Following the current trend with long running franchises that choose to ignore the previous sequels, Leprechaun Returns follows on from the original 25 years later. A decision which works brilliantly for the film giving it the freedom to not only follow on from the original story but also allowing it to reboot the series.
Leprechaun Returns is brilliantly balanced as it acknowledges the original film, Leprechaun (1993), throughout, whilst also trying to evolve the story. This enables it to appeal to both fans of the original series, whilst also making it accessible to a new audience. Mark Holton is the only returning actor from the original film as he reprises his role of Ozzie (Linden Porco having taken over the pivotal role of the leprechaun from Warwick Davis) and is used initially as a nostalgic connection between the two films. It seemed as though he would be destined for a brief cameo, but he was later incorporated into the overall story, adding something different, as well as some comedy elements.
Whilst the film has a very modern due to being based in the present, which is acknowledged by the students and their obsession for selfies, the overall tone of the film has an 80s/90s horror vibe, without trying to be a throwback. It works brilliantly with gore drench humour, which is a mixture of the slapstick comedy from Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead film series and Peter Jacksons Brain Dead (1992).
The characters in the film are fairly generic to what you would expect from the genre, especially with a group of sorority girls – although as we have seen in recent years with modern women in horror, they do offer more than just a scream and are more than capable of fighting back. Taylor Spreitler naturally stands out in the film as Lila, who not only does a great job depicting the emotional background of her character with her insecurities, but also embraces the script with a very natural comedy in her performance.
There will be fans who are unhappy that Warwick Davis decided not to return to the role, especially after disappointing replacements of Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger and Doug Bradley as Pin Head. However, on this occasion it actually works favourably as it gives the series an opportunity to take the film in a slightly different direction. Porco is instantly likeable as the Leprechaun, embracing the comical timing of the character, as well as the familiar quirks, including his obsession for shoes and the constant need to talk in rhythmic verse. With Porco’s portrayal there is also a more unnerving presence to the character, which is further enhanced by the new sinister and dishevelled make up design.
With the success of films such as Sharknado (2013) and other SYFY made movies, these films have developed a reputation for using over the top CGI effects, so some fans may have been expecting the same from Leprechaun Returns. Thankfully, with the makeup and effects background of director Steven Kostanski, who previously co-directed The Void (2016), it was good to know that the effects were in safe hands, and for those unfamiliar with his work, you will be surprised at the end result.
Compared to the rest of the series, Leprechaun Returns is arguably darker and certainly bloodier than some of the previous films, thanks to the excellent special effects which perfectly balance the use of CGI and prosthetics. CGI was used only where necessary to enhance the scenes, or, as in one of the smaller leprechaun moments in a nod to Army of Darkness (1992), helps to create one of the most fun sequences. For the most part the use of practical special effects has helped to create some of the most inventive and fun kills I have seen in a long time. From the moment you see the Leprechaun’s brilliant re-entry into the world, you know it’s going to be an entertaining ride.
With the budget and quality of the series slowly deteriorating over the years, it was a surprise to some that they have decided to bring back the character of the Leprechaun. Leprechaun Returns is a brilliantly fun entry to the series which is not meant to be taken too seriously, delivering more blood, action and humour than previous entries. Not only did it exceed my expectations, but is easily my favourite. Steven Kostanski has proven himself previously to be a director to watch and Leprechaun Returns further establishes his talents, both as a director and with his use of special effects.
When it comes to horror icons, the Leprechaun may not be the biggest, and with pre conceptions of being made for TV it may not instantly appeal to everyone, but Leprechaun Returns is a film that exceeds expectations to really deliver – and with the quality of the special effects it is one we should all watch on the big screen.
The DVD includes three additional features;
- Exclusive still gallery – A surprisingly good stills gallery which includes some behind the scenes photos that highlight some of the excellent special effects. With pictures by Marcos Cruz and music from the film by Andries Smit.
- Behind-the-scenes footage compilation – A short behind the effects video showing some of the effect’s being created in the workshop and on set. Marcos Cruz and Steven Kostanski with music from Kevin Kiner. Unfortunately, the footage is all shown to music. It is a shame this wasn’t expanded with commentary to explain the process of what they were doing, to give a more intimate behind the scenes making of video.
- “Going Green – An Interview With Director Steven Kostanski” featurette – The highlight of the extras, in which Steven Kostanski gives a brief insight into the making of Leprechaun Returns.
- Inventive kills which are executed with some excellent special effects
- Some of the how and why events are not fully explained