June 9, 2012

RETRO ACTIVE: Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997)

by Nick Schager

Leprechaun 4: In Space[This week's "Retro Active" pick is inspired by Ridley Scott's sci-fi monster prequel (of sorts) Prometheus.]

In space, no one can hear you groan, but here on Earth, the exasperated cries elicited by Leprechaun 4: In Space are inevitable, and inescapable. Few '90s horror franchises more bluntly epitomized the genre's clichéd creative template, as the Leprechaun series followed up its disposable original (most notable for featuring a pre-Friends, original-nosed Jennifer Aniston) with a duplicative sequel and then subsequent installments defined by their central-location gimmicks (Vegas, Space, the Hood—twice!). It's the malevolent Irish creature's journey to the cosmos, however, that's most mind-boggling, as grindhouse icon Brian Trenchard-Smith's direct-to-video work not only rejects logic at every turn, but proves too lazy to even rip off its obvious influences with verve, much less cleverness. Of course, stupidity is almost the end goal of a movie whose very premise seems to be a joke. Yet if everything is intended to be a giant goof, it should certainly be funnier—and more fun—than the nonsense delivered here, which concerns the efforts of the titular creature (Warwick Davis, grinning and cackling with his usual cartoon glee) to marry alien Princess Zarina (Rebekah Carlton) and have her kill her king father by bribing her with riches, a scheme that will put the Leprechaun on the throne and thus soothe his everyone-looks-down-on-me insecurities.

Leprechaun 4: In Space

How did the Leprechaun make it to a distant planet to woo Zarina? Leprechaun 4 doesn't suggest an answer, but he's already there when a squadron of space marines—a group whose macho joking around and bickering is lamely modeled on the characters of Aliens—arrive under the leadership of a sergeant (Tim Colceri) who has a metal plate for half of his head and barks out profanities like a Tourette Syndrome sufferer with a Full Metal Jacket fixation. After blowing away a squealing puppet meant to resemble a space creature, one of the grunts finds and attempts to steal the Leprechaun's gold, a mistake that the Leprechaun punishes by slicing the guy to pieces with a lightsaber—a moment of such plagiaristic stupidity that one pines to see George Lucas' lawyers beam down to halt this madness. Alas, no such luck, and soon the marines are engaged in a laser-pistol shootout with the Leprechaun, despite the fact that the titular baddie should have no need for guns because he's a being with magical powers. Such illogical behavior continues throughout the remainder of Leprechaun 4, which has its villain use his supernatural abilities randomly and inefficiently, and at all other times has him engage his enemies not by incinerating them with spells or mutating them with enchantments, but via severely inaccurate firearms.

Leprechaun 4: In Space

After blasting the Leprechaun to smithereens, a marine urinates on his severed leg, thereby allowing the Irish imp to magically transfer himself into the guy, and later—after the marines have boarded their ship with an unconscious Zarina in tow—remerge out of the guy's crotch just as he's about to get it on with the sole female soldier (Debbe Dunning). The Leprechaun's rebirth out of this man's penis is an Alien chest-burster riff of the most juvenile sort, and in keeping with a brainless story that otherwise concentrates on bald, German-accented cyborgian Dr. Mittenhand (Guy Siner), who's trying to harness Zarina's regenerative powers to regrow his human body, as well as studly soldier Books (Brent Jasmer) and his awkward romantic rapport with Pamela Anderson-lookalike biologist Tine (Jessica Collins). These narrative elements are mere excuses to present women as skanky and/or greedy—and to always sexually objectify them—and men as homicidal maniacs or deviant creeps, save for the noble Books. Moreover, they're scripted with more egregious dialogue than the human ear should have to suffer, with the Leprechaun's one-liners the prime offenders, as when he bizarrely jokes, "As Shakespeare said, 'Shit Happens!'" and then spooks a would-be victim by crooning, from a concealed location, "Oh Danny Boy."

Leprechaun 4: In Space

The Leprechaun performs a rendition of "This Little Piggy" and tortures the sergeant by turning him into a cross-dressing song-and-dance clown (femininity is humiliating!), while Leprechaun 4 hilariously reveals its true attitude toward women during a finale in which strong, independent Tina, while racing to save the ship from self-destruction, has her pants torn off by Mittenhand, who's been transformed by a Leprechaun-concocted DNA milkshake into a spider-scorpion beast. That the film isn't scary goes without saying. Yet more disastrous is its desire to be campy, which instead results in a combination of dimness and desperation that's epitomized by Davis' mischievous-grinning shtick. The best that can be said about Trenchard-Smith's direction is that the action is in focus, and the only positive note about Dennis A. Pratt's script is that it doesn't immediately kill off its token African-American character, likely because he's played by more-capable-than-his-co-stars (and future Juwanna Mann headliner) Miguel A. Nunez Jr. Unfortunately, that's not nearly enough to blot out the intergalactic inanity of this sequel, which, given its contempt for its audience, fittingly ends with the image of a giant middle finger.

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Posted by ahillis at June 9, 2012 2:29 PM