FANTASTIK FILM FRIDAY – March 17 at 9:30 pm
When an ancient demon is accidentally unleashed in a sparsely populated Mississippi town of Chickory Creek, their only hope of survival lies in the hands of a grizzled old demon hunter Jebediah Woodley and his reluctant partner FBI agent Evelyn Pierce.
Director: Mike Mendez
Writers: Dan Berk, Robert Olsen
Stars: Dolph Lundgren, Kristina Klebe, Elissa Dowling
Dolph Lundgren (perhaps best known for his iconic work as Ivan Drago in Rocky IV) plays demon bounty hunter Jebediah Woodley. Jebediah’s been engaging in this work since he was a child – learning the demon-trapping trade from his father. He’s encountered many types of evil entities throughout the years, but his journey to a small Mississippi town called Chickory Creek has brought him face-to-face (again) with a demon that kills indiscriminately. The unique thing about this particular monster is – if you kill the demon-carrying host, you’ll then take on the demon itself. It’s a vicious cycle (perhaps most similar to the concept of the Denzel Washington thriller of the late ‘90s; Fallen). Former resident of Chickory Creek and now FBI agent Evelyn Pierce (played by Kristina Klebe of Rob Zombie’s Halloween) reluctantly joins Jebediah in his quest to vanquish this evil.
Let’s start off the discussion of this film with “the big guns” as it were. Dolph Lundgren is quite simply revelatory in this piece. Admittedly, the only thing I really know about his career (despite it being prolific), is his work in Rocky IV. And since that character is basically nothing more than a muscular, man-killing “robot”, I wasn’t expecting much from Lundgren as Don’t Kill It began.
Imagine my surprise when Lundgren exhibits oodles of charisma and a sense of humor I never would have expected in a performance from him. Jebediah is not terribly original as a character. He’s a womanizing know-it-all. In his snarkiness, cock-sure attitude and real-or-perceived sexual prowess; he reminded me of Bruce Campbell’s Ash of The Evil Dead franchise. Lundgren makes Jebediah a character you root for and who you will gladly follow along – if only to hear his next one-liner. We get only a brief glimpse into Jebediah’s past. I would have liked a bit more history to slightly ground him. As is, however, the character’s an ultimate bad-ass and Lundgren pulls out all of the stops. Should this film find cult classic status – could an Ash/Jebediah team-up be a possibility? Hmmmm…
As Agent Evelyn Pierce, Klebe brings the no-nonsense, by-the-books side to this crime-solving duo. This repartee is not unusual, and so you’ll also expect a romantic/flirtatious relationship to develop. It’s a genuine chemistry between the two lead actors and Klebe has an ease in every scene she does – whether tough as nails or out-n-out terrified, she brings Agent Pierce to life.
The dialogue (I already mentioned Jebediah’s one-liners) is a strong piece toward the film’s success. After almost every encounter with townspeople (most of which find him on the short end of the suspicion stick) ends with Jebediah proclaiming a heartfelt “Merry Christmas” (the film takes place around the holidays). And the banter – so expected in a film of this ilk – between Jebediah and Agent Pierce is great fun.
The film’s sense of humor – in its supporting characters; namely one of the subordinate police officers of Chickory Creek – as well as certain physical scenes (Jebediah’s “restraining” by two police officers is laugh-out-loud funny) – give this film an extra edge of fun. There’s also the brilliant moment when Jebediah, Agent Pierce and Chief Dunham (Tony Bentley) discuss the bill at a local diner.
I had a few problems with the editing/continuity. Nothing major, but there was a particular sequence where Agent Pierce and Jebediah are in the woods talking at night. He’s puffing on his vaporizer and each time the picture cut to another angle, the vapor so prominent in the prior shot was missing. It’s also this scene where I questioned the editing itself. It felt choppy – as if there were too many set-ups to choose from, and so the editor felt the need to cut quickly back and forth; using everything available. It didn’t work. Piddly things to pick on? Perhaps. But as my avid readers of 2 will note – I’m all about the details!
The film is chalk full of bloody gun-blasts, chainsaw murders and body explosions. All of the violence and gore is extremely cartoonish, and that sets you up with a good idea of what kind of film you’ll be taking in. It doesn’t take itself seriously.
As far as actual scares, there were a few “boo” moments which will give you a little thrill. But I was quite taken with the film’s opening sequence, as we are shown in bloody detail what the demon is capable of. I was reminded of Romero’s The Crazies (the original and the remake) as a lone hunter and his loyal dog discover a strange container on the forest floor. As terrifying and intense as these opening moments were, the film couldn’t live up to that heightened level of suspense. We’ll find out that it’s not that kind of picture of course, but had we had more of that well-done tension, unbearable chaos and upsetting ghoulishness (rather than the cartoony stuff later), the film could have further succeeded on that all important “horror” level.
In the end, I don’t think Don’t Kill It was the most original piece to ever hit a cinema screen. But when you can plainly see that the filmmakers never wanted it to be “brand new” and that you as the audience are never meant to take it too seriously – you can just sit back and enjoy the ridiculousness, the gore and in this case; the fantastic and hysterical performance from Dolph Lundgren. Who’d-a-thunk it?