Director: Steven Kostanski
Writer: Suzanne Keilly
Producer: Adam Friedlander, Darren Cameron
Stars: Taylor Spreitler, Pepi Sonuga, Sai Bennett, Emily Reid, Ben McGregor, Oliver Llewellyn-Jenkins, Mark Holton, Linden Porco
25 years after his first defeat, the leprechaun returns when an environmentally conscious sorority disturbs his watery tomb.
Attaching expectations to any movie can be dangerous business for courting disappointment. Given how low the quality bar continued dropping on each successive entry in the franchise, common sense tells even those with knowingly bad taste to not set expectations higher than an ankle for a “Leprechaun” sequel.
But with Steven Kostanski in the director’s chair, it shouldn’t be a pie in the sky wish to want something unconventionally imaginative from a member of Canada’s Astron-6 filmmaking collective, who’ve given us fantastically far out movies like “The Editor” (review here) and “The Void” (review here). Apparently, that’s asking a tad too much. While not necessarily a disappointment, “Leprechaun Returns” turns a blind eye to opportunities for irreverent inventiveness to deliver something that colors within expected lines for a standard Syfy B-movie.
“Leprechaun Returns” takes the “Halloween” 2018 route (review here) by cutting the albatross of convoluted continuity and starting from scratch where only the 1993 original exists. Gone are the leprechaun’s L.A. and Vegas jaunts, journey into space, and two trips to “tha hood.” As far as this flick goes, the limerick-loving Lilliputian was last seen dropping down a well with a clover in his mouth courtesy of pre-“Friends” Jennifer Aniston and her onscreen associates.
25 years later, Aniston’s character Tory has unceremoniously died off camera after living life as a recluse raving about miniature monsters. Tory’s daughter Lila now makes her way to mom’s old home in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota. Despite being far off any beaten path, Larimore University makes its home here. Lila comes to join three other sisters in building an environmentally conscious sorority house on the site where that ominous old well still sits.
You haven’t met the ladies of Alpha Upsilon (AU is the chemical symbol for gold, get it?), but you know their archetypes. Rose is the neurotically overachieving goody goodie. Meredith is the boozy “I couldn’t care less about anything” slacker. Sassy Katie simply cannot say no to spontaneous sex with her argumentative ex-boyfriend Andy. Andy’s aspiring filmmaker friend Matt also slots in somewhere as a brief flirting target for Lila, but more so to motivate a camera drone kill later down the line. Once renovations get going, the work on the well resurrects Lubdan (impress your friends by informing them that’s the leprechaun’s name even though it’s never said out loud in the series), who desperately wants to reclaim his pot of gold, and eagerly drops bodies using macabre magic to get it.
I’ll say this for “Leprechaun Returns.” The kills are crazy. Lubdan gorily bursts from a familiar face’s belly. He surgically splits another person in two with a sharp solar panel. One man has his head run over by a van and one woman has a sprinkler spigot installed in her face. A straight-up decapitation may be the only non-unique death in the bunch.
I’ll also say that for all the premature worry about fan-favorite Warwick Davis not returning to the title role, his heir Linden Porco picks up the ball and runs away with it at full speed. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve seen the first film since the theater in 1993 and my memories of the sequels are so foggy, I may not have seen them at all. But for my blasphemous money, Davis isn’t missed. Porco easily earns a chef’s kiss for portraying Lubdan with all of the character’s trademark creepiness, corniness, and charm.
Under the thumb of a confusingly conservative hand, Lubdan’s early scenes are few and far between however. A movie of this campy caliber couldn’t possibly overdose on nuttiness, yet Kostanski strangely subdues the first half of the film.
“Leprechaun Returns” doesn’t go all-in on jokey dialogue and fully embrace its offbeat personality until the back half begins a sprint for the finish. It’s like the film doesn’t have a true sense of its own unusual tone until it’s had sufficient time to stew in a sty of carnage and comedy. Then the movie finally becomes something more akin to a better-produced Full Moon feature with a Troma-esque sense of humor.
By this point, you’re in such a “meh” mood from a typical two acts, the uptick in insanity for the third has its work cut out to pull you from a funk. The relative fun factor of a furious finale and brief snips of inspired scenes conflict with the trope-tastic exposition and beige-colored everything else. Regardless, I’ll err on the side of generosity with a three star score because that’s where we’re at with the “Leprechaun” saga. After six now imaginary sequels and the spectacularly awful “Leprechaun: Origins” reboot (review here), even a mediocre entry can earn a semi-enthusiastic, “eh, it’s okay.”
I’d watch another movie in this new continuity, if that’s any endorsement. I would just want it to go all the way off the leash and put more demented bite behind its average bark. Or maybe I should know better than to set any expectations at all, particularly where “Leprechaun” is concerned.
Review Score: 60