Sunday, February 3, 2019

SyFy vs the Mynd: Leprechaun Returns (2018)

Warning: there will be spoilers for parts of the final act!

The members of a newly minted sorority in what I assume to be the tiniest college town in the US have decided to turn a cabin in the woods in the middle of nowhere into their sorority house. It’s supposed to be an eco paradise, self-supplying with electricity and all other needs of the modern young woman. Alas, said cabin is the place where another group of young ‘uns had managed to trap the murderous Leprechaun (now played by Linden Porco), and soon, the tiny menace is quipping, murdering, and looking for his gold; also, having a car chase while riding on a drone.

As luck will have it, the newest sorority sister, Lila (Taylor Spreitler) is the daughter of what I assume was Jennifer Anniston’s character in the first Leprechaun, and the town eccentric Ozzie (Mark Holton) is another survivor of that particular epic. So Lila might just be the best bet the rest of her sorority (as played by Pepi Sonuga, Sai Bennett, Emily Reid and two random male hangers-on we can ignore) has for survival. At least once she’s copped to the fact that her mother’s tales of a tiny monster weren’t the ravings of a madwoman. Man, horror movies can be tough on off-screen survivors.

Now, if you’re like me, you weren’t screaming for any kind of sequel to any movie in the Leprechaun franchise, but perhaps you’ll be like me too in that you’ll actually come away from Steven Kostanski’s film with a big grin on your face (if, that is, you happen to have a face). How Kostanski has gotten from Manborg, Father’s Day and The Void to a Leprechaun sequel for the SyFy Channel is anybody's guess, but his film suggests a degree of sympathy for the franchise, a talent for enjoyable goofy nonsense, and a director who is perfectly willing and able to make fun low-brow stuff without a condescending tone or giving the impression he doesn’t actually want to entertain his audience.

As the plot description suggests, like the new Halloween film, this one’s pretending all other sequels in the franchise don’t exist, and seeing that these count among their number the Leprechaun’s adventures in space and in “da Hood”, that’s something we all should be thankful for; these are, after all, all films I wish I hadn’t seen. Also ignored is that terrible WWE reboot that turned the ole gnome into a most generic 00’s monster. Hurray.

Now, I’d be lying if I knew if there are any or many continuity problems between the first film and this one. Turns out the Leprechaun and the Wishmaster movies have turned into some kind of generic goo (probably only waiting for the proper dose of radioactivity to turn into a monster) in my brain. However, one really doesn’t need to have a degree in leprechaunology to understand the film. All one truly does need is an appreciation for a handful of (partially practical) gore effects, the lust for listening to horrible puns and quips that clearly know how horrible they are yet are still delivered without any winking and nudging at the audience (the film understanding we do get it without help), and the general temperament to enjoy all-out silliness. How silly does the film get? Well, apart from the Leprechaun riding a drone, there’s also the scene where it seems the nasty little person with the gold problem and the allergy against clover has been beaten by our surviving heroines, but begins to revive as a small army of tiny leprechauns. And a scene where Lila suggests to a semi-corporeal ghost that the judicious application of plastic wrap might make the guts hanging out of his belly (the Leprechaun got reborn thusly, you understand, or perhaps do not understand) more manageable. Also…but you see what I’m getting at here.

If this sort of thing sounds even the tiniest bit fun to you, imaginary reader, you will be pleased to hear that Kostanski and writers Mark Jones and Suzanne Keilly deliver the parade of jokes and the handful (we’re on a tight budget here) of character deaths with relish and a great sense of timing, and without ever going all Sharknado on us by explaining that yes, that joke was indeed a joke, aren’t I the clever one, and so on. Which is of course exactly the approach that makes Leprechaun Returns fun.

As an added bonus, you get an ensemble of likeable – mostly, this isn’t a film that wants us to want to see them die - young actresses who get into their theoretically thin roles with a sense of fun and indeed comical timing. That’s more than anyone could expect from a direct-to-TV sequel to a horror franchise that never was terribly good to begin with.

No comments: