Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Sunday, March 17, 2019

A YEAR OF SLASHERS: Leprechaun: Origins (2014)

You may recall, not too long ago, when the biggest horror trend was remakes. The idea was so pervasive that even films of debatable status were being rebooted.  Producers believed that name recognition, no matter how small, could sell movies. That's how we got new versions of “April Fools' Day” or “Sorority Row.” So the time came to reboot “Leprechaun.” An often derided and utterly ridiculous franchise, the “Leprechaun” films nevertheless found a following thanks to Warwick Davis' refusal to say no to any goofy idea. When it was announced that the film-making division of pro-wrestling institution WWE would be producing a remake, fans widely assumed that Dylan Postl, a little person wrestler with the gimmick of dressing up as a leprechaun, would star. This proved correct. However, “Leprechaun: Origins” would not feature Hornswaggle rhyming or cracking jokes. Instead, the in-name-only reboot would take the series in a new direction completely rejected even by the non-discriminating “Leprechaun” fanbase.

“Leprechaun: Origins” has exactly one good idea. It's the first film in the shockingly long-running series to actually take place in Ireland. (Unsurprisingly, Canada stands in for the Emerald Isle.) In the grassy Irish countryside, something is killing tourists. College student Sophie and her friends – Ben, Jeni, and David – know nothing about this. They ride into the secluded grasslands, which are dotted with ancient standing stones. A local named Hamish encourages Sophie and her friends to hike even further into the countryside, to see more of the old sites. This is a set-up, it turns out. Hamish and his gang have been feeding unsuspecting tourists to a blood-thirsty leprechaun stalking the area. The kids, the monster's gold unknowingly planted on their bags, have to survive the night.

The producers of “Leprechaun: Origins” made the typical promises of going back to the franchise's roots, creating something darker that would still satisfy fans. Yet it's apparent these filmmakers never actually saw any of the Warwick Davis flicks. Those movies may have been offensively dumb but there was a certain charm in their go-for-broke silliness. On its surface, the idea of a pro-wrestler famous for dressing as a leprechaun playing the diminutive demon seems in keeping with this series dubious charms. Yet “Leprechaun: Origins” doesn't do that. Completely negating the reason for casting him, Dylan Postl is buried under make-up as an indistinct monster that looks nothing like a leprechaun. He doesn't talk, tell bad jokes, rap, smoke pot, wear a green hat, or even kill people in magical ways. The idea that he's after his gold is an afterthought. This is not a remake of the original “Leprechaun.” It's a totally generic modern monster movie that could've been about any sort of creature.

Building a horror movie around Celtic mythology has merit. It has nothing to do with the “Leprechaun” series as we know it but it's not a bad idea. Yet “Leprechaun: Origins” even fails when taken on its own merits. The leprechaun design is uninspired. Postl clearly has trouble moving in the awkward suit. There's some token mention of ancient monolithic stones or gold mines. This all ends up being window-dressing on a story otherwise preoccupied with college students being chased by a greasy critter. There's some pathetic attempt to mine drama out of the stereotypically conflicted backwoods yokels engineering the kids' situation. Especially embarrassing are the random insertions of character development for our youthful heroes. Like Sophie getting mad at her boyfriend for leaving her behind while a fucking monster attacks them. Or the completely pathetic one-liner she croaks before offing the beast in an uninteresting way.

More than anything else, “Leprechaun: Origins” is a boring motion picture that brings nothing to the table. Director Zach Lipovsky – a child actor turned director of uninspiring TV movies – does not distinguish himself. There's lots of shaky-cam and overly dark night-shooting, most of it seemingly designed to obscure the stiff monster suit. The movie has a washed-out and ugly appearance. Lipovsky's only trick of note is point-of-view shots, most of which just add to the generic horror look-and-feel of the production. The acting is hard to judge, as the characters are a completely undefined set of spam-in-the-van. The only actor that makes an impression is veteran voice-actor Garry Chalk as Hamish. And that's strictly because I recognized the voice of Optimus Primal showing up in this shitty movie.

By the way, the subtitle is completely meaningless. Though we get a moment of torturous exposition, no attempt is made to provide a definite origin for this or any other leprechaun. It's certainly not a prequel, remake, or even reboot of the established series. “Leprechaun: Origins” annoyed and bored me. It's not like the “Leprechaun” series has an especially high standard of quality. Somehow, this ill-conceived “reboot” is an exhausting piece-of-shit made to cash-in on the dwindling name recognition of a brand that was only valuable to horror nerds anyway. [2/10]

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