Starring Dolph Lundgren, Kristina Klebe, Billy Slaughter
Directed by Mike Mendez
Screened at Mayhem 2016
Demon hunter Jebediah Woodley (Lundgren) rolls into the small Mississippi town of Chicory Creek around the same time FBI agent Evelyn Pierce (Klebe) also shows up to investigate a sudden spate of brutal homicides amongst the townsfolk in Mike Mendez’s gloriously cheerful Don’t Kill It.
Seems the culprit is a body-hopping demon – previously kept contained within an urn but unleashed by an unwary hunter in the woods – that loves nothing more than to spend its time shrieking angrily, murdering viciously… and taking over the body of anyone who dares kill its previous host.
As the demon hops from massacre to massacre, Woodley and an initially doubtful Pierce join forces to track down the creature – but the disbelief of the townsfolk and local sheriff’s department makes abiding by the titular primary rule quite a difficult one for our two would-be heroes.
An unapologetic B-movie horror-comedy, Don’t Kill it sees cult favourite Mendez chuck everything he has at the screen – buckets of blood and gore, some pretty vicious demon attacks and heaps of situational and slapstick comedy to match. The blend is handled extremely well – the humour often dry and understated rather than broad and/or forced; see an early scene in which Woodley attempts to explain the nature of his demonic foe whilst repeatedly struggling against officers attempting to remove him from the Sheriff’s office, for example.
Mendez seems to have a knack for doing crazy just right, and Don’t Kill It is most certainly crazy – almost cartoonish, in fact – as the black-eyed possessed scream, stomp and butcher their way through the population. A standout sequence involving a town meeting gone awry is Don’t Kill It’s big set piece – packed to the walls with gore and gags, which later spills out into a body-hopping extravaganza so gleefully executed you can’t help but smile.
Speaking of glee, Lundgren is in top form as Jebediah Woodley, the big bad demon hunter forced to use only a custom-built net apparatus against this particular foe. Obviously loving every second of his involvement in this knowingly trashy project from start to finish, Lundgren’s every exasperated reaction is a hoot – even little things such as his left-field method of avoiding paying a diner bill is a delight, and it’s in these subtle comedic moments that both he and Don’t Kill It really shine. Klebe does well as his more straight-laced counterpart, but this is very clearly Lundgren’s show, his larger-than-life character dominating the more everyday folk in terms of presence.
And that’s actually a problem – as great as it may be to enjoy Lundgren cutting loose with the material, Don’t Kill It often feels too dominated by that single character, lacking the depth of interplay that a successful buddy comedy needs so as not to leave one lead languishing behind the other.
This forms much of the source of the film’s biggest issues: a second-act character development lull and an ending that – while being hilariously subversive and tonally consistent with the film’s attitude – doesn’t carry enough gravitas or reward for the viewer.
But honestly, this isn’t serious cinema or serious genre filmmaking for that matter. Sparkling with wit and a character all its own, it’s so tongue in cheek that said organ is threatening to punch right through and enjoy waggling the resultant mess in your face; that’s just how Mendez likes it, and it’s just how you’ll like it, too, if approaching Don’t Kill it with the right expectations.
Put it this way: Don’t Kill It is the kind of movie you wouldn’t be surprised to come across at random on Syfy some Saturday night – but unlike so many encounters in just that situation, this is one you wouldn’t regret stopping to check out. So check it out and have some bloody fun.