Mean, Green, and Playing the Scene

Leprechaun 2

We didn’t need a sequel to 1993’s Leprechaun. That was a slight, silly movie that, while fun, pretty much said all it needed to say about the character. What, was another group going to find the Leprechaun’s gold and he’d have to chase after them, killing them one by one until they, too, gave him back the treasure they stole? How many times could you dip into that well before the whole concept of it became stale and awful? Better to just do one, let everyone have fun, and move on, because there was no way to stretch that out any further.

That statement is correct, which is why it’s nice to see that Leprechaun 2 (aka One Wedding and Lots of Funerals) doesn’t even bother going in the same direction. Yes, Warwick Davis is back as the Leprechaun, and he is still lusting after gold (as a leprechaun does), but this film doesn’t follow the same beats as the original film. It’s a new tale, with a different thread to follow, all so that Davis’s Irish monster can come back to cause more carnage in the United States. Maybe it’s just as slight and silly as the original, but at least it has its own ideas to explore, and that’s not nothing.

In a scene set in the distant past, the Leprechaun has a slave, William O'Day (James Lancaster), who he abuses and chases and generally treats like shit. However, it’s the Leprechaun’s birthday, his thousandth, and it's the day he’s allowed to get married. So he has a bride chosen and, when he causes her to sneeze three times and no one says “God bless you”, the girl will be bonded to him. He tells O’Day that if the Leprechaun marries the girl, he’ll free O’Day. Only problem: the girl is O’Day’s daughter. So O’Day says “God bless you” when she sneezes, ruining the Leprechaun’s plan. In revenge our Irish monster swears to chase the lineage of the O’Days on down and, in another thousand years, he’ll find the next O’Day bride and marry them. And he kills William for good measure.

A thousand years later and the O’Day descendant is Bridget Callum (Shevonne Durkin). She’s dating Cody Ingalls (Charlie Heath), a young guy working the grift for the Dark Side Tours. It’s a shitty Hollywood tour, full of lies; Cody sells the tickets and his drunken uncle, Morty (Sandy Baron), takes them out in the old, rusted hearse. They do shows once a day, but it’s a racket that can’t go on forever, especially after Cody has to take the tour out himself one night, and gets pulled over by the cops while driving on a learner’s permit. Meanwhile, Bridget storms off, going home, only to be harassed by the Leprechaun. He wants his bride, and by the power of three sneezes, he’ll have her. Once Cody finds out, and ends up with one of the Leprechaun’s gold coins, the battle is on between fae folk and our hero to save the girl before she becomes the Leprechaun’s dark bride.

To be clear, Leprechaun 2 is a mess of a movie. It has a threadbare plot with rules it makes up on the fly. The story is set up in the first fifteen minutes, but then the film pads everything out with scene after scene of the Leprechaun working to get his one coin back all before we can get back to the A-plot, the marriage storyline, which is then quickly resolved by Cody. It’s not really a story so much as a collection of scenes to drag the film forward. Oh, and a few deaths thrown in because this is supposed to be a horror film (all evidence to the contrary in the film itself).

A big issue with the story, such as there is one, is that it’s not really about Bridget, the bride of the Leprechaun. She gets dragged off to his cave and essentially stays there, as a damsel, waiting for Cody to return. No, the hero is Cody, who does all the running, and scheming, and trying to outsmart the Leprechaun. Most of the film is devoted to him, his trials and tribulations, while Bridget (who should be the main character because the setup is all about her) waits on the sidelines. The film would be much better, and more interesting, if it could have been about her making deals and trying to scheme her way out of the pact the Leprechaun forged with her family a thousand years earlier. Her being the agent of her own destiny would give her more to do in this film and it would allow us to engage with her on a deeper level than we ever get in this film.

Cody is fine as a character but he lacks growth. He’s set up as the assistant to an aging, not very good, conman, his uncle Morty. One would think this would mean that Cody would use his skills as a conman (in training) to outsmart the Leprechaun left and right, but that doesn’t happen. It could have also been that Cody would try to con the Leprechaun, make things worse, and eventually realize he can’t follow in the footsteps of his uncle and turn over a new leaf to save Bridget, but he doesn’t do that either. In fact, Cody has absolutely no growth this entire film, leaving him as something of an empty protagonist, going through the motions of the hero without the emotional connection to back it up.

The most interesting character in the film is, of course, the Leprechaun, and that’s all thanks to Warwick Davis. He’s just as lively and animated here as he was the first time around, clearly relishing getting to be the evil jokester of the film. The problem here is that while the performance is the same, nothing else about the Leprechaun works as the same character between these two films. In the first movie he was motivated to get his gold back, and he’d kill anyone who touched it, calling them a thief. Stealing, in his eyes, was wrong. But in this film he steals all the time, taking any gold he can off other people. It’s a weird twist that changes the character and makes him seem mercurial and inconsistent. Is it silly to expect continuity between these two films? Maybe, but they were released only a year apart, which is a short enough time span for anyone that saw the first film to remember it by the time the sequel came around.

The Leprechaun’s mercurial nature actually affects the film in a number of ways. He tries to cheat other people to get his gold coin back, but in the very same scene then gets upset when he tries to cheat him. “You can’t welch on a deal,” he says right after he tries to welch on a deal. The first film established that he could only be harmed by a four-leaf clover, but now he can be hurt by wrought iron (which, yes, is more accurate to fae mythology but never came up before). He has an affinity for gold and can easily sense its presence, but can also be fooled by fake gold when it’s convenient for the plot. In short, the film is beyond inconsistent in a number of ways, showing a sloppy production that just didn’t care.

The worst thing about the film, though, is that it just doesn’t work as a horror comedy. The first film had a weird energy to it that, when viewed from the right light, made it fun. It was like a low-grade Gremlins, enjoyable in a way and certainly dumb enough to watch late at night. This film, though, isn’t engaging, funny, stupid, or bloody enough to work in the same way. It’s slower, less gory, and less interesting. Maybe if there was more going on, or more grotesqueries on screen, that would help. Or hell, the writers could have actually been funny and written something that was an actual comedy. The film doesn’t manage any of that, failing on all fronts, creating a sad affair that’s nowhere near as fun to watch as the original.

The two things working in the film’s favor – Warwick Davis and a plot that isn’t a retread of the original film – aren’t enough to make up for all of the movie’s shortcomings. What the producers needed to do was give this film more time to develop, to come together in a way that made for an actual fun to watch films. Instead it was rushed out the door and only screens within a year from the original after that proved to be a modest hit. Audiences, though, weren’t interested in this tiresome, sad little film, and the movie barely made enough money to cover all its costs. It doomed the series to direct-to-video afterwards, where it finally found the low-rent audience it deserved.