Most horror franchises have a seminal first film, one that grabs the attention of horror fans, and then the franchise limps its way to irrelevancy. Sequels descend in quality to the point the filmmakers are clearly in it for the cash and nothing else. The Leprechaun franchise is different from, say, the Halloween franchise or the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, because it has been shit from day one. The first flick was bad, the second flick was worse, and Leprechaun 3 feels like a last gasp before everyone went home and pretended none of this ever happened.
The first film in the franchise to go direct-to-video, Leprechaun 3 comes to us via screenwriter David DuBos and director Brian Trenchard-Smith, who has made some fine contributions to shitty cinema, including the mythical BMX Bandits. As always, Warwick Davis plays the leprechaun.
Like the previous film, Leprechaun 3 is a standalone story, with Davis’s leprechaun being a new character, although identical in every way. Action in this one moves to Las Vegas, where the leprechaun is freed from stony petrification by a greedy pawnshop owner (That Guy actor Marcelo Tubert). Of course, the leprechaun is focused on the three things that make him happy: his gold, bad rhymes, and violence.
Soon after, viewers are introduced to the main cast. They are Scott (John Gatins), a naïve youth on his way to Los Angeles for his freshman year of college; and Tammy (Lee Armstrong), a magician’s assistant at the Lucky Shamrock Casino. Plot machinations see young Scott lose his shirt at the roulette table, and he ends up at the pawnshop to sell his grandfather’s watch into hock. There, he finds one of the leprechaun’s gold coins, and, in this film’s conceit, wishes he was on a winning streak back at the casino, and lo and behold, the coin grants his wish. This is the event that really sets the plot into motion, as Scott isn’t sly enough to keep the scoundrels and blackhearts at the casino from picking up on the importance of the coin. What follows is the rest of the cast trying to steal the coin to get their wish, while the leprechaun chases them all down and adds to the flick’s body count.
It’s not the worst batch of ideas for a Leprechaun flick. Vegas is a natural backdrop for a story about gold and greed. There was even some location work on Fremont Street, which must have been quite the adventure for cast and crew way back in 1995. But, as with all things direct-to-video, the budget wasn’t up to the task.
The interior of the casino was a set, and looked it. Anyone who has been in a real casino will see immediately that what is on screen is ersatz. That’s to be expected, and is no unforgivable sin in a shitty movie. What I can’t hold with, though, are the gore effects. Here we are in the third flick in the franchise, and it has never lived up to its gory potential. Sure, there are the occasional blood and guts, but it never amounts to more than a tease. The way I see it, the least a bad horror flick could do is give viewers buckets of blood. The effects don’t have to be realistic, but they should at least be outlandish and extensive. For example, when minor character Loretta (Caroline Williams) has an explosive moment, it looks like the effects team blew up a foam mattress. The real highlights were a magician, Fazio (John DeMita), having one of his tricks played on him, and the pawnshop owner getting his big toe chewed off by the leprechaun, and even those effects left me wanting more.
Come on, people! If you’re going to make a bad horror flick, at least make it rain red.
Leprechaun 3 is a hard watch. It is relentlessly predictable and dull, but therein lay the seeds for the films to follow. A leprechaun in Vegas was a solid idea, and led to the silly locations of later entries in the series. Three bad flicks is a lot to ask before viewers get Leprechaun 4: In Space. As it is, Leprechaun 3 finds a home in the bottom half of the Watchability Index, displacing Haunting on Fraternity Row at #310.