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Review: ‘Leprechaun: Origins’ – It’s Not Even an Origin Story!

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Review: 'Leprechaun: Origins' - It's Not Even an Origin Story!

I love pro wrestling, and I have since before I was even really allowed to watch it. For my whole adolescence, Vince McMahon’s WWE defined pro wrestling to me. By the time I was a viewer, that organization had swallowed up nearly every other major wrestling promotion in the United States. The WWE monopoly had spread so far that it ate up a lot of what was interesting about those smaller wrestling companies, polished it all down and repackaged the whole sport as “sports entertainment.” And when there were no more wrestling worlds to conquer, McMahon focused on furthering the brand through other forms of entertainment. A film studio seemed a natural extension of the weekly television product offered by the WWE, and the company had a relationship with Hollywood dating back to 1989’s Hulk Hogan vehicle No Holds Barred.

WWE Studios’ greatest contribution to the movie world is elevating Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson during his ascent to the big screen. The Rock’s first starring roles were in WWE Studios’ The Scorpion King, The Rundown, and Walk Hard. Soon, The Rock’s work as an actor eclipsed even his stature as The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment.

WWE Studios’ greatest contribution to the “7th Entry in an Oft-Maligned Horror Series” world is Leprechaun: Origins. The studio’s whole purpose was providing WWE Superstars with starring vehicles. Here, the wrestler in the leading role is Dylan “Hornswoggle” Postl. I remember a lot about Hornswoggle’s first run in the WWE; he debuted right at the peak of my viewership. Hornswoggle is an interesting character, first introduced as “Little Bastard,” and that was a very fitting name. The character was a wily trickster who appeared from under the ring and slipped through the hands of some of the biggest and baddest. Later, the “Little Bastard” moniker became even more fitting during a storyline wherein Hornswoggle was Vince McMahon’s illegitimate son. Soap operatic intrigue aside, Postl was great in the ring, and his presence was always a fun surprise.

Because I am both a fan of horror movies and professional wrestling, I very frequently defend entertainment that may be dismissed by other folks. Some things just aren’t for everyone, and those things usually catch my interest. Unfortunately, there is really not much for me to defend, as both a fan of the Leprechaun franchise and a fan of Dylan Postl’s wrestling work. There’s just not enough of what I enjoy about both those things for me to be able to really recommend Leprechaun: Origins to very many people. Which is a shame, because I wanted to like this. Very little of what makes Postl a great entertainer was used, he was very underutilized. And nothing was used of what makes the Leprechaun movies occasionally very fun.

Maybe a good starting point is examining the creature design. Now, even outside of this franchise, most people are at least somewhat aware of leprechauns. The leprechaun is a creature with a specific iconography that defines it and sets it apart from other beings. For instance, we would associate things like a top hat and buckled shoes with a leprechaun’s appearance. There are rainbows and pots of gold that are essential to any leprechaun story. And absolutely none of this is present in Leprechaun: Origins. Specific to these movies, we have a checklist of things we want to see. For instance, in each of the prior Leprechaun movies, the titular guy is a wise-cracking, Freddie-lite who uses magic to creatively kill his enemies.

Leprechaun: Origins swiped the slate clean. It was both Dylan Postl’s intention and the filmmaker’s goal to create something new. And that’s commendable! There are a lot of horror movies, even a lot of Leprechaun movies. So, I applaud their effort in pushing to make a new start. Mostly, I really do want to give credit to Dylan Postl in his approach. It would’ve been really easy to do a Warwick Davis impression. Instead, Postl uses movement to define his monster. Much like Postl’s role as Hornswoggle, here as the titular leprechaun, he is very frequently popping up out of nowhere and disappearing after spreading chaos.

Leprechaun Origins Monster Face

The design of the actual creature is nothing like any traditional or pop-culture understanding of a Leprechaun. Really, it could be any kind of monster. It exists as a sort of post-Cloverfield undefined alien-looking “thing.” This is a bit of a digression, but I think Cloverfield marked a turning point in creature design wherein monsters now are all gray and hard-to-define. Here, the leprechaun is nearly rodent-like and tunnels around like a mole. None of this is particularly Leprechaun-like.

So if the “Leprechaun” portion of the title is a bit misleading, how about “Origins?” Well, it turns out, other than the filmmakers intention to break free from the rest of the series, this isn’t the “Origin” of anything. It’s not the origin story of Wawick Davis’ Leprechaun character. There is nothing about this character’s personality that links it to our old Leprechaun. In addition to not visually resembling that predecessor, this Leprechaun doesn’t speak or do magic or anything. There are no fun Leprechaun tricks, there’s no magic where the victims get turned into something dangerous, there’s nothing.

It’s also not even the origin of this character. Like, there’s nothing to indicate this is the beginning of some new arc. In fact, there’s even dialogue about how this always happens. The events are so commonplace that some of the characters have a routine plan for how to deal with the Leprechaun. So really, we’re shown that this has gone on a long time, with hints at lore that never really get expounded upon. And the Leprechaun shenanigans have gone on for so long and happen so regularly that the one character voices how tired he is of it all. So, no, it’s not at all an origin.

Leprechaun Origins Cast

If it’s not a Leprechaun story, and it’s not an Origin story, what sort of story is this movie trying to tell? In one word, this story is formula. It’s all pretty rote, to be honest. It’s not a formulaic Leprechaun Cinematic Universe story. For all its efforts to break three of the preceding movies, it molds itself as a predictable, bland horror movie. From the characters to the jump scares, nothing sets this flick apart from anything else available to you on-demand. Wherein the older Leprechaun movies at least elicit laughter when they fail to garner screams, this movie can’t even get a good chuckle out of me. I understand that this is purposeful, I know that this isn’t intended to be funny in tone. But the movie doesn’t have enough horror merit to benefit from discarding the laughs. I think that points at one of my major gripes with this movie. It’s not strong enough to exist on its own, and yet does not fit in with the reset of the Leprechaun canon. It would’ve been better left at the orphanage. It seems like there was a script for a monster movie and somebody said “Hey let’s retroactively name this a Leprechaun movie and maybe we can scrounge some interest from die-hard fans. Oh, also, let’s get some wrestling fans involved!”

In summary, I can’t really recommend this movie to anybody. The only person who comes out with some dignity is my boy Hornswoggle. He brings a commendable, fresh approach to this role, and his agility as an athlete makes for the scenes that come closest to being scary. Also, it’s a badass-looking mask/makeup. It’s not a Leprechaun mask, but it is frightening to look at. I wish, however, that there was more time on screen for us to enjoy both the makeup effects and Dylan Postl’s performance.

Hornswoggle, please don’t appear from under the ring and kick my ass. I liked what you did with this movie, and I wish there was more for you to do here.

Leprechaun: Origins is available to stream with a premium subscription to Amazon Prime. Viewer be warned, you may have expectations, and you may feel they are unfulfilled.

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