Directed by Zach Lipovsky
I don’t think Platinum Dunes has ever crapped on a horror franchise as badly as Lionsgate/WWE did here with Leprechaun: Origins, and it’s not like the Leprechaun franchise is a series demanding of much respect to begin with. At best guilty pleasures, the Leprechaun films have always been bad, intentionally so, but Leprechaun: Origins is bad in the worst possible way: boring, unimaginative, pointless, feeling endless despite only being 78 minutes long, and seemingly having no clue how or why Leprechaun ever became popular enough to spawn half a dozen films in the first place.
As someone who has never been much of a fan of the Leprechaun series, I can still say it deserves better treatment than this.
Other horror franchises have started scary before devolving into camp with subsequent sequels only to be brought back around to their terrifying roots with further sequels and reboots. Leprechaun has no scary roots to return to – it has always been more comedy than horror. The very notion of making a dark, serious, scary version of Leprechaun is sillier than anything the miniature magical Irish madman ever said or did in his previous misadventures in space or the hood. This is like reimagining Killer Klowns from Outer Space as an ominous Alien-esque horror movie or remaking Dr. Giggles as a gloomy, gory slasher flick about a silent psychopathic surgeon stalking teenagers throughout an abandoned hospital or reinventing Sharknado as a grim survival horror film devoid of camp value. To have been a fly on the wall of the development meetings for this misfire would almost assuredly have been more entertaining than the turgid “origin” movie they produced. Seriously, what the hell were they thinking?
I have a theory. Just two years ago Syfy premiered a somewhat similar original movie with a monstrous take on the classic Irish legend entitled Leprechaun’s Revenge (AKA Red Clover). Lionsgate Home Entertainment later distributed that movie on DVD. I can’t help but wonder if when Lionsgate and WWE partnered to produce this Leprechaun reboot, someone making all the creative decisions was so clueless to the existence of the actual six-movie Leprechaun franchise that they watched that Syfy flick by mistake and worked from there. That Syfy movie didn’t leave much of a lasting impression on me, but I do recall similarities in the presentation of its inhuman leprechaun, how it was the spawn of an ancient curse, and its lethal lust for all things gold. Even then, that Syfy movie had more humor and creativity than this lifeless, banal creature feature.
The more I think about it, the more this movie reminded me very much of the 2014 bomb Creature. Change the venue to a swamp, ditch the gold angle that never amounts to much anyway, and this could have just as easily been released under the title Son of Creature or, more likely, Creature: Origins. Creature is not a movie you want your movie to remind other people of.
I still don’t even understand what the “Origins” subtitle is in reference to. Is this non-verbal feral creature somehow going to one day evolve into the wise-cracking humanoid leprechaun most anyone that bothers to watch an installment in this series expects to see? This goes back to my mystification as to why this movie exists at all… I mean, other than to once again market a recognizable brand name in order to peddle fool’s gold, obviously. If you’re a fan of the previous Leprechaun movies, this provides nothing you want from such a sequel, prequel, or otherwise. If you’re not a fan, why would you watch this in the first place? Disassociate this film from the franchise altogether by accepting it on its own terms, and what you’ve still got is the type of generic monster tripe we’ve all seen a zillion times before – so generic there’s almost something admirable about how straightforward and devoid of innovation or twists it is.
Four personality-free college friends on vacation in Ireland get finagled by some local villagers into spending a night in a cabin in the woods. They’re unknowingly being sacrificed to an ancient monster – its only ties to its namesake being that they’re in Ireland, the creature is small, it has a thing for gold objects, and one of the students almost sarcastically refers to it as a leprechaun – by some Irish rednecks (greennecks?). Growl. Scream. Run. Repeat. Snore.
The moment the students wander down into the cabin’s basement, I halfway expected a cutaway to the control room of the Irish branch of the Cabin in the Woods sacrificial operators rewarding the employee that accurately bet on the victims selecting the leprechaun. Once again, it would have been better with a merman.
The only thing this attempt to make the Leprechaun into a genuinely terrifying movie monster will leave you screaming for is Warwick Davis rapping. Under the quite rubbery make-up, so much so I suspect that’s why the creature is never seen in full view, not a single full body shot ever, is World Wrestling Entertainment’s own comical leprechaun, “Hornswoggle.” No clue why they bothered casting a member of their roster since this leprechaun has no personality and is just a run-of-the-mill monster. It never speaks nor does it wear any Gaelic attire. It simply growls, runs across the ground, and claws at victims. Looking so much like a poor man’s version of one of The Descent‘s monsters, again, the only way you’d know it’s supposed to be a leprechaun is because of the film’s title.
The other actors are perfectly fine; they just have no characters to work with and nothing to do other than run and yell. Too bad because Stephanie Bennett makes for a credible scream queen, which is a good thing since 75% of her dialogue is just some form of screaming.
Director Zach Lipovsky does do an admirable job generating a gloomy atmosphere worthy of a more deserving horror movie. Try as he might to keep the non-story moving along as one long chase scene, his barely seen one-dimensional monster and even less dimensional characters provide no reason to be on the edge of your seat except to get up and go do something better with your time than watch this bore.
Rifftrax could probably make a bundle getting Warwick Davis to record a commentary track in character ripping on this reimagining of his oddly iconic horror character. Only problem is there’s so little worth riffing on I suspect even he’d be one of those people who found something better to do.
1 out of 5