Several years ago, it was announced that WWE’s Horswoggle would play the part of the Leprechaun from the quasi-iconic horror movie series. Being from WWE Films, it was naturally assumed it would be pretty bad and considering the Leprechaun series hadn’t had a movie in about ten years, and even then, the last three were about him going to space and visiting the hood twice, there didn’t seem to be too much promise. On the other hand, it wasn’t the worst casting. For years, Hornswoggle (real name Dylan Postl) has depicted a mischievous leprechaun in, around, and under the wrestling ring and Warwick Davis’ role was that of a mischievous leprechaun who murdered a lot of people. There was at least some potential in there.
Unfortunately, any and all hype about Postl playing the Leprechaun is completely misguided. He “stars” in this movie almost as much as Bela Lugosi “stars” in Plan 9 from Outer Space. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Leprechaun: Origins sounds like it’s a prequel to the 90’s movies, but it’s actually a reboot. In fact, it has very little to do with the original version anyway, especially in tone. Rather than go with an Irish Nightmare on Elm Street comedy horror, director Zach Lipovsky went with a more serious, grounded style.
It takes place in Ireland, where four college students are on the tail end of their lengthy trip. They hike through a rather ominous town where older men give them the stink-eye for mysterious reasons. As they hang out in a local pub, they make friends with an older local named Hamish (Garry Chalk), who appeals to their interest in history by telling them about a wondrous cave filled with all sorts of early Celtic ruins. He’s joined by his easily-agitated son Sean (Teach Grant) as they give the four kids a place to stay before their big, 7-hour hike. Naturally, all is not what it seems (I mean, to the four protagonists. We know where this is going) and there’s a creature loitering around the cabin.
Of our four potential victims, we have Sophie (Stephanie Bennett), a history enthusiast who wants to forego her dreams to get her masters and instead spend her time with her boyfriend Ben (Andrew Dunbar). Ben, a med student, looks like he’s ready to call off their relationship any minute and is also the most boring guy you will ever meet. With them are David (Brendan Fletcher) and Jeni (Melissa Roxburgh), who spend the first twenty minutes of the movie sucking face whenever possible and being completely obnoxious. Obnoxious or not, David is at least in reach of having a personality. You might remember Brendan Fletcher in Freddy vs. Jason, where he played the only guy to actually get killed by Freddy. Remember? The guy who was all, “SOMEBODY WAKE ME UP!”? That’s him.
While Fletcher does the best with what he’s given, the other performance highlight is Garry Chalk’s Hamish. He’s incredibly charming and comes off as a friendly uncle figure, but there’s just enough underlying menace in his performance. Not surprising that he knows what he’s doing, since the guy’s had a very, very lengthy acting career. Hey, he was Dum Dum Dugan in the David Hasslehoff Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD movie! Neat!
Hamish’s son Sean is really one of the better parts of the movie in terms of the actual story. He’s the least cliché part of the whole film and you end up wishing it was more about him than the four main characters. He’s interesting enough that for a stretch of time you begin to forget about the actual protagonists. Mainly because they’re survivors while he’s the one person actually experiencing a character arc.
And what of Postl? What of the vertically-challenged wrestler who gets top billing? It’s a nothing performance, really. There’s nothing even remotely notable about how he plays the role. At all. He’s there to wear a cheesy costume and appear in about three minutes of combined screen time made up entirely of jump-scares and quick shots of him being blurry for no reason other than hiding how bad his makeup/mask is. As for the monster design itself, he looks far less like the Leprechaun and more like Gollum after being bitten by a zombie. The running kind.
The movie does away with the goofiness of Warwick’s Leprechaun films to play it straight, which hurts the nostalgia, but isn’t necessarily a bad thing in concept. Outside of some obligatory jump-scare scenes, the terror aspect isn’t the worst. There are rules set in place which make it easier to root for the students. They’re not up against an invincible, evil force that they can never hope to escape. There is a window of opportunity to survive, but there are enough factors working against them, including the rampant claustrophobia, to make it work.
That is, until the gore kicks in. When the Leprechaun strikes, it’s over-the-top and while it would look at home in the original series, it takes you out of what’s going on here. You can’t play the movie straight, suddenly throw in an Evil Dead 2 moment, and think that everything’s fine. Choose what kind of horror movie you’re going to be and commit. It also bugs me that one character gets a pretty gross injury and spends the rest of the movie virtually ignoring that it ever happened.
In the end, what we have is a mediocre movie that nobody would care about if it didn’t adopt the name of a semi-popular horror franchise and smack a pro wrestler’s name onto the top of the poster. It does have a solid foundation for a horror movie and none of the actors outright stink up the joint, but the Leprechaun monster looks terrible and there’s nothing special that makes it worth going out of your way to check out.
As it is right now, the best Leprechaun movie is still Wayne’s World 2.