Irish-American Horror and Fantasy Movies: Leprechaun 2 (1994)

"Leprechaun 2": A film that almost makes the case that Hollywood is the perfect town for an evil Irish spirit.

“Leprechaun 2”: A film that almost makes the case that Hollywood is the perfect town for an evil Irish spirit.

Leprechaun 2 (1994)

Written by: Turi Meyer, Al Septien
Directed by: Rodman Flender
Starring: Warwick Davis, Charlie Heath, Shevonne Durkin
Summary: An unsatisfying, charisma-free sequel to “Leprechaun” that manages a few amusingly oddball moments.

This is the first sequel to 1993’s “Leprechaun,” and there would be four more and a reboot, but this would be the last intended for theaters; the rest would go straight to video, although the reboot had a limited theatrical run. “Leprechaun 2” was the recipient of some bad reviews, but, then, so was the first film, and that made almost 10 times its budget in ticket sales.

But “Leprechaun 2” floundered in the theater, and is perhaps the most reviled in the series, which is saying a lot, as “Leprechaun” films aren’t well-regarded in general.  The critical reviews on the aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes alternate between comically galled (“Because there were so many unanswered questions from Part 1.”) and the more straightforwardly galled (“i still hate leprechauns”), and the audience reviews are a little more generous, but also generally disappointed.

“Leprechaun 2” isn’t really a sequel; it’s more like a variation on a theme. Warwick Davis is back as the titular leprechaun, but the film ignores any attempt at continuity between the earlier film and this one. Instead, writers Turi Meyer and Al Septien concoct their own set of fairy tale rules for the story, and, to their credit, stick to them.

So this film doesn’t bother with the leprechaun’s previous obsession with cleaning and mending shoes, but instead gives him a millennium-long hunt for a bride, chased through history from ancient Ireland to modern Los Angeles. It is a marriage created by three sneezes, and can be undone by a listener responding with “God bless you.” It’s a strange conceit, and yet has a certain fairy tale logic — after all, sneezes were once viewed as prophetic signs or as the mark of an evil spirit.

Unfortunately, the film’s premise is unsettled by some failings in direction. The series creator and first director, Mark Jones, was a rather nonsensical storyteller, but had an eye for talent. So the first “Leprechaun” movie benefited from a scrappy performance from Jennifer Anniston, as well as an eccentric collection of secondary characters.

Warwick Davis tries to play up his role as a malevolent trickster opposite them, but might as well be acting opposite a pair of listless pine cone.
The cast in this film is, for the most part, rather anonymous. There is a male lead, Charlie Heath, who plays the part gamely but without much charisma, and a female lead, Shevonne Durkin, who often seems a little lost throughout the film and, as a result, mostly produces awkward, accidentally comical line readings. Warwick Davis tries to play up his role as a malevolent trickster opposite them, but might as well be acting opposite a pair of listless pine cone.

Nonetheless, the film does have a genuine oddness around its edges. This doesn’t save the film, precisely, but does recuse it from being unwatchable. The film is set in a Hollywood filled with alcoholic hucksters attempting to make a buck off tragedy — the male lead works for his uncle’s business, which involves driving a hearse filled with disinterested tourists to Hollywood’s more gruesome historical sites.

There’s something that feels right about this, but isn’t investigated fully. I was a resident of Hollywood for quite a few years, and it is a town that sometimes feels like it was built by sinister occultists and thrives on tragedy. A walk around the neighborhood produces a surprising number of buildings that have ancient symbols embedded in them, from Jackal-headed Egyptian gods to the ruins of Babylon to locations that look legitimately Satanic. Were this world carefully detailed, it would not be surprising to have an ancient Irish evil emerge. In fact, the film is specific about where the leprechaun makes its home: Just outside Houdini’s Hollywood mansion, which could be one of several adjacent buildings on Laurel Canyon, all supposedly haunted.

There is another Hollywood joke that I think is a very good one, even if it is manhandled enough by the film that it’s easy to miss. There is a moment when the leprechaun has paused in Hollywood to work some magic and a passing movie agent throws him some money. In 1994, Hollywood Boulevard wasn’t the bizarre menagerie of panhandling costumed superheroes and cartoon characters it is now, but there were a few (indeed, we briefly see one pass Davis in this scene), and so the fact that an evil leprechaun might get mistaken for a costumed beggar further emphasizes that this is a town where a monster might go unnoticed.

The film takes place on St. Patrick’s Day, and, surprisingly, is the only film in the series to do so, and the movie has an entertainingly balmy conception of the day: For some reason, these scenes mostly take place in an Irish bar downtown, and the bar is filled with cops, drinkers in green plastic bowler derbies, and little people dressed as leprechauns. There are a lot of little people too — they outnumber everybody else in the bar, selling gold foil wrapped chocolate coins. When Warwick Davis shows up, they cheer him on, presuming his is just another costumed actor. They do this by pounding on a table and chanting “One of us, one of us!”, a line stolen from the cult film “Freaks.” (It’s not the film’s only nod to cult movies either; two of the passengers in the heroes hearse are midnight movie stalwart Clint Howard and “Twin Peaks” actress Kimmy Robertson.

I‘ll mention one more thing I like about the film, and it is the element that seems both the most cultish and the most Southern Californian. For some reason, the movie makes occasional detours to a go-kart racetrack in Northridge. There the leprechaun murders several people, including a police officer; he runs this man down in a souped-up, modded go-kart with skulls for headlights and “I WANT ME GOLD” spray painted on its side.

Suddenly, the film’s leprechaun has turned into one of the custom hot rods illustrated by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth.
Suddenly, the film’s leprechaun has turned into one of the custom hot rods illustrated by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, a native of Los Angeles who liked to draw big monsters riding tiny, souped up cars.

I share the sentiment that there is no point remaking good films, but there might be a lot of value in remaking bad ones. There’s the germ of a better film here, and an outrageously Irish-American one, This would be a tale in which an Irish leprechaun comes to Los Angeles and discovers that it’s the perfect place for him; the town is a haunted, occult land in which out-of-work little people dress like him for money, the streets are filled with people in costume, and monsters have always driven hot rods through the streets.

I’d love to see that film done well.

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Max Sparber

Max Sparber is a playwright, journalist, and history detective in Omaha, Nebraska.