MARCH 19, 2012
All that I ask from my Syfy original movies is that I can tell them apart from one another (unlike the various water monster flicks) and that they have a little personality. Thus, Leprechaun’s Revenge is a success, because it’s very atypical in many regards to other Syfy flicks I’ve seen, and the game cast gives it a lot of surprising flavor. And it’s not Leprechaun 7, so there’s another bonus (it aired after a few of the Warwick Davis movies, so I’m sure some stoned Syfy viewers assumed it was a new entry in that series).
It also betrays the Syfy standard with regards to its kills – it’s more of a slow burn horror movie in that sense. While the body count is high, it seems most of the kills come in the film’s final 20 minutes, with only a handful of others sprinkled throughout the first hour or so (which feels like more thanks to the commercials). Unusual for this sort of thing, the heroine is introduced in the first scene and is actually the one to spring the thing loose – usually the monster will awaken and kill some randoms before our heroes are introduced and brought into the situation unaware.
Thus, this causes some repetition and heel dragging in the pace, because she knows what she’s up against almost right from the start, and clues in her dad (Billy Zane) and grandfather (William Devane) shortly after. Hell, Devane doesn’t even doubt her, and Zane encounters the thing himself before the halfway point, so they don’t even get any mileage out of the usual “Nobody believes me until it’s too late” shenanigans. But you know it still has to come down to a final battle on the day of the big St. Patrick’s Day parade, so in the 2-3 day interim, it’s just a lot of her moping around, doing research, getting closer to the guy that’s been in love with her since they were kids… that sort of stuff. A few kills are peppered throughout, and then they toss in a nightmare scene or two to make up for the lack of carnage (and also provide better spots to go to commercial). Just feels a bit wonky, but as director Drew Daywalt (working from a script by Anthony Ferrante) is making his horror feature debut after making a ton of well-received shorts, it’s not too surprising that the pacing feels a bit off – it’s possible he is used to having to tell a story in just a few minutes (and he probably had to deal with Syfy demands and such too).
But again, it’s got personality, so it’s not a fatal issue. Zane and Devane have terrific chemistry, and both are more fun than they’ve been in ages, with Devane’s trademark no-nonsense persona a perfect fit for his character’s matter-of-fact explanations of the town’s history (which involves murderous leprechauns). And Zane is just a pure delight, playing a single dad and town sheriff who tries to put honey on a waffle because he forgot to pick up syrup. He has a scene late in the movie where he tells his daughter how her mother “died”, and it’s just pure bliss (think Phoebe Cates’ story in Gremlins), and then continues as he begins doubting himself as a sheriff because “the whole town is dead”. It’s genius, and if there were awards for Syfy movies, he’d be a shoe-in. I also liked his bits with his deputy, particularly one where she over-pronounces “hoof”.
I was also quite charmed by Courtney Halverson, playing the heroine. In addition to being exceedingly pretty, she holds her own with Devane, and pulls off the action heroics just as well as the frightened would-be victim stuff. She even makes a meta-joke work, complaining that she woke up in a bad monster movie (her suitor explains if she WAS in a monster movie, she’d be the only one who lived – which is funny because she pretty much is). Since most Syfy heroines are cast based on their genre familiarity (i.e. someone from Stargate or whatever), it’s nice to see a fresh face backed up by some interesting character actors.
As for the leprechaun (who looks more like a tree troll than anything you’d see on a cereal box), he’s pretty good. Since it’s human sized they opt to use a guy in a suit, which is a relief. Unfortunately this must have soaked up the money for prosthetics and fake blood, as most of the action is of the “monster lunges at someone, cut to a shot of blood hitting the wall” variety. And the digital blood (particularly in the parade scene) makes the terrible splatter we see on The Walking Dead look good in comparison. When it comes to the kills on these things, I guess we can never have our cake and eat it too, so I guess this is preferable to a terrible monster with decent kill shots. But a man can dream… (or just go back and watch all of those 1980s movies that were low budget as well but somehow managed to do the monsters AND the gore with practical FX.)
It’s a shame that the Syfy movies can’t be like this on a regular basis, as they seemingly opt for something with “Shark” in the title more often than not. Most of the time I wait for DVD, but I’d be inclined to tune in every week (they air new ones every week, right?) if they all offered something a little different. Again, I’m not expecting to be blown away by anything they make, but if I can enjoy myself and not see every single plot point coming a mile away, I’m more than satisfied. And if they actually follow up this movie’s promise of a “LepreCop”, I’m 100% behind it.
What say you?