Wednesday, June 26, 2019

LEPRECHAUN RETURNS (2018) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Lionsgate
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 93 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen  (1.78:1) 
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Steven Kostanski
Cast: Taylor Spreitler, Pepi Sonuga, Sai Bennett, Emily Reid, Ben McGregor, Linden Porco, Mark Holton

Probably because of my age I've always gravitated to the horror movies from the late-70's and '80, and with what seemed to be a bit of downturn in quality horror offerings in the early 90's I was leaning more towards arthouse, indie and foreign cinema, so when the original Leprechaun (1993) was making the rounds I had absolutely zero interest in or the handful of sequels that followed. I'd seen clips here and there of the films, but strangely it wasn't until Leprechaun Origins (2014) that I dipped my toe into the shamrock stained waters of the franchise, and it was really something awful, reinforcing my negative feelings about the franchise and pushing me even further away from it. 

Then a few years later it was announced that Astron-6's Steven Konstanski (The Void) would be directing a sequel that would ignore all the previous sequels, something that seems to be a a bit of a trend these days. The involvement of Konstanski  was intriguing, but that initial tinge of intrigue quickly turned to trepidation when I discovered it would be a Syfy Original production, and that would debut on the channel, but I still had an interest in it. 

The film takes place 25 years after the events of the first film, a direct sequel with the daughter (Taylor Spreiler, Amityville: The Awakening) of the character played by Jennifer Aniston in the first film returning to the dilapidated house from the first film along with her sorority sisters, and a few of their boyfriends, to transform the rundown home into a solar powered sorority house. 

Their arrival just so happens to coincide with the resurrection of the wisecracking Leprechaun who is bloodily re-birthed in the bowels of the dimwitted Ozzie, played by Mark Holton (the bike-stealing Francis from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure!)returning from the first film. From here the pint-sized Irish-terror sets upon the sorority house in search of his lost pot of gold. The story is no great shakes but it's enough to set-up the ensuing bloodbath at least, and really that's all we need.  

The Leprechaun this time around is played by Linden Porco  (Channel Zero), and it's a cool-looking creation, the demonic Leprechaun make-up is well sculpted with long fingernails, skin that looks like corpse-leather and a set of razor-sharp teeth all make for a visually engaging if not all-together frightening image. Porco's portrayal as the giggling maker of murderous mischief if fun, but a bit too giggly at times maybe, but on par with what I'd expected from the character.

What made this one such a delight for me was the blend of humor and cheesy horror fun, it's stupid but it's not too stupid for it's own good, there's just the right amount of stupidity. Backing that up we have plenty of practical special effects and gore, including the bloody birthing scene at the beginning, a throat-slash via drone, a sorority sister turned into a human blood-sprinkler, and a solar panel splitting someone down the middle from head to toe, it's all good stuff. There's also a nice nod to Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness with a small army of mini-Leprechauns appearing at one point. 

All the characters here are fairly stock one-dimensional caricatures you've seen a bunch in other b-movie slashers, there's even a  pretentious, self-important film student, but like the silly set-up the film does not require much more, and it's just enough to get the bloody-ball rolling, and it's fun watching them killed off, they're likable enough, but they're all fodder for the diminutive double-crossing death-dealer. 

Audio/Video: Leprechaun Returns arrives on Blu-ray from Lionsgate in 1080p HD framed in 1.78:1 widescreen. It's a low-budget but the digital shot films looks solid in HD. Colors are solid and well-saturated, everything is crisp and nicely detailed throughout. Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 that delivers dialogue cleanly with the score and FX coming through nicely, optional English subtitles are included.

Extras include a 20-min featurette with director Steve Konstanski who speaks about his love of the series, shooting the film in South Africa and the practical FX. We also get a still gallery and 4-min of behind-the-scenes footage.

The single-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork, the same artwork is featured on the slipcover, with the disc featuring artwork that looks to be an homage to The Howling.           

Special Features: 

- Going Green with Director Steven Kostanski (20 min) 
- Leprechaun Returns Behind-the-Scenes Footage (4 min) 
- Still Gallery (4 min) 

I did not come into this made-for-TV sequel expecting very much, that I had such a good time watching it was unexpected. In fact I enjoyed much so that I broke down and ordered the Leprechaun - The Complete Movie Collection on Blu-ray as soon as the credits started rolled. I'm sort of excited to finally give these films a fair shake.

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