Exploiting the Archives, Paternity Leave Edition: Control Nathan Rabin: Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood
Many, many years ago, when the world was new and life vibrant and unspoiled, I was sent to the Idle Hands junket and decided to amuse myself, and to a lesser extent, my readers, by treating the task in the most purposefully stupid manner possible. With a big, dumb idiot grin on my face, I took pictures with the actors in the film like a shameless, dorky fan, wrote a photo-essay style piece depicting it as a dumb-ass tourist’s Hollywood fantasy and asked the lamest questions I could come up with for the cast and crew.
So I used my precious, precious time to ask Rodman Flender, director of one of the Leprechaun sequels, “As the director of one of the Leprechaun films, did you feel it was a mistake to send the leprechaun into outer space in Leprechaun 4?” I’m not sure how sincere he was when he answered, “Leprechauns are everywhere. If you can send John Glenn into outer space, why not also send a 400-year-old leprechaun?”
I then asked the whole cast of Idle Hands and producer Suzanne Todd if they’d seen Leprechaun 2. Good times! Oh, but I was but a babe in the woods at that point. The world seemed so much more innocent then.
The mere existence of Leprechaun movies amused me then. I suppose they still do, because for one of several spooktacular options for Shoctober’s Control Nathan Rabin—the column where I give the living saints who contribute to this site’s Patreon page a choice in determining which of two competing motion pictures I must watch and then write about—I had readers choose between 2003’s Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood, the sixth and final motion picture in the original Leprechaun series, and the 2013 Full Moon crossover romp Gingerdead Man Vs. Evil Bong, which was exactly like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice but slightly lower budgeted and more evil bong-centric.
You beautiful weirdoes chose Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood, which solves one of the major problems long plaguing the series: not being racist enough. And also not featuring enough scenes where an incredulous black stoner enjoys an initially enjoyable but ultimately fatal smoke break with the man in green who loves to smoke the green—the Leprechaun be getting blazed y’all—only to be murdered with a bong for his generosity in being a friend with weed to a leprechaun in need. The film’s idea of showcasing the diversity of black masculinity involves centering on a bad black drug dealer, a drug dealer trying to go straight and a black drug consumer—most notably the sweet leaf—who’s also dim-witted, horny, greedy and easily frightened.
Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood represents a shotgun wedding of three weird sub-genres that should never be combined, let alone with a lurching combination of racism and total incompetence. It is, first and foremost, a leprechaun-themed slasher movie about a sinister little fellow who murders everyone who gets their hands on his precious gold.
But it’s more and less than that. It’s also a surprisingly earnest hood drama about young black men and women trying to make good, moral choices in a brutal environment that makes that difficult, if not downright impossible. Finally, it’s a dumb-ass stoner comedy that seems to exist for the aforementioned scene where a black stoner is so baked out of his gourd that when he sees a leprechaun he assumes he’s hallucinating (you know, the way you do after you smoke a little pot if you’re a stoner) yet nevertheless offers to smoke the little dude out.
The leprechaun graciously accepts his offer of bong hits and some of that sweet, sweet cheeba, and in this scene we discover that leprechauns enjoy getting tore the fuck up like some teenagers at a Cypress Hill show, and also, later on, that leprechauns give excellent massages (although this particular leprechaun’s idea of a “happy ending” seems to involve murdering the person he’s giving a massage, so it’s really only happy for him) and, if they are to be believed, apparently have enormous penises.
Just as we learned yesterday in the Alf’s Hit Talk Show that Alf has a thing for paid sex, we learn here in a throwaway line that apparently this leprechaun has a big old wang. He murders a young black man and then, for shits and giggles, answers the dead’s man’s phone, where the woman on the other end of the line peppers him with questions about himself.
She’s intrigued when he says he has a good body and red hair, but when he tells her, “I’m three foot six but I make up for it in other areas” she abruptly hangs up. Apparently it doesn’t matter how enormous his penis is: being leprechaun-sized is a deal breaker for her, which to me means that she’s racist against leprechauns, which in my book is worse than being a leprechaun who murders everyone he encounters.
Who’s the real monster, a mythological evil creature who will do anything to retrieve their precious gold, or women who won’t date people under five feet tall? I think we all know the answer to that one.
The action kicks into high gear when a group of crudely stereotyped young black friends discover a small fortune (no pun intended) in ill-gotten gains when they come across the leprechaun’s gold. Warwick Davis’ leprechaun somewhat infamously does not take too kindly to people purloining his treasure so he travels back to the hood to retrieve it.
But the leprechaun isn’t just traveling to the hood to get his money back. Nope, he’s also apparently interested in getting lifted. The leprechaun doesn’t just rip some monster bong hits in a sequence I’m guessing the makers imagined would be way more of a fan favorite than it is. Nope, he also gets the munchies something fierce and begins falling down at random, and, in his quest for something tasty to snack on, ends up hot-boxing inside a refrigerator.
That wouldn’t be a problem if Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood committed to really being a crazy comedy the way Seed of Chucky, which came out the same year and I recently wrote up for a Halloween Sub-Cult entry over at Rotten Tomatoes, commits to both craziness and comedy. But Back to the Hood never commits fully to stoner comedy, message-picture earnestness or gothic urban horror.
Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood is a terrible genre-hopper that is deeply committed to being terrible but not to any of the genres it flirts with, then abandons. At times, Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood seems intent on being a live-action fairy tale, an urban legend brought to life like Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs. The movie’s virtuous female characters have a bit of a Cinderella vibe about them, with their entire community standing in for the mocking, evil older stepsisters. But that’s abandoned almost as quickly as it’s introduced.
This is a strange motion picture. It introduces a clueless white guy, one of the only white characters in the movie (another is a police officer who speaks, like his black partner, in a nasally cartoon caricature of an uptight white voice) saying the N word to a tire’s deafening screeching for effect. Apparently they could not afford the wacky skipped-record effect that generally accompanies moments like these. The clueless white man is told that the old N word is out, and that the n word now is “Ninja.”
Now, I’ve been around for a little while, and I can vouch that the only people who use the phrase “ninja” these days, or in 2003, are martial arts masters, children playing at being martial arts masters and Juggalos. Yet the “Ninja” astonishingly does not go away. On the contrary, it is maybe the biggest running joke of the movie. It’s repeated over and over and over. Hell, even the leprechaun starts calling people ninja.
Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood tries to get all swaggering and badass towards the end, but you’re not going to see would-be Back to tha Hood catch-phrases like, ““Time to fuck up some little people!” or “Say hello to Saint Patrick for me, son of a bitch!”—both of which Rory yells at the leprechaun as if a seemingly immortal, unkillable supernatural creature would be impressed or intimidated by a little tough talk—on a list of the greatest one-liners in horror history.
The presence of one of the most successful little-people actors in history should give Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood some credibility. Instead, it just made me sad. Davis has done too much in the business for his dignity to be continually assaulted by, for example, a requisite his-legs-are-too-little-to-hit-the-gas-pedals-or-brakes gag.
In Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood, Davis’ malevolent gold-lover gets baked on a bong he quickly turns into a murder weapon, unsuccessfully attempts to impress a potential lover with his professed penis size and gives a massage that predictably escalates, or devolves, into murder. Oh well. The gig is still more dignified than working with Ricky Gervais. Being permanently associated with that guy: now that is embarrassing.
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