. Dr. Mittenhand ends up transforming into a Brundlefly style fusion of man and spider! (The movie actually goes out of its way to reference both versions of “The Fly.”) What the hell this has to do with the rest of the plot is not really important. Where else are you going to see such a bizarre combination of story elements?

The movie fully exploits Warwick Davis’ hammy quality. The film sees the Leprechaun leaping into a few different outfits, without reason. One scene has him dressed up as a cowboy, swinging pistols. The beginning sees him in a tux with a cigarette holder, trying to seduce the space princess. He sings “Danny Boy” and quotes Shakespeare. Even if suddenly sci-fi-ized horror sequels are generally looked down on, one thing they are certain to feature is an amusing juxtaposition of the series villain and the outer space setting. “In Space” is no different. The beginning has the Lep leaping onto a primed grenade. This is after he murders one of the space marines with a light saber. He drops a giant crate on somebody, survives laser blasts, cuts open a containment suit, and has his gold shrunk with a shrink ray. That same size-changing ray comes into play when the little Leprechaun suddenly becomes a giant one! Yep, the movie goes there. It goes even further, as the titular threat is offed when he’s sucked out the airlock, exploding in the vacuum of space. My god.

That “In Space” is so delightfully nuts can probably be attributed to director Brian Trenchard-Smith, who directed the also-crazy part three. Trenchard-Smith’s ability to put together decent cast even inside low-budget schlock is on display here too. The film’s main heroes, a good-hearted jarhead and a sexy lady scientist, are snore-inducing. The supporting cast is more likable. Guy Siner goes gleefully over-the-top as Dr. Mittenhand, acting like a crazy person. Gary Grossman, as Mittenhand’s sleazy assistant, is nearly as deranged. Tom Colceri, the second cyborg in the cast, seems to be parodying the idea of the hard-ass marine boss, while also being a robot. Horror regular Miguel A. Nunuz Jr. also has the proud distinction of twice playing a black guy who makes it to the end in a horror movie. Former “Baywatch” babe Rebecca Colton isn’t very good as the alien princess. However, the movie is amusingly shameless about her nude scene, lampshading its sheer gratuitous quality.

In order to appreciate “Leprechaun 4: In Space,” one needs to have an appetite for utterly ridiculous horror schlock. To call it a good movie by any traditional metrics is fallacious. However, taken on its own merits, as a gleefully unhinged B-movie, it provides certain pleasures. A movie that presents images like this has to have value, man. [7/10]

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