The mental toll of watching all eight ‘Leprechaun’ films

Self-quarantining means finding different madness-inducing ways to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day


Editor’s note: this story originally ran in 2020, but a Leprechaun movie marathon is an activity that can be enjoyed during any St. Patrick’s Day - quarantined or not.

Coronavirus has pretty much canceled St. Patrick’s Day this year, but self-quarantining doesn’t mean you can’t get in the spirit.

Which is what I thought when I pitched the idea of watching all the Leprechaun movies as a means to celebrate the holiday responsibly and considerately.

Little did I know there are eight movies. Eight goddamn films.

As a human race, we have done some great things, but “produced eight Leprechaun films” is not one of them. But nobody said life during an epidemic is easy.

So let’s do this. Come at me, Lep-bro-chaun. Let’s dance.

Leprechaun (1993): I start my journey fresh faced and full of vigor. Truthfully, I’m excited to revisit the first Leprechaun. It’s the only film in the series that I’ve seen, and that was ages ago during a drunken night in a college dorm room, so my memory is shoddy at best.

The plot isn’t too complex: Dan O’Grady steals the leprechaun’s pot of gold, traps him inside a crate, and then suffers a stroke. Ten years later, a man and his daughter (Jennifer Aniston) move into O’Grady’s house. Aniston quickly falls for a hunky contractor whose co-workers include a dim-witted manchild, Ozzie. After inadvertently releasing the leprechaun from the crate and then stumbling upon his pot of gold, Ozzie accidentally swallows one of the pieces (Jesus Christ, Ozzie). Knowing what we know about leprechauns, ole Lep will stop at nothing to get it back.

Leprechaun is famous for being Aniston’s first film, and it’s easy to see that she had bigger things ahead of her at the time. But it’s also an amazing showcase for Warwick Davis, the actor who plays the titular leprechaun (whose name is Lubden in the credits, but no one ever calls him that). I grew up watching Davis in the film Willow, where he plays such a kind-hearted hero, so seeing him be so nasty is a bit of a shock.

I’m not really sure if this movie is meant to be funny or scary. It feels a little like Ernest Scared Stupid, but with gore. Still, I crack up every time Lubden says some variation of “I want me gold!” because that’s like 80% of his lines.

“Wait, does he want his gold?” I’ll think, and boom, he’ll say the line. The filmmakers also give Lubden an OCD-like tendency to shine people’s shoes and, in fact, there’s a point where the heroes throw unshined shoes at him as a distraction. Is this a leprechaun thing? Who cares!

The movie ends and I feel strangely fulfilled. I shake my fist in defiance at the cinematic universe. Throw your worst at me, I can take it.

There are seven more films to watch.

Leprechaun 2 (1994): It quickly becomes apparent that there’s no connection between the first two Leprechaun films. Does this signify the inherent chaos of life?

Again, this movie centers on Lubden and the search for his gold, but this time in the streets of Los Angeles. How does he get to L.A.? Well, he’s been asleep underneath the city for 1,000 years, duh. But wait, how could the first movie happen if he’s been asleep for that long? Is this even the same leprechaun in the first film? Stop asking questions, my brain says.

The highlight of this film is when the leprechaun — who I forgot to mention speaks in rhymes — says, “You may think this line is getting old, but believe me son, I want me gold!” My second favorite scene is where a guy puts his face in two spinning lawn mower blades because the leprechaun tricks him into thinking they’re breasts.

After completing this movie, cracks begin to form in my fortitude. I watch the credits with a smile frozen on my face. What have I gotten myself into?

But then the part of my brain that forces me to do stupid things takes over: No turning back now, my friend, keep watching Leprechaun, until the end!

Leprechaun 3 (1995): The third film begins with a distraught, barely-cohesive man bringing a statue of the leprechaun into a Las Vegas pawn shop. It doesn’t take long before the shop owner removes the statue’s magical medallion, thereby releasing Lubden from his stone confinement. There’s no backstory about this medallion and how it turns the leprechaun to stone, but I’m just going to roll with it. By now, my journey to watch all of these movies feels similar to being stranded in Pacific Beach: I could worry about making sense of the scenario, or I could just lean in and order another drink.

There’s strong evidence that the third Leprechaun is the best in the series. It’s actually quite funny, with Davis chewing the most out of every scene. Also, the plot revolves around a down-and-out college student who uses the leprechaun’s gold to win big in the casino, so there are even poignant messages about the addictive power of gambling and human greed.

And then as I’m thinking that perhaps this movie might redeem the series, Lubden makes a beauty-obsessed woman’s breasts, lips and butt inflate until they explode.

Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997): There are certain moments in life that shatter our worldview. Perhaps it’s something as profound as the death of a loved one, or as trivial as learning the song Oh Sheila is not, in fact, a Prince song. Whatever the case, these are the moments that change our fundamental beliefs, as well as the very fibers of our beings.

I will never be the same after watching the fourth Leprechaun movie.

Forget any positive thing I’ve said about this series, because In Space squashes every ounce of goodwill. The film essentially has the same plot as the first two Alien movies — a military team is sent to a planet to kill something that’s interfering with a mining operation, and that something turns out to be Lubden. What happens next can only be expressed through questions: The Marines blow Lubden up, but his spirit travels up a Marine’s urine stream and, I guess incubates inside the Marine? After the Marines leave the planet and are busy partying (seriously, they spend so much time in, like, this nightclub [???] built into the spaceship), Lubden bursts through the Marine’s penis?

Leprechaun 4: In Space could’ve been gold. I don’t know how they managed to ruin leprechaun + space, but they did. This film also looks the shittiest, where the quality is no better than a Power Rangers episode. Absolutely dreadful.

This movie is God’s punishment for all humankind’s evils, I’m certain of it.

Leprechaun 5: In the Hood (2000): Oof. When a movie starts out with Ice-T pulling a baseball bat out of his Afro, you know it’s going to be cringe city.

However, Leprechaun in the Hood is not as bad as it could’ve been. Maybe that’s like saying, “I got food poisoning but only threw up! No diarrhea!” but after the dismal space movie, Leprechaun in the Hood feels like a step up. It’s also strangely straight-forward. In fact, it almost feels like the presence of the leprechaun in this movie is almost an afterthought. Remove Lubden from this movie and you still have a story about three aspiring rappers who get in too deep with Mack Daddy, the kingpin played by Ice-T.

Make no mistake, this isn’t a good movie (never trust an “ the Hood” movie directed by a white guy) but it’s not a bad movie, unless you count the racial stereotypes and the transphobia. Okay, I’m wrong. It is a bad movie.

The only redeeming part is Lubden’s rap over the end credits: “Lep in the hood, come to do no good.” I sit there, quietly mouthing along to the song, bloodshot eyes glued to the splintering TV light. I’m alone. This is my life. This is what I’ve become.

Leprechaun 6: Back 2 Tha Hood (2003): Have you ever had a dream where you live through an entire day, and then wake up and realize you have to do it for real? That’s what Back 2 Tha (ugh) Hood feels like. Time is indeed a flat circle. A flat, pointless circle.

Again, the second Hood movie is not exactly a bad film. It might actually be the most adept film in the franchise, with some genuine tension.

The film follows a group of four who find (sigh) Lubden’s gold underneath a construction site. Each member of the group sees the gold as a means to escape their difficult lives, but — yet again! — it’s the leprechaun’s prerogative to get his gold back.

This is Davis’ last time playing Lubden, and props to him for being a good sport for doing six of these films. I don’t know if the role is wearing on him at this point, but he feels the most menacing in Back 2 Tha Hood. I also feel bad for how they send him off: an extended shot of him in full makeup, slowly sinking into wet cement. This not only looks like a terrible experience for the actor, but it serves as an apt metaphor for watching these films.

Leprechaun Origins (2014): Nearly 10 years after Back 2 Tha Hood, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) released its own version of Leprechaun. This is a gritty, straight-up horror entry that has so little in common with the rest of the franchise that I paused multiple times to make sure that it was, indeed, canon.

This film follows four super attractive American tourists who stumble upon a small village in Ireland, which — unbeknownst to them — requires blood sacrifices to keep a blood-thirsty leprechaun at bay.

Filmed with a stark, Michael Bay-esque sheen, this film feels more in line with the Texas Chainsaw reboot than anything else. The leprechaun here is a snarling beast that looks like the underground creatures in The Descent.

Everything about this movie is entirely forgettable. I’ve never missed Warwick Davis more. Why’d I sign up for a Hulu subscription to watch this? When the film is over, I feel around in my bed of crumbs and food wrappers looking for the remote control. I find an entire Flaming Hot Cheeto. When was the last time I had Cheetos? I eat it nonetheless. Leprechaun madness has rotted my brain. One more film to go.

Leprechaun Returns (2018): It only took eight films to get one that was somehow related to another in the franchise. This made-for-TV Syfy film is a sequel to the first Leprechaun and it follows the daughter of Jennifer Aniston’s character, who returns to the cabin from the first film, which is now a self-sustaining, off-the-grid sorority house. Ozzie also returns, older but not wiser, and he accidentally ingests some of the well water that that ole leprechaun has been sitting in for 25 years. After a super gory “birth,” the leprechaun is back! And guess what he wants after he’s released ... his hat! Just kidding. It’s his gold. He wants his gold.

For being a made-for-TV movie, Leprechaun Returns is one of the better films in the series. The new actor who plays Lubden, Linden Porco, does a great job of filling Warwick Davis’ shoes. And the lead actress infuses the role with a good amount of sardonic wit. There’s also a grim sense of humor in the film that feels slightly derivative of Stephen King’s IT films, but it works.

Or, does it work? I can’t really tell anymore. The movies are done, but I’m still seeing leprechauns. Can someone call a doctor? Do they accept gold at the doctor? Do they take gold there? Wait, nobody take me gold. You hear me? Nobody better take me gold.

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