Lila (Taylor Spreitler) is on a bus to her college, which she starts soon, though she has to reach her sorority first and settle in. She must be feeling anxious, for on the way there she nods off and suffers a nightmare (or a day-mare) where she is terrorised by the corpse of a leprechaun. There's a good reason for that, as her mother, recently deceased, would often warn her daughter there were such creatures and they obsessed over gold. In fact, according to Lila's mother there was one who determined to hunt her down since it believed she knew where its hoard was, but the girl simply dismissed her parent's ramblings as the result of her sadly deranged ways...
What Lila does not appear to have noticed is that she is in a film called Leprechaun Returns, so naturally (or supernaturally) there were such things, and after the previous reboot of the franchise begun with Warwick Davis in the title role, Leprechaun: Origins, had been so dreadful you would be forgiven for dismissing this second reboot in a matter of a couple of years. What may entice the sceptical horror buff was that the director was Steven Kostanski, who had been crafting some singular shockers over the past decade that had many fans licking their lips in anticipation of where he was going next, though a sequel to a series of chillers many were well over may not have been it.
Yet here we were, and not only was it a sequel in a franchise that had been well played out, it was a TV movie for the Syfy Channel which would be distributed after broadcast on DVD and streaming, bypassing the cinemas entirely. There was a history of this, as most of the other entries had been direct to video productions anyway, and as they grew increasingly ludicrous the whole thing became something of a standing joke, starting with Garth being scared of the Leprechaun on Wayne's World which seemed appropriately daft for the level of horror it was dealing with. The first did boast a pre-fame Jennifer Aniston, which made it a popular video rental throughout her sitcom years.
This instalment elected to forget all the stuff in the middle, and thankfully the gritty reboot was ditched from continuity too, rendering Leprechaun Returns a direct follow up to the first one, taking place in ostensibly the same location (actually South Africa, where it was cheap to film). When Lila shows up at the old cottage where the sorority stays (they were supposed to pick her up but, er, didn't, so she had to take a taxi driven by local weirdo Ozzie (a returning Mark Holton)) she finds a motley bunch ranging from swots to slackers, and the idea of them banding together as that supposed sorority appears hard to believe. However, seemingly because the daughter of his previous foe has arrived, the little bad guy (now played by Linden Porco) resurrects himself from the well and bursts from Ozzie, Alien-style.
The cheesy gore effects were present and correct, then, and for a while this comes across as your average junk sequel to an initial instalment even this admits was a very long time ago. But then something funny happens - literally funny, as you noticed there was some wit in the dialogue, and some of it was laugh out loud material. Not only that, but the cast were not bad at all, getting that this was hokey stuff but not playing down to it, letting the gags land and allowing a self-awareness to the enterprise that was surprisingly not bad at all. The use of modern trappings the villain would have no concept of back in the nineties, such as mobile phones that take selfies or a camera drone for the story's budding film director character to gather footage, were employed as if they were strictly novelties, apt for a passing fad rather than anything important, which added to the knowing tone, and though Porco's accent left a lot to be desired (as did Davis's, to be fair), this was well worth taking a chance on. Music by Andries Smit.
[Leprechaun Returns has been released by Lionsgate with the original film as a double bill on DVD. Extras include an interview with the director and a behind the scenes featurette.]