It’s strange that one of the longest-running American horror franchises features a leprechaun with bad oral hygiene, but the Leprechaun franchise has seen 7 feature-length films since 1993, putting it only slightly behind A Nightmare on Elm Street (9 films), Friday the 13th (12 films), Halloween (10 films), and A Texas Chainsaw Massacre (8 films) in terms of raw film output. Suffice to say, it takes a lot of time to watch this entire franchise, which, oddly enough, is something that I recently did. Prior to that, I’d only watched Leprechaun 4: In Space while drunk with a couple of college friends, and I was interested to see how the series could top that film, which features Warwick Davis exploding out of a man’s penis and a transvestite cyborg. What followed was an odyssey of watching Warwick Davis murder people in stranger and stranger ways (and a mediocre horror film). In the process, I learned a great deal and (probably) became one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Leprechaun franchise. This article details the big takeaways from that experience.
Leprechaun (1993). A greedy asshole in North Dakota traps Warwick Davis in a box after stealing his gold. Ten years later, Davis harasses Jennifer Anniston, a handsome man, a child, and a man child. They protect themselves by tricking Davis into cleaning shoes.
Leprechaun 2 (1994). Warwick Davis fucks with his Irish slave by trying to marry the slaves’ hot daughter. The slave intervenes, so the Leprechaun goes to Los Angeles 1000 years later to marry the slave’s hottest descendent.
Leprechaun 3 (1995). A drifter pawns a Leprechaun statue for $20 in Las Vegas. The statue comes to life, and his gold magically grants some people their deepest desires. Also, Davis can turn people into were-leprechauns.
Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997). A half-man, half-robot with a flamboyant German accent contracts a group of mercenaries to kill Warwick Davis, who has been harassing an interplanetary mining operation. Davis explodes out of a man’s penis.
Leprechaun 5: In the Hood (2000). Warwick Davis wants his magic flute back, which a group of aspiring rappers have stolen and are using to trick people into liking their music. Ice Cube and Coolio show up for some reason.
Leprechaun 6: Back 2 tha Hood (2003). Davis returns to the hood and some stuff happens.
Leprechaun Origins (2014). WWE Studios recasts the titular Leprechaun in a shitty Cabin in the Woods knock off.
What I learned:
1. Tits are the worst.
Every time a pair of tits appear in a Leprechaun film, something horrible happens. In Leprechaun 2, Warwick Davis tricks a horny teenager into sticking his face in a lawnmower by placing a pair of illusory tits in front of it. In Leprechaun 4: In Space, an alien princess condemns three mercenaries to death by showing them her boobs. In Leprechaun 3, a topless woman crawls out of a screen, tries to get sexy with a man, turns into a robot with nipples, and then zaps the shit out of him:
Even when the tits are plastic, they’re scary.
2. The Leprechaun films reflect a racially divided America.
If you are an out-of-work black actor looking for a role in the Leprechaun franchise, cross your fingers for Leprechaun 8: A 3-turn to tha Hood:
3. I have no idea what the Leprechaun’s true weakness is.
Do you want to stop a psychotic leprechaun from fucking with you and your friends? Don’t look at these films for guidance. The Leprechaun’s weakness changes in every film – he’s been killed by 4-leaf clovers, wet cement, the vacuum of space, the destruction of his gold, and wrought iron. That’s a different weakness in every film where Davis dies.
I tried to make some sense of this mess, but could only do so much:
4. Head into space for a nice change of pace; go to the hood – it’s also quite good; but go back 2 tha latter and your film will be badder.
For the next section, I used the total number of people who have rated each film on IMDB to approximate each film’s popularity. While this method isn’t perfect, I think it’s safe to assume that a relationship exists between a film’s total IMDB ratings and the total number of people who have ever viewed the film. I’ve charted the overall popularity here:
The popularity of the series falls off after the first film, then drops a bit more after Leprechaun 2. After that, the series maintains steady popularity through Leprechaun 3, 4 (in Space), and 5 (in the Hood). Back 2 tha Hood drops about another 1500 raters, which means that it was likely viewed by fewer people than any of the previous 3 films. This probably indicates limited returns on placing horror icons in new and novel settings, like space, the hood, or Hell – but I would need to do more research to figure that out.
These diminishing returns may also explain why no one is taking Warwick Davis’s pitch for a Pirate-themed Leprechaun film seriously.
5. Fuck Lucky Charms.
I don’t enjoy the Leprechaun films for the horror elements, I enjoy them for their comedy. This is why I think that Leprechaun Origins is fucking terrible. The Origins writers cut the camp and charm of the original 6 films, leaving their movie a humorless, boilerplate slasher flick. In Origins, Some locals in an Irish town trick four teens into serving as a sacrifice for vicious leprechauns that live in the surrounding forest who are upset because the villagers stole the their gold. Initially, I couldn’t even determine if the film was intended to be a part of the original Leprechaun continuity -that is, until a single moment (almost) salvaged this tire fire.
But before I describe it, we need to review some Leprechaun history. In the original film, the producers had agreed with General Mills that The Leprechaun would eat Lucky Charms cereal during one of his scenes. General Mills had originally approved this, but reneged when they watched a finished cut of Leprechaun. The crew decided to reshoot the scene using a transparent knock off, which added extra production costs. As an act of hollow revenge, they also reshot the Leprechaun’s death sequence. In the new version, when Alex kills the Leprechaun with a slingshot, he shouts “Fuck you, Lucky Charms!” instead of his original line, which was “Your luck just ran out!”. citation
Now, back to Leprechaun Origins – before Sophie decapitates the Leprechaun with a machete, she shouts, “Fuck you, Lucky Charms!” to pander to the fans of the original series, and I loved it. I didn’t care that it completely deviated from the tone of the film, because the tone (and the plot (and the acting (and basically everything))) of Origins was terrible. It was the only moment in the herculean chore of watching it that evoked glimmer of positive sentiment in me.
6. Is your horror franchise floundering? Kill more people in weirder ways.
This series only improves after the first film, and for one reason – the writers begin to leverage The Leprechaun’s strange powers in more entertaining ways. In the second film, the Leprechaun manifests a pot of gold inside of a characters stomach, runs over a man with a go kart, and kills a barista using an espresso machine. In Leprechaun 3, he kills a woman by inflating her lips, tits, and ass:
And kills a man by sawing him in half during a magic show:
If you look at the number of people who die in each film over the course of the franchise, the number continuously increases between Leprechaun and Leprechaun 6:
In Leprechaun 4, a man dies when Warwick Davis bursts out of his cock; another dies when his head is flattened against a wall with a silver platter.
In 5, Warwick Davis blows a hole in a man’s chest with a magical Leprechaun laser. In 6, Davis beats a police officer to death with his own leg and rips out a woman’s jaw for her golden tooth.
This seems like a solid recipe for keeping your horror franchise solvent after 7 films.
Bonus thing I learned: Every Leprechaun film but 4 features an early stretch of at least 20 minutes where no one dies. This strikes me as a bad idea since the strongest parts of these films have more to do with murder than they do with story building and character development.
7. Don’t ever open a pawn shop in the Leprechaun universe.
It is a statistical fact that 100% of pawn shop owners in these films die. Not only that, it’s a common profession – 3 of the 7 films feature at least one pawn store owner – Leprechaun 5 features two! However, if you feel that this is the right career choice for you, remember – your first and only mistake will be paying a drifter $20 for a creepy leprechaun statue.