Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Leprechaun Retrospective: Leprechaun 3 (1995)

Leprechaun 3
Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Starring:  Warwick Davis, John Gatins, Lee Armstrong, Caroline Williams, John DeMita
Rated: R


Now this is more my speed.  Trimark wanted to do more Leprechaun movies, but on the cheap and straight to video.  They sort of outsourced the next film to a production company who sort of took it on as a badge of honor.  With this, they brought in Night Of The Demons 2 director Brian Trenchard-Smith who "got it" when it came to Leprechaun.  He saw through the first two movies and really understood what worked about it and finally had the balls to just go all out and make Leprechaun a full on horror-comedy.  He liked how the second film took him to Hollywood, but wanted to relish more in location focus and said "Where am I going to drop the Leprechaun off at next?"  That answer, was Sin City itself, Las Vegas.
Now, no, this isn't Warwick Davis hanging out at the Belaggio or event he Rio.  This movie was dirt cheap, so it had to focus more on the outskirts of old Vegas.  Which, is actually a bit more interesting because its not what we see more of in the movies.  However, some exteriors are Vegas, but this one took place in an old abandoned hotel in Los Angeles that looked very up to snuff with the cheap casinos on the strip.  
What I found very weird this time around watching Leprechaun 3 is that while this one is straight to video and a planned direct to video release at that, it comes across as more cinematic than the actual theatrical entries in the series.  Brian Trenchard-Smith shoots a movie that is cheap as hell, but doesn't actually look cheap as hell.  If you're a film person or have studied on making films, you can see where corners are cut and illusions are made, but you can also appreciate how this film looks like it had a lot more money in it than the first two films.  The effects are better, the sets are better, the performances are a bit of a step up and the film is shot better.
Joining the fold are a couple notable actors.  Caroline Williams, whom you all know I adore, shows up here in a delicious little role.  She's the Vegas has been who pretty much is out to make people miserable.  Its a fun and different role for her at the time.  She also gets a death that's both humorous and awesome in terms of gore effects.  You may wonder why John Gatins is notable as you'll likely say "who?".  But, having him means Leprechaun 3 sports an Academy Award nominee.  No, it wasn't for acting.  He was nominated for Best Original Screenplay for the film Flight.  Its an interesting little nugget of trivia and prestige for Leprechaun.  He also caps a nice little 3-year horror sequel trilogy with Leprechaun 3 with prior roles starring in 1993's Witchboard 2: The Devil's Doorway and 1994's Pumpkinhead II: Bloodwings on his resume.  
One cast member I wonder what happened to is Lee Armstrong ("Tammy").  Her career is a short one, having quite acting after this movie.  She also starred in two straight-to-video kids movies.  Here's a bit of weird circumstance here.  I figured she was cast in this movie because its a Las Vegas movie and she looks like Elizabeth Shue.  Leaving Las Vegas was a movie making big waves in 1995 and I figured they were trying to crib that a bit with Lee Armstrong.  Turns out, there's likely no way that happened as Leprechaun 3 was released to home video in June of 1995 and Leaving Las Vegas wasn't seen by the public til as early as October later that year (February 1996 wide release).  So, its just a incidental coincidence that this is the way it is.  It's not like Lee Armstrong was some Meryl Streep-like talent in this movie, but I really enjoyed her vibe and energy and would've liked to have seen her in some more films.  But alas, not to be had.
Someone finally figured out that comedy was this series' strong suit when it came to 3.  And this one does deliver.  Make no mistake though, Leprechaun 3 is not some laugh out loud comedy.  Yes, there are some really good genuine moments here.  I particular like the joke I quoted up here (Its in reference to "Et tu, Brute?").  Most of it is played for groaners or yoks, but when you are watching trashy cinema, that's the kind of stuff you're relishing in.  A lot of the jokes feel like the kind of jokes people making a film joke on set about making, but don't actually shoot.  But here, they're actually going through with them.  And because everyone in the cast and crew is on board with the material, this all comes together an actually works (If you are in the mood or understand/enjoy movies like Leprechaun 3 to begin with).
It should be noted that this the last entry of the series that was released before Scream came out the following year.  Leprechaun was one of horror's biggest or most notable franchises or figureheads at the time.  Jason was "dead", Freddy's new vision and Michael Myers return failed at the box office, Chucky hadn't been heard from since 1991 and Leatherface had a movie that people were doing their best to lock up in a vault never to be seen.  Leprechaun and Candyman were the newcomers.  Candyman was still a theatrical product, but with making about half what the first one did, he would take the straight to video route himself.  Leprechaun was the first one to bite the bullet and go the straight to video.  And the series found success with its 3rd entry.  It garnered the best reception of all of them and also sold a lot of units.  If there's one trend that Leprechaun was beginning to set, was that horror may have been done as a theatrical product, but straight to video it may be able to prosper.  As I said, Candyman would follow suit, but Pinhead would go there, too.  It never happened, but the Halloween series' seventh entry was prepping for a straight to home video release until Jamie Lee Curtis came knocking at their door.  When people dog the pre-Scream 90s horror and talk about it being in the dumps, I would think Leprechaun is possibly the poster child for that mentality.  Aside from the home video trend, he was also spawning some odd knock offs in the form of Rumpelstiltskin (Leprechaun creator Mark Jones ripping himself off), Uncle Sam Wants You...Dead! and Jack Frost (NOT the Michael Keaton one, but the Shannon Elizabeth with the carrot nose in the shower creepy snowman movie).   
For all the grief and stuff the series may get.  I like this Leprechaun film.  Its the first one in this series that's enjoyable.  There are no worries over it being taken seriously.  The film sticks to its mission and finally is not ashamed to be what it is.  It also has the best score and one that feels "just right" for the series.  Once you hear the first notes, you're know you're in for a much better (And MEMORABLE!) ride than the last time.  I believe this premiered on Cinemax (Of course, right?) right around the time when it came out on home video and that's when I first saw it.  Back then, I didn't like it, but I also didn't "get" it.  Looking back now, its one of my favorites of the series and EASILY the best of these first three films.  Right here is the jumping off point of where things get crazy and more ambitious.  And to me, in the Leprechaun series, failing when you're aiming for the stars or being too ambitious is better than being boring, worried about making a film that might be able to be taken seriously.

NEXT TIME:  Hell yes, we're going to SPACE!

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