The “immortal killer” is one of the most enduring of the horror genres, Dracula returning through endless iterations and sequels alongside Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man, the modern cinematic era having offered equivalents in Michael “the Shape” Myers, Jason Vorhees, Freddie Krueger, Pinhead and Chucky along with some also-rans of the straight-to-video market.
Perhaps surprisingly for a series which has never achieved breakthrough recognition beyond the horror market, with eight films released across twenty five years since 1993’s original, the titular leprechaun is one of the more successful, the latest, Leprechaun Returns promisingly directed by Astron-6’s Steven Kostanski.
Known for his violently over-the-top spoof commercial short W is for Wish in The ABCs of Death 2 and the more sinister interdimensional horror of The Void, as a co-production of Lionsgate and the SyFy Channel Leprechaun Returns is disappointingly a more conventional collaboration which bears the hallmarks of a television movie conceived to tick boxes and satisfy standards and practices rather than the less predictable but more daring work with which Kostanski established his reputation.
Life has been a waking nightmare for Lila Jenkins (Amityville: The Awakening‘s Taylor Spreitler), a difficult childhood with the trauma inflicted upon her by the delusions of her mother followed by her illness and death; now she has chosen to return to help renovate the remote North Dakota farmhouse where her then-teenage mother spent the summer of 1993 to confront her past.
Expecting to spend the time bonding with her new sorority sisters Katie and Rose (Ash vs Evil Dead‘s Pepi Sonuga, Lake Placid: Legacy‘s Sai Bennett), plans go awry when Meredith (Emily Reid) shows up with beer, pizza and Katie’s unwanted on-off boyfriend Andy (The Machine‘s Ben McGregor) along with his best friend, film student Matt (Oliver Llewellyn Jenkins).
In the grounds of the farmhouse is the old well which they plan to use for water, at the bottom of which still lies the leprechaun (Linden Porco) which tortured Lila’s mother, waiting to waken and reclaim the gold stolen from it years before and killing any who cross its path with an indifference bordering on whimsy, and all Lila and her friends have to save them is the tools in the house and their wits.
Written by Dallas & Robo‘s Suzanne Keilly, Leprechaun Returns initially has fun subverting the cliches of the genre, the girls other than wastrel Meredith smarter and more capable than the boys but the film lacks atmosphere and drive, the first half only tangentially more than another undistinguished teen dramedy, a filler rather than a feature.
Played admirably straight despite the premise, the cast are good and given genuine characters but this actually works against the film which needs to be outrageous and ridiculous given the subject matter, and when the kills come, creative and well-staged though they are, they feel imported from a desperate late entry Final Destination rather than part of an organic whole, Leprechaun Returns lacking any lucky charm.
Leprechaun Returns will be available to stream digitally from 11th December on Sky Store, iTunes, Amazon and many other platforms