2017 | Unrated (R equivalent for graphic violence, gore and sexuality) | starring Dolph Lundgren, Kristina Klebe | directed by Mike Mendez | 1hr 23mins |
2017 Halloween Horrorfest #10
This year’s self-directed October Halloween Horrorfest has been a miserable failure so far. So, I was probably primed and ready by all the duds for something like the red-blooded splatter-fest Don’t Kill It. This is a movie for anyone who has ever watched Supernatural and thought it would somehow be made better if the Winchester brothers were replaced with Dolph Lundgren.
Dolph plays a demon hunter with an awesome screenplay name Jebediah Woodley, who stomps around the small town of Chickory Creek with a net gun hunting black-eyed demons in a tan duster and cowboy hat like a Sweedish Van Helsing. Woodley – and his late father – have seen a lot of hell spawns in their day, but this particularly vicious one can swap into the body of the person who killed it’s previous vessel making the usual extermination methods tricky. Thus, the title. This demon racks up an insanely bloody body counter before the opening title appears and the “3 sets of 3 homicides” brings federal agent Evelyn Pierce (Kristina Klebe) to town to be the straight-laced Fed to Dolph’s rogue demon hunting ways.
During the course of Don’t Kill It I went from laughing at it to laughing with it. From marveling at it’s shamelessly outrageous bursts of unflinching violence to tracking how closely the movie was following it’s own demon rules (and it was). It is kind of a perfect B-movie. Outrageous, ridiculous, cheesy, high energy, self-aware enough, without sliding into broad parody; delivering heaping amounts of exploitation in exploding heads, axes attacks, buzz saw attacks and screeching demon-possessed old ladies and children spontaneously leaping through the air. This is exactly the type of thing you’d see in the middle of the night on what used to be TNT Monstervision where host Joe Bob Briggs would tally up the fatalities by knife, gun, grenade and axes-to-the-head. Except unlike a lot of this junk you wouldn’t feel terrible the next morning after this. Director Mike Mendez manages the tone effortlessly. This type of perfectly calibrated B-movie cheese is not something you can fake, it’s instinct, and Mendez has the instinct to know when to wink, when to go straight, when to pump the breaks and when to dial up the insanity.
Unlike fellow action heroes from yesteryear, Dolph Lundgren hasn’t been whining about his career like Jean Claude Van Damme or trying to get back in Academy good graces like Sylvester Stallone. He’s simply been plugging away in a series of direct-to-video B-movies, seemingly unable to turn down a script. Earlier this year I saw him try to deal with a lake full of sharks in the dower, unexciting Shark Lake. Shark Lake promises a Dolph vs. shark fight that never comes and features so little of the – um – actor he must have been paid by the word. Don’t Kill It on the other hand knows exactly what it’s doing with him. It embraces the 80s hero-worshipping action movie vibe to the hilt. Dolph’s cardboard acting abilities and flat line deliveries are hilariously swept aside by his sheer awesome presence. An onscreen “charisma” that finds him neutralizing a punk with one hand, effortlessly taking a woman to bed and putting his feet up on the town sheriff’s desk all in the first few minutes. All that’s left is for Jebediah to have a habit of rattling off demon puns.
The movie hits a momentum of fun absurdity early on and builds it out from there. There is a genuinely inventive big set piece halfway through where the demon barges into the town church, starts hacking away and the townsfolk take matters into their own pistol-packing hands and forcing Dolph to chase the demon around as it swaps from person to person across the room and out into the street. It is a deliriously well constructed bit of craziness that would make Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson pleased.
Don’t Kill It is a blast and a half. A totally ridiculous movie made by people who know it’s totally ridiculous but with an effective degree of competence. A wonderful surprise that hits the spot for gory, shameless, supernatural action just right. I laughed out loud a lot. A must-see for the niche audience willing to embrace it’s tongue-in-cheek B-movie excesses.