Director Mike Mendez has recently made a name for himself making schlock direct-to-DVD horror films, and he’s damn good at it. He has found a formula that works and sticks to it. After 2006’s above-average The Gravedancers, Mendez took a six-year break from directing before returning in 2013 with the pleasant surprise Big Ass Spider! That film was better than it had any right to be, and the fun Mendez was clearly having behind the camera showed on screen. After 2015’s Lavalantula, Mendez returns with Don’t Kill It, a possession thriller starring Dolph Lundgren(!) as a demon slayer(!!). It’s pretty awesome.
Don’t Kill It plays like a B-movie version of Fallen, but without the class of that latter film (that’s a compliment). The film centers around a demon that possesses those that kill its previous host. Once in a fresh body, the demon moves through a small Mississippi town leaving scores of dismembered bodies in its wake. On its trail is Jebediah Woodley (Lundgren), a vaping, boozy demon hunter who has a history with the demon. He teams up with tough-as-nails FBI Agent Evelyn Pierce (genre darling Kristina Klebe) to attempt to find a way to stop the demon without killing it (hence the title of the film).
Lundgren is clearly having a blast here. He has impeccable comedic timing and is really in his element as Jebediah Woodley. Who knew that Lundgren was such a comedian? There were some moments in the film that had to have been improvised, and they’re such treats to watch (one sequence of physical comedy in which the police are trying to drag Lundgren out of the police chief’s office had the audience in stitches). Klebe is serviceable as Pierce but she is stuck playing the Felix Ungar to Lundgren’s Oscar Madison. Woodley needs a foil but Pierce spends the first half of the film being a stick in the mud. One wishes that she was given more to do.
Screenwriters Dan Berk and Robert Olsen (who wrote last year’s Body together) get a lot of mileage out of their gimmicky villain. The 93-minute runtime prevents its schtick from getting old and Mendez gets to employ some really creepy (and funny) sequences with the demon. It’s signature screech that it employs when going on a rampage grows silly after a while, but those first few scenes send chills up the spine.
Unfortunately the film peaks early, with a town hall massacre that rivals Kingsman: The Secret Service‘s church fight scene in terms of spilled blood. That scene is so fantastically entertaining that nothing that comes after it is able to measure up to it. In fact, Don’t Kill It loses so much of the humor in the final act that it ends up hurting the film. That being said, the film never ceases to entertain even when it gets bogged down in its own mythology.
Don’t Kill It has its tongue planted firmly in cheek and doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t. While it will no doubt be headed straight to DVD like so many of Mendez’s other films, it’s definitely worth checking out for Lundgren’s performance alone. Don’t Kill It is the epitome of a popcorn film and should be seen on a Saturday night with lots of drinks and plenty of friends. You’re pretty much guaranteed to have a blast.