In this film, we're introduced to our titular leprechaun (Warwick Davis) in the very first shot. None of that don't-show-the-creature stuff here. The first lines "Try as they will, and try as they might... who steals me gold won't live through the night," introduces you to one of the two main leprechaun "rules" for the plot, and gives you a taste of the torrent of bad puns in store for you for the next hour and a half.
Next the film runs us through a short backstory scene in which Generic O'Irishman has stolen the leprechaun's pot of gold (apparently a "pot" is what the Irish call a bag). It doesn't take Mr. O'Grady too long to find out that that's just the sort of thing that makes the leprechaun come to kill you and those around you. The man survives, gets the leprechaun stuck in a wooden crate, and seals him in by putting a four-leafed clover on top (also nails).
Fast-forward 10 years to the present, presumably to 1993. Tory Reding (a 24 year-old Jennifer Aniston) is moving in with her father, who lives in an old dilapidated shack in the middle of North Dakota. She's not too happy about it once she arrives, and threatens to leave pretty much immediately. As soon as she tries though, she runs into Nathan (Ken Olandt), the guy hired to help repaint the house. After talking to Nathan, Tory decides to stick around to prove she's not afraid of spiders and dust, to make fun of Nathan's truck, and to show off her ridiculous patchwork shorts.
The last characters to be introduced are Alex and Ozzie. Alex (Robert Hy Gorman) is Nathan's little brother, and apparently the caretaker of the much older Ozzie (played by Mark Holton, Francis from PeeWee's Big Adventure).
Ozzie actually does find a golden coin at the end of the rainbow, and manages to enjoy it for about a minute before accidentally eating it. Alex finds the rest of the gold and takes a coin to town to get it tested and appraised. The guy at the pawn shop asks to keep it over night, and soon after tries to put it into his safe. When he opens it the leprechaun springs out, showing that apparently another one of the leprechaun's powers is teleportation, or at least teleporting through safe walls (this is something he apparently forgets how to do for all the sequels).
Anyway, the leprechaun finally has his first big kill here and he does so magnificently.
At this point, the leprechaun does what any good slasher villain would do to keep the tension building. He heads back to the house to polish everyone's shoes.
Everyone gets back home just as he finishes, notices that the shoes are all lined up neatly on the table and decide... it must have been a bear.
Pretty soon the gang finds out that O'Grady is actually still around town and is now living in the local nursing home. So they all go by for a visit and find out leprechaun rule #2, four-leafed clovers are leprechaun kryptonite.
They go back home, Tory finds the clover easily enough, and Alex shoots it into the leprechaun's mouth with a slingshot. Alex doesn't have any problem with this, and even takes time to add his own bit of flair to it.
The Leprechaun swallows the clover, falls into a hole, and explodes... Roll credits.
For those of you keeping track, these are the rules of the franchise so far:
- Steal the leprechaun's gold and he will attack and/or kill you to get it back.
- Four-leafed clovers are his one weakness.
- The leprechaun can teleport through the walls of a safe, even while his powers are weakened.
Leprechaun is certainly an odd film. It is somewhat unique in that it's one of the few horror/slasher franchises from the period that didn't at least start out trying to be scary. Series like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street began purely as horror films and eventually integrated elements of comedy when it was realized that people really just wanted to see the crazy death scenes anyway and would rather have a more "lovable" slasher that they could pull for. To this end, Freddy Krueger turned into a one-liner spouting, malevolent-Beetlejuice kind of character, and Jason gets a mask and becomes a walking franchise logo that strolls from one death scene to the next. If that sounds critical, it isn't really. Some of those sequels are good, and they're both probably made more iconic in horror history because of their changes. But in the end they lost their potential to tell a truly horrifying story.
Leprechaun on the other hand skips all of the horror bits on the way to making its horror franchise and instead creates a slasher out of a three-foot tall shoemaker that speaks only in limericks. Also, although he does have one or two kills in the movie, it's nothing like the body counts of your average slasher film. This slasher barely even slashes; he spends far more time riding tricycles, skateboards, and barbie cars.
While it's not the first or only movie to go this route (Troll, Hobgoblins, etc), the charisma Warwick Davis brings to the leprechaun makes the films a lot of fun and is enough on its own to keep Leprechaun head and shoulders above those others.
The trailer sets the film in South Dakota. The movie, North Dakota. Good job!
Available on Amazon: Leprechaun (1993)