[31 Days of Horror Part VII: The New Blood] Day 8 – Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997)

Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Cast: Warwick Davis, Brent Jasmer, Jessica Collins, Tim Colceri, Miguel A. Nunez, Jr., Debbe Dunning, Gary Grossman, Rebekah Carlton, Rick Peters, Geoff Mead, Michael Cannizzo, Ladd York, Guy Siner
Screenplay: Dennis A. Pratt
95 mins. Rated R for language, horror violence, and some sexuality.

Taking a franchise to space has always been an odd choice. In most cases, it never really serves the story much. The only instances where I see it actually fitting the story is Critters 4 (the titular Critters being of space origin, so going there eventually made some sense), but it oftentimes feels like the idea machine running out of steam. One of these days, I’ll really have to rank horror franchises with one space sequel, but for now, we’ll just settle for talking about Leprechaun 4: In Space, one of the more peculiar of these films, specifically due to the franchise’s low budget. Let’s just find out if the Leprechaun franchise can breathe without oxygen.

The year is 2096, and a group of space marines has accidentally found themselves interfering with the villainous Leprechaun (Warwick Davis, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) as he tries to woo the alien Princess Zarina (Rebekah Carlton, A Match Made in Heaven, A Quiet Little Neighborhood, A Perfect Little Murder). When the Leprechaun gets aboard their ship, picking them off one at a time, it’s clear they’ll need more than a little luck to defeat him.

The idea for Leprechaun 4 came about when a head producer for TriStar saw a poster for Apollo 13 with the Leprechaun’s face instead of Tom Hanks. The poster was apparently just a joke, but he took it and ran with it, getting this fourth film quickly into production. Now, we currently live in a time period where random tweets are getting bought up and turned into movies (no joke), but seriously, who actually thought sending the Leprechaun to space was a good idea. It’s fair to inform you now that this is a horrible movie, perhaps the worst one of them all because it just doesn’t get anything right. It’s odd to think that a franchise with a magical Leprechaun murdering people took four movies to completely jump the shark, but Leprechaun 4 proves that to be the case.

There’s clearly an issue with the tone of this film. All of the Leprechaun films have been campy to this point, no doubt, but this one is by far the silliest, slap-stickiest, and least terrifying of them all. I get that there’s a horror/comedy element at play in this series, but the horror portion of that is nonexistent here. There’s nothing frightening about this film whatsoever, and the argument that it’s self-aware comedy doesn’t work because…how do I put it…What parts are the “funny” parts? I get that comedy is suggestive but I’m having trouble even figuring out what parts of the film are supposed to be comedic.

The narrative is riddled with problems that range from the improbably to the laughably foolish. The way these space marines are written makes them so stupid that I just can’t take their story seriously. They are bad soldiers that make bad mistakes, and not just fueled by the presence of a new enemy in the Leprechaun. They seem to not understand the simple actions that should lead to their safety. Then, there’s the whole issue of where these Leprechaun powers come from. It seems that, due to the lack of rules as the sequels piled up, we have a significant problem with an all-too-powerful villain. There’s no way the space marines would be able to stop the Leprechaun because he appears to have lost all the quirks that made the original film fun. In the first movie, the Leprechaun has to shine any shoes that he finds with abrasions or scuffs. He also can be kept at bay with certain clovers and a few other things. Taking him to space seems to remove any of these fun world-building aspects and we are left with powers that are too powerful to give our heroes a chance, and the ending proves that writer Dennis A. Pratt (Kickboxer 3: The Art of War, Deep Freeze) couldn’t come up with a viable way to defeat the Leprechaun.

That kind of boils down the biggest problem with the movie. There’s just no purpose to sending the Leprechaun to space. We’ve never really gotten clarification that Warwick Davis is playing the same Leprechaun in each film or a different one as the characters are all similar, they also drastically change in how he is dispatched and where we see him when the next film begins, but why is he in space anyway? The movie starts…and he’s in space. There’s no interesting hook to put him there, and the budget clearly cannot afford the sci-fi elements at play. The ship’s exterior is worse than most Windows 95 games. The original StarCraft (which I still play) cinematics look better by comparison.

Leprechaun 4: In Space is a tremendous failure in just about every way. It’s easily the worst film in the franchise up to this point, as the first three films have an element of charm to them that is sadly lacking here. The plot is foolish, the characters dumb, the tone wildly incorrect. It’s a horrible movie, but hey, at least it has Jackie Denardo in it, and that has to count for something, right?

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Mark Jones’s Leprechaun, click here.
For my review of Rodman Flender’s Leprechaun 2, click here.
For my review of Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Leprechaun 3, click here.

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