I’ve been known to appreciate a bad movie from time to time, especially a bad action movie, so I’ve taken in a lot of films that came out on video only. I’ve never seen a single one among them that made me think, “this movie totally should have come out in theaters!” As much as I like to joke about how dumb major studios can be sometimes, they don’t become “major” without having some kind of idea about what audiences like. If a movie gets released direct-to-video, odds are that most audiences wouldn’t like it.
This brings us to 2000’s Leprechaun in the Hood. It’s the fifth film in a series that began with the 1993 slasher Leprechaun, which pitted a pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston against a magical, gold-loving creature played by little-person actor Warwick Davis (Willow, Return of the Jedi). That movie made back almost ten times its $900,000 budget according to Wikipedia, but not because it was particularly scary. Turns out that when you budget is tiny, having Davis spout odd rhymes while in bizarre makeup is just funny enough to make a pile of money.
The series started ramping up the laughs with the very first sequel, and visiting places where a Leprechaun would cause maximum hilarity – Las Vegas, outer space. By the time they got to Compton, California, there was no question about the movie being a comedy first; an opening prologue has Ice-T in 1970s pimp getup, pulling weapons out of his enormous Afro as he fights the Leprechaun. I was okay with that, since it’s the sort of joke you might see in a movie I really love, Black Dynamite.
Sadly, that was the last time the movie got a sincere laugh out of me, and there were still about 85 minutes to go. Flash forward to the present day, when three would-be rappers try to finance their budding careers by stealing from the Ice-T character. They make off with a magic flute that can turn their music careers around, but they also unwittingly free the Leprechaun. Chaos ensues, sort of.
This is not a good movie, but I did not find it to be transcendently bad like I did with The Room. If anything, this movie gave me a better appreciation of how once-in-a-lifetime bad The Room actually is. This movie has a plot that makes sense, and actors who look like they’ve made a movie once before in their lives. Some work was done to light scenes correctly and make the sets look vaguely similar to Compton. The only Wiseau-esque event in this movie was the random appearance of the rapper Coolio: he appears for literally five seconds, has no dialogue, doesn’t rap anywhere on the movie’s soundtrack, and isn’t listed in the end credits.
Like I mentioned in my review of The Room, my big problem with most bad movies is that they’re lazy. It’s no different here: this movie is basically a quickie cash-in, intended to kick-start the series’ popularity by combining it with the recent stoner hit Friday. For example, at one point the Leprechaun is encouraged to smoke some chronic, and then … actually, there is no “and then.” The Leprechaun gets high and likes it. That’s the punchline. Seriously.
I guess my biggest problem with this movie is that it’s trying to be a goofy comedy, but it also imports a bunch of tropes from the slasher movies that inspired the original Leprechaun. There are a lot of very long scenes that are trying to build up tension before someone gets killed, but they culminate in a bad rhyming joke. The leprechaun killings get very gory later on, but the movie still tries to be goofy at the same time. It’s the sort of thing that the Nightmare on Elm Street series devolved into by the fourth or fifth sequel, and I never liked those movies either. I like my movies scary or silly, but not trying to be both at the same time.
I’ll say this for Leprechaun in the Hood, though: it has absolutely no pretensions at all. A movie like Transformers will get try to be epic and intense, only to deflate the epic-ness with lame urination and masturbation jokes; that makes me legitimately angry, like my intelligence is being insulted. This is a movie that promises a rapping Leprechaun who kills people, and that’s exactly what it gives you. It’s hard to feel insulted by that, but it was also hard for me to laugh at it.
Reviewed by Mark Young