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Stage and Film : 'Leprechaun' Savages Taste in Bloody Quest for Gold

January 11, 1993|MICHAEL WILMINGTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Even if you're in the mood for a low-budget horror movie about a maniacal leprechaun in bloody quest of a crock of gold, you'd do well to pass on "Leprechaun" (at selected theaters). This dingy, drab, pointless little movie--a would-be shamrock shocker about four teen-agers menaced by the Irish super-scamp while renovating a North Dakota farmhouse--is made without flair or imagination, seemingly enervated by its own bad taste and low intentions.

"I want me pot of gold!" the movie's fiendishly jolly little leprechaun screams endlessly, impersonated by "Willow's" Warwick Davis under lots of latex. And all the while, he cackles, grins, swings his bloody shillelagh, maims or disembowels victims, or endlessly chases them around a disheveled farmyard while they try, futilely, to paint the front porch.

"Me pot of gold! Me pot of gold! " It might be the filmmakers' cry as well. Where's the pot o' box-office someone snagged out of "Child's Play," "Gremlins," "Critters" or every other cutie-pie horror show of recent years? As empty, one hopes, as the crock at the end of every other '80s rainbow.

Writer-director Mark Jones strains mightily to achieve cliche level, but the movie isn't dumb enough to be fun. The settings are drab, the plot creaks, the dialogue is full of empty chirps. And the cast of victims is the usual all-formula grab-bag: a saucy L.A. feminist wench in short-shorts (Jennifer Aniston), a bemused hunk (Ken Olandt), a slow-thinking slobbo (Mark Holton) and a Spielbergian quick kid, aided by a dull-witted cop or two and the hapless O'Gradys, who bring the leprechaun back from Erin.

The movie's murderous Irish elf, notable for his atrocious dental hygiene and his tendency to run amok, drives around in kiddie cars or tricycles and apparently can only be killed with a four-leaf clover. He seems to have been inspired not by pungent types like Barry Fitzgerald or Arthur Shields, with their twinkles of malice or wily ferocity, but by the cartoon on the Lucky Charms cereal box: the one who screams "Where's me Lucky Charms?" As if to confirm this link, the director includes a scene where Davis devours a cob-webbed box of Lucky Charms and then spits them out.

Is Jones making a subconscious comment on his own movie? In an age that has already given us killer Santas ("Silent Night, Deadly Night"), killer dolls, killer babies, killer toys--everything, it seems, but serial-killing Easter Bunnies and homicidally deranged fuzzy ducklings--maniac leprechauns may be the next logical step. But is it a step we should follow?

"Leprechaun" (MPAA rated R for language and leprechaun violence) tries to scare us all green, but it only bores the bejeebers out of us.

'Leprechaun'

Warwick Davis: The Leprechaun

Jennifer Aniston: Tori

Ken Olandt: Nathan

Mark Holton: Ozzie

A Trimark Pictures presentation of a Mark Jones Film. Director-screenwriter Mark Jones. Producer Jeffrey B. Malian. Executive producer Mark Amin. Cinematographer Levie Isaacks. Editor Christopher Roth. Music Kevin Kiner. Production design Naomi Slodki. With Ken Olandt, Mark Holton, Robert Gorman. Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.

MPAA-rated R (Language, violence).

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