Leprechaun

Discussion in 'High Def' started by Chunkblower, Oct 25, 2014.

  1. Chunkblower

    Chunkblower Member

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    [​IMG] Reviewer: Chunkblower
    Review Date: Saturday, October 25, 2014

    Format: Blu-ray
    Released by: Lionsgate
    Release date: September 30, 2014
    MSRP: $39.97
    Region A
    Progressive Scan
    Codec: AVC, 1080p
    Widescreen 1.78 | 16x9: Yes
    1993



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    There are as many Leprechaun movies as there are SAW and Texas Chainsaw Massacre films. Let that sink in for a moment. I’m at a loss to explain the longevity of the Leprechaun franchise. It’s likely the unsolvable cinematic mystery of the last few decades. I can understand the success of the first film, sure. It’s a low budget, medium concept horror flick that is able to explain its plot with its title: a horror flick about a killer Leprechaun. Made on the cheap for under a million bucks, Leprechaun netted an impressive $8 million box office gross. The film went on the have a surprising afterlife and became a video rental and cable TV staple. All told, the low budget film probably made Trimark in the neighborhood of $15 million in its first year or so of release. With that kind of return a sequel was inevitable, so even a part two, I can wrap my head around that. And it’s hard not to admire the people who had the foresight to see the market vacuum that Leprechaun could fill. I certainly wouldn’t have greenlighted the film.

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    But seven? Seven films based on the extremely shaky foundation of a wisecracking leprechaun that kills people? The later films made enough money that continuation of the series was warranted? And now we’ve got a fresh new reboot to the series? These are things that simply beggar the imagination. Okay, to be fair, it’s been a while since I’ve seen any of the Leprechaun films so perhaps they’re ripe for reappraisal. I could gain a newfound respect for the series and, by the end of this retrospective, count myself among its apparent myriads of fans.

    I could also find a pot a gold at the end of a rainbow. It could happen.


    The Story

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    Seeing how Leprechaun is a low budget American movie that doesn’t have the scratch to film in Ireland, writer-director Mark Jones opens the film in the most logical of ways: an overlong prologue featuring couple of Irish stereotypes to explain how the Leprechaun found his way to America. Hope you enjoy it, too, because once it’s done it’s going to be a stretch before we see him again. In said prologue, Dan O’Grady (Shay Duffin) returns to his American home and explains to his wife, Leah (Pamela Mant) how, while in Ireland for his mother’s funeral he caught a Leprechaun and forced it to give him his gold. In one of many puzzling and inexplicable plot developments, this required him to smuggle the leprechaun back to America in his suitcase. This ostensibly being a horror film, said Leprechaun is an evil little bastard that escapes and murders Mrs. O’Grady. Dan is able to turn the tables using a four leaf clover, apparently the Leprechaun’s weakness (huh?), and imprisoning him in a wooden crate of all things. Unfortunately Dan suffers a heart attack before he’s able to finish the leprechaun off and (presumably) dies right there. This prologue effectively sets the audience’s expectations for the film that’s to follow: it’s a film about a killer leprechaun in which logic is thrown out the window in favour of stupid jokes and poorly executed scare scenes.

    This is going to be a rough ride.

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    Flash forward ten years and J.D. Reding (John Sanderford) and his daughter Tori (Jennifer Aniston) arrive in North Dakota at the former home of Dan O’Grady. Tori is your stock spoiled L.A. city brat who has a change of heart when she sees hunky handyman Nathan (Ken Olandt) and decides that the country might not be so bad, after all. Nathan’s helpers, mentally challenged man child Ozzie (Mark Holton) and JD’s precocious brother Alex (Robert Gorman) are along for the ride because, hey, what’s better than having a child and a mentally handicapped man in peril? So, after this laborious set up, Ozzie inadvertently frees the leprechaun from that crate in which he’s been imprisoned for a decade (again, huh?). Of course nobody believes him and even he immediately forgets about the leprechaun that just threatened to bite his ear off when he and Alex spot a rainbow and follow it to a rusted out old truck where they find a bag of gold coins one of which Ozzie inadvertently swallows and OH JESUS WHY AM I STILL WATCHING THIS MOVIE?

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    The set-up is classic horror movie: some people out of their element and isolated from help are besieged by a monster. It’s been a staple of the genre at least since NOTLD in 1968, probably earlier. It’s perfectly fine to use a stock plot, but you need to bring something to the table to help sustain interest for the entirety of the film. The details of this particular set up are so thinly sketched that the persistent questions are distracting. Tori makes mention of being stuck with her father for the summer, so I presume they’re renting the house, but if they’re renting then why the large scale renos? And why are they painting the house such clownish colours? And why didn’t the Leprechaun just kick out the side of the crate at any point during the ten years he was trapped?

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    I don’t even really know where to begin deconstructing the awfulness that is the first Leprechaun movie. I mean the idea of a horror movie about a killer Leprechaun isn’t the worst premise a 90’s horror movie has been based on (I think the Mangler takes that dubious honor) but it’s hovering somewhere near the bottom of the barrel. I didn’t previously know, but I wasn’t surprised to learn in the special features, that Leprechaun was originally conceived and shot as a PG-13 movie. When Trimark saw the first assembly cut they saw franchise potential and decided to up the horror quotient and ordered some gory reshoots. That’s probably the film’s single biggest problem: the film was conceived, shot and performed as intentional camp, but then tries to turn on a dime into R-rated horror territory. One moment you have the Leprechaun roller skating down the highway and crashing into a fence, leaving his imprint Wile E. Coyote style, then next he’s stalking an injured, bloodied police officer and breaking his neck. The movie is full of these weird tonal shifts. It never manages to find a groove that works.

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    Worse yet, it’s slow. I understand enjoying Warwick David’s onscreen antics, and he certainly gives it his all. Problem is he feels like an afterthought in a movie where he’s playing the title character. He’s certainly given enough screen time, but his motives and underlying mythology aren’t very well established or fleshed out. He’s a one-dimensional villain with no rules or backstory to make him interesting. Instead, the film focuses on low grade cliché character drama for the bulk of its running time. And come to think of it, none of the principal cast members die in the film, so the film is constantly introducing characters whose sole purpose is to be killed off. It’s sloppy, sloppy story construction and at a certain point you know that the main characters aren’t in any real danger so there’s no suspense or stakes.

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    Even that wouldn’t be damning if the movie were, y’know, funny. It’s not. At three different points in the movie, the same joke is recycled: first the Leprechaun rides a tricycle, then he drives a go-cart, then he actually takes time during the climax to build a new go-cart. That’s really the sum total of the “comedy” in this movie: “Hey, the Leprechaun is short! Hey, he’s riding a tiny vehicle! Isn’t that funny?!?” The filmmakers claimed they were going for an equal mix of comedy and horror but the actual film is predominately comedic. When the comedy falls this flat, though, and there’s no scares around there’s literally no more reason to continue watching this movie. FX artist Gabe Bartalos does what he can but with such a small budget and most of the, effort and money going to the Leprechaun’s make up (which is, admittedly, pretty good) there aren’t any room left for great gore set pieces. Warwick David and Gabe Bartalos are the only common threads between the six original Leprechaun films and considering that their work are the film’s sole assets, that is not at all surprising.

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    I can’t fault the actors for how bad the movie sucks, though other than Davis dialling it up to eleven, none of them really do anything to try and elevate the material, either. I wonder if anybody watching this movie in early 1993 would have guessed that within a decade Jennifer Aniston, a little over a year away from debuting in her defining role, would be one of the highest paid television actresses of all time.

    These are the things that occupy my thoughts and make it possible for me to sit through Leprechaun in its entirety.


    Image Quality

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    The movie may be garbage but at least now its garbage polished to a high gloss. We’ve all seen the washed out, sourced from video, full-frame transfer that first Trimark then later Lionsgate had been recycling literally for decades, now. This new HD version of Leprechaun is an eye opener. It’s apparent how much better Leprechaun is going to look in the very first shot of the film: from the bright green of the leprechaun’s jacket to the glitter on the top of his hat to the 1.78 framing that reveals picture that hasn’t been seen since the 1993 theatrical release, this transfer is quantum leap improvement. The level of quality holds throughout the entire film. If I have a single complaint, it’s that however good the transfer looks it can’t compensate for poor (or even unavoidable) choices in lighting. The Leprechaun is often lit from behind, especially in the first act, and on video this kept his face obscured. On the Blu-ray however, you can see the details of his face just fine, if a bit dimly lit. Scenes where they’re trying to build up to the full reveal of the Leprechaun fall flat, but then again they fell flat even when you couldn’t see his face. At any rate, it’s a relatively minor complaint. I hated to movie but I admired how much better it looked than previous releases. Leprechaun fans should love this.


    Sound

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    There’s no jazzy 5.1 remix to accompany the spruced up picture but the 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track is almost as much of an improvement in its own way as the new transfer is. It’s nicely balanced with music, dialogue and effects all clear and crisp. Beyond that there’s not much to say; fans would probably prefer a full 5.1 remix, but what we get here is perfectly serviceable.


    Supplemental Material

    inline ImageLeprechaun fans have long gotten the short shrift while fans of other franchises have enjoyed comprehensive boxed sets for their favorite series. That’s finally been rectified in this comprehensive release.

    First up is a feature commentary by writer-director Mark Jones and make up Gabe Bartalos is pretty nuts-and-bolts behind the scenes stuff. Jones is engaging enough and his sense of humour is not surprising given the film he wrote. There’s an interesting tidbit about his original concept for the Leprechaun that…well, we’ll save that discussion for a later date. I preferred the second solo commentary by star Warwick Davis. Apart from his usual jovial nature, he’s exceedingly well-spoken and the progression of topics he covers makes sense as opposed to the other commentary which was much more stream-of-consciousness. Davis does often go quiet while the film plays, offering only the occasionaly comment or quip, but I’d rather have a few seconds of silence than some incessant jabbering to try and fill the void.

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    The always dependable Michael Felsher and his Red Shirt Pictures label is present to provide a series of making-of documentaries for all the original Leprechaun films, appropriately titled The Leprechaun Chronicles. Part 1, Beginner’s Luck, runs a surprisingly robust 24 minutes and covers a lot of ground in that time; from concept to writing to financing, filming and release, every aspect of the making of the franchise starting original is at least touched on. I’m sure there is more that could’ve been said – Aniston is noticeably but not surprisingly absent, as is Mark Holt - but this length feels just right. The head of Trimark is either a crystal ball gazing psychic or just the luckiest guy in the world that he correctly predicted the franchise that would come from the original film. Hell, I’ve seen the finished product and I still don’t think it’s possible to make a franchise out of that.


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    Less revelatory, but nice for the sake of completion, is some Behind the Scenes Footage. Shot in poor light with a 90’s camcorder there’s a bit of footage of Aniston blocking out the climactic scene in the clover patch and then some barely discernible stuff of the cast warming up in a van while waiting for the shot to be set up. It’s nice to have but not something even the die-hardest Leprechaun fans are likely to watch more than once.

    Finally, we get the Theatrical Trailer (1:47) which is presented in full HD. I’ve always wondered how this movie was originally sold and now I know: dishonestly. The trailer is cut like it’s for a straight-up horror film, with no hint of the overtly comic tone of most of the movie.


    Final Thoughts

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    Even though it’s pretty awful, I can still kinda get the appeal and success of the first film. What really blows me away, though, is that there was enough gas in this tank to fuel a seven film (and counting) franchise. I know the series has a devoted following and I’m sure they’re going to love this release. For them, and them alone, this is an unqualified recommend. Everybody else? Go to the pub and buy a round of Guinness for you and your mates. You’ll have a much better time pounding back some brews than you will watching this trash.

    And to think, there are six more of these things to go.

    Fuuuuuuck.

    Rating

    [​IMG] Movie - D

    Image Quality - A-

    Sound - B

    Supplements - B+


    Technical Info.
    • Colour
    • Running time - 1 hour and 32 minutes
    • Rated R
    • 4 Discs
    • Chapter Stops
    • English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
    • English SDH subtitles
    • Spanish subtitles

    Supplemental Material
    • Leprechaun Chronicles Part One: Beginner’s Luck” Making-of Featurette
    • Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Mark Jones
    • Audio Commentary with star Warwick Davis
    • Behind the Scenes Footage
    • Theatrical Trailer

    Other Pictures

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    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2015

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