Yes, they actually made a horror series around leprechauns of all things. We’re going to be talking about that series today, but first we have to discuss leprechauns in general. In order to do that, we’ll have to talk about Irish folklore.
Irish folklore is full on fairies and spirits that have permeated into the popular culture. These creatures are known as the Aos Si or Aes Sidhe, depending on what source you check. There are tons of these spirits, some good and some bad. They each have their own distinct way in how they affect the world around them.
Some of these creatures will be familiar to people, like the banshee whose screams are an omen that someone will soon die. Less familiar to a lot of people are the Alp-luachra who crawls into your mouth while you sleep in order to eat your food, or the Dobhar-chu which is a cross between a dog and an otter. I have no idea what the point of that last one is either.
Most Americans have a pretty good idea of what a leprechaun is. It’s a trickster spirit that has a pot of gold and will grant three wishes to any human that captures it. Leprechauns are usually depicted as tiny creatures, though the actual size tends to vary from one source to another.
Leprechauns tend to be featured in various fantasy stories. My personal favorite depiction comes from the classic Disney film Darby O’Gill and the Little People. This film not only features leprechauns, but also other parts of Irish folklore like the banshee. It also features a black stagecoach that ferries people to the afterlife, but I’m not sure if that’s part of Irish folklore or not.
Of course, we’re here to talk about horror, and so we must talk about 1993’s Leprechaun. Typically in fiction, there are no repercussions for stealing a leprechaun’s gold, but this film makes an exception. In this film, an Irish-American man steals a leprechaun’s pot of gold and takes it back to America. The leprechaun follows him, and begins killing anyone that stands in the way between him and his gold.
To give the human characters some credit, they do try to just give the leprechaun his gold back. This doesn’t work, as one of the character had accidentally swallowed a gold coin earlier. It’s here that I should probably point out that this is supposed to be a comedic horror film. It just happens to be one that leans more towards the horror side than the horror-comedies that we usually talk about.
The human characters defeat the leprechaun by shooting a four-leaf clover into his mouth, knocking him down a well, and setting him on fire. That’s more effort to kill someone than was used with Rasputin in the animated Anastasia film, and Rasputin is most famous for the number of different way that were used to kill him.
Even though the leprechaun swears to get back at the kids and get back his gold coin, 1994’s Leprechaun 2 ignores this plot point and goes with something that I’m not entirely sure is part of leprechaun lore. In this film, its stated that if a girl sneezes three times and no one says “God bless you”, then that girl must marry a leprechaun. I’m not sure why a leprechaun would want to marry a human girl, but I’m not here to judge.
The leprechaun manages to capture a teenage girl by preventing her boyfriend from saying “God bless you”, however he loses one of his coins during the kidnapping. He discovers that the coin is missing when he tries to seduce the girl with his gold, and leaves her alone in his lair to go after the missing coin. Multiple deaths ensue before the girl’s boyfriend manages to kill the leprechaun with an iron crowbar. I’m not sure if the writers of the movie knew that fairy creatures are supposed to be weak to iron, but I’ll give them credit anyway.
1995’s Leprechaun 3 takes place in Las Vegas. Here, a college student is granted a wish, where he wishes for a winning streak at one of the casinos. He starts winning, but is then robbed and almost murdered. The leprechaun tries to kill him, but he is able to fight it off. He gets bitten during the fight, and starts to turn into a leprechaun. Apparently according to this film, leprechauns are like werewolves. The student is finally able to cure himself and kill the leprechaun by setting the leprechaun’s gold on fire.
Everyone say it with me now: “Gold Doesn’t Burn!”
1997’s Leprechaun 4: In Space is just…weird. The film starts in the year 2096, where a leprechaun is about to marry a space princess in order to become king of her planet. A platoon of space marines arrive to fight the leprechaun. A bunch of weird shenanigans involving growth rays, cyborgs, and a man being turned into a spider monster ensue. The film ends when the leprechaun is sucked out an airlock into space.
Hey, that’s not how you kill leprechauns! That’s how you kill xenomorphs!
2000’s Leprechaun in the Hood feels like an awkward attempt on the part of the filmmakers to be “cool” and “hip”. The characters in this film are rappers with names like Slug, Stray Bullet, and Mack Daddy. When one of the main characters of your film is named “Mack Daddy”, you know you’re in for a painful experience.
In this film, a rapper finds a room full of gold, from which he takes a golden flute. When the leprechaun is revived, he starts killing the rappers in order to get his golden flute back. After multiple scenes with the rappers fighting the leprechaun, the film ends in a climactic scene where the leprechaun emerges triumphant. No, I’m not kidding, the leprechaun actually wins in the end.
2003’s Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood is less painful than the previous film, but not by much. It gives a prologue telling the history of the leprechauns, and explains that the leprechaun that the film is following was corrupted by obsession with gold. As far as I know, it’s also the first film to actually name the leprechaun, but I don’t think anyone here really cares what the leprechaun’s name is.
The leprechauns gold is hidden in a youth center, where a group of kids find it a year later. They divide the gold among them, freeing the leprechaun. The leprechaun starts hunting and killing the kids in order to get his gold back. At the end of the film, the surviving kids hit the leprechaun with a chest full of his gold, knocking him and the gold into wet cement.
2014’s Leprechaun: Origins was made as a reboot of the franchise. Frankly, I didn’t think there was enough continuity in these films to warrant a reboot, but I guess the studio had its reasons. It also has a different actor playing the leprechaun, with wrestler Dylan Postl replacing series veteran Warwick Davis.
This film follows four college students as they take a trip to an Irish village. Its revealed in the film that the village stole a leprechaun’s gold, and has been sacrificing tourists to the creature to avoid having to give back the gold or sacrifice members of their own village. After killing three of the students and at least one of the native villagers, the last of the student manages to distract the leprechaun with gold before killing it with a knife. The ending implies that more leprechauns lie in wait.
This was always kind of a weird series. With very little continuity between films, it’s never made clear if we’re following the same leprechaun in each movie or if there are multiple murderous leprechauns running around. The fact that the leprechaun’s motives change in each film doesn’t help with the continuity issues either.
I hesitate to list this as a series that falls into “continuity hell” though, since there’s really no way to tell if the films are supposed to be related to each other. Apart from the fact that they all have Leprechaun in the title, I guess, but that doesn’t always mean anything. The Troll movies don’t have any connection between each other either, and those all have the same name.
Before any of you ask, I will not be talking about the Troll movies in the Month of the Macabre. Only one of those films is technically a horror film, and that one is so bad that the intended horror becomes more comedic than horrifying.
That about wraps it up for the Leprechaun series. Tomorrow we’ll talk about the Puppet Master series.
Yes, I am scraping the bottom of the barrel here. How did you guess?