A Critical Reappraisal of- Oh, Hell, It’s “Leprechaun 4: In Space” Isn’t It?
No one even likes this holiday
Planet Scumm is a science fiction zine. Leprechaun 4: In Space is the fourth film in the Leprechaun series. It’s the one in space. It’s a science fiction film. It’s tangentially related to St. Patrick’s Day. God has abandoned us.
Any questions? No? Fine.
Leprechaun 4: In Space is like the fever dream of a Stargate SG1 grip who’s addicted to whippets. After an opening credits sequence featuring a ribbed for her pleasure spaceship and some Windows 98 screensaver asteroids (reminiscent of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but shit), we’re introduced to our ostensible heroes. Rather, we’re introduced to our gross, porny space marine scene-fillers, each doing their best to emulate Bill Paxton in Aliens. Now, you might be thinking there’s no way the schlock filmmakers behind Leprechaun would go for an Aliens ripoff in 1996, a full decade later. YOU’D BE WRONG. Wrong just like I was. Wrong about so many things.
(Side note: I watched this, like, a day after Paxton died, and I can think of no better tribute to the man than a movie which nearly surpasses his performance as Private Hudson when it comes to making space marines look like cowardly little mouthbreathers. Rest in peace, Bill.)
As we learn from Sgt. Hooker–a cyborg who likes to say “fuck”, which, you know, neat–the squad’s after an alien who’s been causing trouble at some mining colonies. Do these colonies mine gold perhaps? Maybe. Hooker never says because this is a Leprechaun movie that doesn’t give a damn about doing tricksy leprechaun stuff. BOO.
(Also, there’s no other place to stick this, but Hooker is played by Tim Colceri, an actor who makes a brief appearance in Full Metal Jacket. Yeah, Leprechaun 4: In Space is only one degree of separation from Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam masterpiece. Think about that when you’re trying to fall asleep at night.)
Dr. Tina Reeves enters the scene. She’s our protagonist by virtue of the fact that she’s not immediately repellant. Reeves is a doctor of… something (space?), and DEMANDS that she be allowed to follow these TRAINED KILLERS to an UNKNOWN PLANET to KILL WHAT IS PROBABLY A LEPRECHAUN. Hooker’s all “Is that really a smart idea?”, but he says it in a condescending, sexist way, which totally undercuts his argument. So off they go!
Meanwhile, while the marines are loading their guns and rubbing one another down with oil, trouble brews on the planet below. A space princess in full Barbarella gear is chained to the wall of a hidden cavern and/or community-run climbing gym. And who’s behind this nefarious imprisonment?
It’s a leprechaun. The leprechaun, Leprechaun Four. Warwick Davis just walks out–no hiding in the shadows, no coy Irish brogue echoing through the cave–and starts chatting with the space princess. Leprechaun Four wants to marry her so he can inherit her planet, I suppose, and by way of persuasion he promises her a share of his gold. Of course, in a Shakespearean aside we learn that Leprechaun Four intends to kill Barbarella as soon as they tie the knot. Just what fans of the Leprechaun Cinematic Universe love–courtly intrigue!
This is the part of the film where questions start piling up, never to be cleared from one’s brain again. Why does a space princess need gold? Surely she’s already wealthy, due to her owning a planet and all. And, is gold even that big a deal in the future? Has Starfleet not perfected replicator tech yet? Leprechaun Four isn’t even offering her that much–it’s maybe a tableful of old-ass goblets and coins, stuff you probably couldn’t even melt down for circuits. And one more thing: WHY IS THERE A LEPRECHAUN IN SPA-
Anyway, the space idiots arrive and shoot the hell out of L4’s Duplo block cave. There’s a gag with a green lightsaber and a doomed marine named Lucky, because Ireland. Suddenly, one of the space idiots tosses a grenade next to Barbarella. Since she’s his meal ticket L4 knocks her out of the way and dives on the explosive, which blows him to smithereens.
Yeah. The frigging leprechaun dies. Say what you want about the team behind Leprechaun 4, but they had the stones to give L4 his Butch and Sundance moment in the first ten minutes of the movie. (That said, this is a deeply weird scene because it really makes you sympathize with L4. He hasn’t had time to do anything awful yet when the space marines barge in and turn his toddler playpen into a shooting gallery. When he takes a ‘nade for Barbarella it really throws into question who we’re meant to root for.)
Job done, the space idiots pack up the gold and the princess and head back to the ship. But not before Kowalski (yes, there’s a Kowalski, of course there’s a Kowalski) does a pee-pee on L4’s green, dismembered corpse. The rest of the marines laugh, and it’s not a “Wow, what a funny thing Kowalksi just thought up right now” kind of laugh, but a “Wow, there goes Kowalski again, urinating on yet another mythological creature we’ve gunned down in the name of mining rights” kind of laugh.
But not so fast space idiots! Some green lighting from the corpse travels up Kowalski’s pee stream, and suddenly the rest of the marines are making STI jokes at his expense. Like, is this a common occurrence? Is the company medic trained to treat urinary tract infections caused by eldritch energy? WHY IS THERE A LEPRECHAUN IN SPA-
Back on the ship, we’re introduced to some supporting space idiots, who are apparently financing this mission. Space marines take contract work on the side in this future.
Harold is Dr. Mittenhand‘s assistant. He and Hooker have a meet-cute where Harold shows off the shrink ray he uses to conveniently store freight, and Hooker brings up A Totally Unimportant Point. To paraphrase:
“What happens when you need to make things big again?” asks Hooker.
“Oh, there’s a Make Things Big Again button,” says Harold, “Despite the name, it makes normal things big too.”
“Would that work on, say, a small creature of Irish folklore? A ‘leprechaun,’ if you will?”
“What? Why would you ask me that?”
“Please kill me I don’t want to be in this awful movie any mo-“
The rest of the crew parties-down in the shipboard bar, which looks like it’s been set up for a high school prom, or as a showroom for mail-order brides. Everyone’s getting lit on Zima, but not one person says “Hey guys, that was a leprechaun right? Like, we in the future all still understand the cultural context of a short little man in a green suit? Who’s magic? We were making jokes about Detroit and Stevie Wonder earlier so I’m assuming the still scans.”
Kowalski stumbles off with Delores. (Did I not mention Delores yet? Her story is that she’s another space marine. BOOM, you’re caught up.) They’re heading off to play with “Mr. Snake.” Sorry to disappoint, movie fans, but the space idiots don’t have an unimaginatively-named pet anaconda–“Mr. Snake” is military jargon for “Kowalski’s sickly green penis.”
Kowalski and Delores start smooching, and this makes “Mr. Snake” come out. Apparently, arousal is the final necessary component to whatever hex hit Kowalski’s penis, because as soon as Kowalski pitches a tent the leprechaun is reborn like Gandalf the White, and he burrows out of Kowalski’s crotch. (This is the part where most people will Google “Is Warwick Davis knighted?” He’s not.)
Leprechaun Four the Green starts tearing around the ship, looking to free Barbarella from the medical wing so they can get hitched. The rest of the crew gear up to kill it, again, AT ANY COST. Well, not any cost, really. More like “at the cost of exactly one more space idiot.”
See, they trap L4G in the trash compactor, and that’s full of bacteria which can quickly degrade organic matter. Cool, whatever, so Books and Mooch head in wearing biohazard suits. (L4G has one on as well, and it fits perfectly–where did that come from? Do they ever bring kids with these folklore kill squads?) Now, does L4G play some clever trick on Books and Mooch? Does he, maybe, conjure up a pretty lady or a large meatball sandwich, to trick Mooch into taking off his helmet and melting his own face off?
Nah. He just cuts Mooch. With, like, a knife. A regular knife.
Here’s the ultimate sin of Leprechaun 4: In Space. It’s not just that it has a cast of porny overacters. It’s not just that the scene on the box art never happens (and doesn’t even make sense, considering this is set in a future that’s far more advanced than lunar lander-era NASA). It’s that L4G is a dang leprechaun, and yet for the first half of the flick his chief methods of dispatching the space idiots are stabbing, shooting, and otherwise doing anything but leveraging his super-convenient, poorly-defined magic.
This mundane stuff keeps happening. After Mooch gets wasted, the space idiots have a pow-wow with Dr. Mittenhand, and they immediately opt to give the space princess to L4G in exchange for their own lives. Earth’s finest, folks.
Mittenhand won’t have it though. See, he’s a one-armed torso riding on a robot chassis (this is the part of the movie where numb fatigue sets in and the voices grow louder), and he needs the princess’s blood (?) to regenerate the rest of his body. After a lengthy discussion of the space idiots’ contract with the good doctor, Hooker comes to the conclusion that they need to protect the princess, or else they won’t get their stock payouts. Just what fans of the Leprechaun Cinematic Universe love–contract negotiation!
So, the space idiots go back out to kill L4G, who at this point is just wandering around the ship, quoting Shakespeare. Hooker tries to cheer up Delores, who feels guilty because her rockin’ bod made a small green man burst out of another man’s penis.
“Kowalski would have wanted it that way,” says Hooker. “He was a marine.”
There’s a space idiot named Danny, by the way. That’s relevant only because L4G kills him next, while singing “Danny Boy.” Then Delores gets it by, sigh, getting pushed over a railing. Come on man! You’re a leprechaun! Aren’t leprechauns powered by ironic murders?
While this half-assed hunt is on, Mittenhand is extracting the healing blood from Barbarella, using what looks like a Creepy Crawlers playset. Isn’t it weird to see something with porn-quality sets, but no sex? Watching this movie I just kept expecting a sharp turn into leprechaun sex but, nope. Never happens. Where’s my escapism, Hollywood?
After several gunfights (with a leprechaun) and one truly magical kill–L4G slams a serving plate into Harold’s face with telekinesis, pancaking it–our space idiots manage to lose the princess. BUT, L4G can’t leave yet, because he also needs his gold! Remember that? Remember the gold, and the shrink ray? Oh, also, Mittenhand’s been injected with a combination of princess blood, spider, and scorpion. Remember that, too. (Also: What’s my name? Do you remember my name? Why does everything look… green?)
L4G catches the remaining marines off-guard, and he finally uses his weird leprechaun powers. What on, you ask? What does he use them for? Hmm? You say he uses them for a profoundly unfunny scene where Hooker attacks the rest of the space idiots while wearing a dress? How did you know?
Books, Reeves, and Sticks (there’s always a Sticks) kill Hooker. Turns out Hooker wasn’t even a cyborg–just a straight-up robot! Like in Alien! Does that matter to the space idiots? Certainly not as much as his wearing a dress seemed to!
“Human or not, he was a marine.” Was he though? Does it count if you’ve just been programmed to be a marine? WHY IS THERE A LEPRECHAUN IN SPA-
At this point there’s no respite from the insanity. The film cuts away from a dead cyborg marine–sorry, robot marine–in a sparkly dress to Mittenhand, who’s now been transformed into a mutant Mittenspider. Just what fans of the Leprechaun Cinematic Universe love–spider-creatures with bad German accents!
“Mittenspider” is not my coinage, by the way–the monster actually calls itself that.
“Now, I am… Mittenspider!”
“The hell? Are you from a different movie? This is the Leprechaun 4 set.”
SO. L4G turns on the ship’s self-destruct, so that he can erase the evidence of his being a leprechaun in space, I guess. Sticks heads to Mittenhand’s lab to stop the explosion. Meanwhile, Books and Reeves accidentally shoot L4G with the growth ray, in the cargo bay. He turns into a giant and immediately looks into his pants with the implication–heh heh, get this–that he now has a Very Large Penis. Which suggests that, for all his leprechaun powers, he can’t make his penis bigger? That doesn’t seem like a tall ask for a leprechaun, but, hey, the miracles of science will suffice.
Apparently, getting hit with the shrink ray also turned off L4G’s magic, because he spends the rest of the finale clomping around the cargo bay like King Kong, trying to crush Books into a fine paste. You know, like the fae folk of yore! At the same time, Reeves rushes through the ship’s ventilation shafts, dodging Mittenspider.
Wouldn’t you know it, our heroes manage to flush L4G out of the airlock, which is a famous ending never before seen in film and never seen again–certainly not from notorious anti-Irish filmmaker James Cameron. They also kill Mittenspider and save Sticks. (They couldn’t save my soul, though.)
At the last minute, the surviving space idiots guess the password to abort the self-destruct. As they laugh, L4G explosively decompresses in the vacuum of space, and his giant, gross hand flips them off through the viewfinder. And in a way, children, haven’t we all been flipped off by a little cash-hungry man with a green suit and a fake accent? Flipped off where it counts the most–the heart. I know I have. Also, I can’t hear the sound of birds anymore and my eyes are bleedi-
Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! May the snakes below be kept at bay with your drunken revels!