Friday, March 15, 2019

Worth Mentioning - Renewable Enemy

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

The Leprechaun returns and people do some very disturbing things.


The Leprechaun franchise goes back to the well, literally, with the latest sequel Leprechaun Returns, which is actually a direct follow-up to the first Leprechaun. Released in 1993, that film ended with a melting Leprechaun tumbling into a well after getting a four-leaf clover shot down his throat, but it left the door wide open for a sequel. The final shot was of the well, with the voice of the Leprechaun coming from within to say, "Curse this well that me soul shall dwell, 'til I find me magic that breaks me spell." When Leprechaun 2 came out the following year, I fully expected it to be about the Leprechaun rising out of that well to wreak more havoc. But the films took a different approach. Rather than follow one evil Leprechaun from movie to movie, each entry in the franchise has centered on a different evil Leprechaun... All of them in those first six films just happened to be played by Warwick Davis.

Twenty-five years later, we have gotten the sequel I thought Leprechaun 2 would be. Directed by Steven Kostanski from a screenplay by Suzanne Keilly, Leprechaun Returns does bring the Leprechaun up out of that well - but yes, there is some awkwardness here due to the fact that Warwick Davis opted not to return for this sequel, saying he doesn't feel comfortable working in the horror genre now that he's a father. (Although he says he might return to horror after both of his kids are past the age of 18.) The first time a Leprechaun from a previous film has come back for a sequel, and it's not even played by the same guy. That's a little strange, it takes some getting used to. Taking over the role of the Leprechaun is Linden Porco, who wasn't even born yet when the first Leprechaun came out. Not that age matters much when the actor is buried under the hideous Leprechaun makeup. If you can accept that the first Leprechaun is back but now looks and sounds different, you might find, as I did, that Porco does a commendable job in the role. Davis is missed, but Porco makes for a cool killer Leprechaun in his own right.

Kostanski certainly gave Porco ample opportunity to prove himself. The Leprechaun gets a lot of screen time and a ton of dialogue. This guy is quite chatty, with a quip for every occasion. There were times when I felt like he was talking too much, as he had already delivered a serviceable one-liner for a situation and yet kept dropping more of them.

The events of this film are set almost entirely at the same farmhouse location that served as the first movie's primary location, a farmhouse that is now owned by a college and has become home to the newly formed Alpha Upsilon sorority. The girls there are very mindful of the environment, planting their own garden, setting up solar panels, and tapping into the old well as their water source. That's the sort of activity the Leprechaun has been needing so he can make his escape.

One of those girls is Lila (Taylor Spreitler), daughter of Jennifer Aniston's Leprechaun character Tory, who has met a tragic fate since we last saw her. Lila has heard all about the Leprechaun, but believed that her mother was mentally ill. Now she has made the unwise decision to join the sorority that lives in the house formerly owned by her family, and she quickly comes to realize that the Leprechaun story was true. Once she does this, she steps up to become a fun and clever heroine.

Another connection to the original film is the presence of Mark Holton as the good-natured Ozzie, who accidentally swallowed one of the Leprechaun's gold coins back in the day. The return of Ozzie was welcome here, and he had a part to play in the film that was both sad and amusing.

The Leprechaun movies have always been dumb fun horror-comedies, and Leprechaun Returns follows suit, although this one has a bit of a smarter edge than some of its predecessors. Keilly wrote quite a funny script, pitting the Leprechaun against members of the modern generation that are obsessed with causes and technology. This allows the Leprechaun to turn environmentally friendly items into weapons, take a ride on a drone, and pose in more than one selfie with potential victims whose first impulse when seeing him is to take a picture with him.

Keilly worked as a writers assistant on the entire first season of Ash vs. Evil Dead, then wrote an episode of the second season, and the humor of that show seems to have been an influence on some moments in Leprechaun Returns, especially in a scene where a character played by Pepi Sonuga (an actress who was in several episodes of Ash vs. Evil Dead) has to pass by a dead body, another scene that's reminiscent of Army of Darkness, and when Lila gets some guidance from the silent ghost of a decaying, mutilated Leprechaun victim.

With a runtime of 93 minutes, Leprechaun Returns moves along at a good pace, and I found that it got more and more enjoyable as it went along. It only takes about 15 minutes for the Leprechaun to make his entrance and Lila knows about him not long after that, allowing for more than half of the movie to focus on the Leprechaun terrorizing the sorority girls, knocking them and their friends off in a variety of ways, most of them gory.

For me, the absence of Warwick Davis was this movie's only drawback, but Linden Porco was a fine replacement, so it turned out to be quite entertaining even if the returning Leprechaun wasn't exactly the Leprechaun we knew before.

The review of Leprechaun Returns originally appeared on


Just like writer/director Nicolas Pesce's feature debut The Eyes of My Mother, his second feature Piercing is a film that I didn't really like, and yet find somewhat fascinating. I admire the technical achievement, while finding the story and characters appalling.

Probably only a little more accessible than The Eyes of My Mother was, Piercing really serves as Pesce's way of showing off the fact that he has visual range. While his first movie was a bleak black & white, this one is vibrant and colorful - the music lifted from Italian giallos like Tenebrae perfectly matches the look of the film. In crafting the film's specific visual style, Pesce even created the city seen in Piercing with miniatures rather than just take shots of a real city.

Pesce's first movie was deeply disturbing and messed up, and Piercing follows suit. The film opens with a shot of a man holding an icepick over his newborn baby's face, contemplating stabbing the infant. So you know Pesce isn't going to be giving you a pleasant viewing experience this time around, either.

That man is Reed (Christopher Abbott), who is so distracted by his desire to kill someone that he decides he's going to kill a prostitute while he's out of town on a business trip. He'll tie her up, stab her with an icepick (it has to be an icepick, that's important to him), then chop her to pieces. He formulates this plan with the full awareness and support of his wife Mona (Laia Costa), who encourages him to get this urge out of his system.

So Reed checks into a hotel room and calls for a prostitute. The one who shows up at his door is Mia Wasikowska as Jackie. Within minutes she has shut herself in the bathroom so she can repeatedly stab herself in the thigh with scissors, and when Reed tries to stop her she starts screaming. She has made a bloody mess, she has made noise, she has derailed his murder plans. But Reed and Jackie still have about 50 minutes of movie left to spend together, and it's not likely they're both going to get out of it alive. And one or the other might not want to survive anyway.

Based on a novel by Ryû Murakami, who also wrote the novel Audition was based on, Piercing is a twisted tale that starts off with thoughts of infanticide and keeps adding new layers of darkness and weirdness from there... Until the ending, when it goes out with such a shrug that I wondered what the point was.

As with The Eyes of My Mother, which was only 76 minutes long, I did appreciate the short running time here. Piercing wraps up in 81 minutes, and I'm glad Pesce is getting us in and out of these movies as quickly as possible.


When a wrestling documentary he had been hired to make fell through, director John McNaughton was handed the funds that had been raised for that documentary and told by the producers to make a horror movie. The producers did not get what they were expecting. Instead of making something that was easily marketable and followed the trends of the day, McNaughton drew inspiration from a story of real life horror: the life of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, who had just been captured a few years earlier.

McNaughton and his co-writer Richard Fire didn't stick to the facts of Lucas's life, but instead built their own story out of the broad strokes. Michael Rooker, who was working as a janitor when he got cast in the film, made his film debut as Henry, an ex-con who had a hellish childhood and eventually killed his abusive mother. He met a guy named Otis (Tom Towles) while in prison, and now he's staying with Otis while regularly going out to kill people. Eventually Otis gets an up-close look at this twisted hobby of Henry's and decides to start killing people with him. He thinks it's fun.

Stuck in the middle of this is Otis's sister Becky (Tracy Arnold), who has come to stay with her brother while going through a divorce. We really come to feel for Becky, because she's a normal, decent person spending her days with two creeps. She had a bad father, just left a bad husband, and it turns out she has a bad brother as well - not just because Otis is a killer, but also because he keeps getting inappropriately handsy with her. Unfortunately, Becky feels drawn to Henry, despite every viewer wanting her to get the hell out of that place.

Rooker is a beloved actor these days, he's our blue-skinned alien pal who proudly exclaimed "I'm Mary Poppins, y'all!" in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but that doesn't take away from the intensely creepy performance he turned in as Henry. There is nothing lovable about him, this guy kills and hurts people like it's nothing, coming off cold and empty.

Once the producers were convinced that they actually had something worth releasing, after letting it sit on the shelf for a few years, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer quickly earned a reputation for being one of the most disturbing films ever made, and it is indeed deeply troubling. It's a dark and dirty film about trashy characters, and features some very off-putting and shocking imagery set to a chilling score composed by Ken Hale, Steven A. Jones, and Robert McNaughton.

This isn't a bloodbath, as you might expect. While there are death scenes that will linger in your mind, McNaughton did show restraint most of the time. What's most unnerving is the feel of the movie. It's not gore that caused the MPAA to brand this film with an X, it's the tone with which it brings the subject matter to the screen that made them feel no one under 17 should be able to see it.

Much like the original versions of The Texas Chainsaw MassacreManiac, and The Evil Dead, Henry was shot on 16mm. Like those other films, it's a prime example of how that film stock can be effective at helping a director shake the viewer to their core while presenting horrific events.


A Japanese urban legend gets the Ohio treatment in writer/director Dustin Wayde Mills' short film The Slit Mouthed Woman, which is available in two different cuts, one running about 21 minutes and the other adding in 5 extra minutes. As the story goes in this presentation of the legend, a married woman (Erin R. Ryan) was having an affair with another woman (Joni Durian), and when Ryan's character's abusive husband (played by John Bradley Hambrick) caught them he killed the mistress and slit his wife's cheeks open with scissors. Now "the slit mouthed woman" roams the streets, a scarf covering her mouth. Wielding scissors, she follows people home and asks them, "Am I pretty?" A negative response gets the person murdered, while a positive one gets their cheeks slit open just like hers.

For this short, the targets are a pair of housemates played by Haley Jay Madison and J. Ania Lupa.

This is a good telling of the legend and Mills brought the story to the West in a stylish manner. It's a very visual short, with great-looking cinematography; deep shadows, colorful lighting. It's very nice to look at... This short also puts a focus on the sexual aspect of the story - it's not just a horror short, but also a "softcore erotic" short. The woman and her mistress have a love scene together, and Madison and Lupa's characters both masturbate before their run-ins with the woman. These scenes are longer in the extended cut.

Mills has released both cuts of The Slit Mouthed Woman on DVD, and you don't just get two versions of the same short in this purchase. There are four more Mills shorts in the bonus section, along with two music videos that feature Ryan and Madison shedding clothes. By watching The Slit Mouthed Woman and the shorts, you basically get an experience similar to watching an anthology film.

The other shorts are: Abduction, which runs just over 10 minutes. Shot mostly in black and white, it centers on a man (Dave James Parker) who tells his therapist that he believes he has been abducted by aliens. All Smiles, a very colorfully lit home invasion story starring Melissa Sue Zahs, Dave James Parker, and a homicidal fellow with a smiley face and a yellow raincoat. I Found God, about a guy (David E. Dargartz) who tells his buddy (Josh Miller) that he found God, that's capital G God, out in a snowy woods. Vampire, about two women (Haley Jay Madison and Kayla Elizabeth) who meet up for a hotel room tryst and one of them turns out to be a bloodsucker. Vampire is told with no dialogue, just visuals and music.

Whether you've seen other works by Mills and are anxious to see more or if you want to get some samples of what his work is like, The Slit Mouthed Woman is worth the buy. Copies are available at THIS LINK.

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