Screamfest: DON'T KILL IT (2016)

Don't Kill It.jpg

Studio:       Archstone Pictures
Director:    Mike Mendez
Writer:       Dan Berk, Robert Olsen
Producer:  Robert Yocum, Scott Martin, Michael Thomas Slifkin, Jeff Spilman
Stars:     Dolph Lundgren, Kristina Klebe, Tony Bentley, James Chalke, Miles Doleac

Review Score:


Summary:

An FBI agent reluctantly partners with a mysterious man to take down a demon when her Mississippi hometown is overrun by murder.


Synopsis:     

Screamfest Review:

Walking tall demon hunter Jebediah Woodley is the kind of confident man’s man unafraid to defiantly prop his boots on a sheriff’s desk, stomp them into a misogynist man-pig’s throat, or keep them on his feet when he beds a roadhouse barfly.  Enjoyably embodied with smarmy charm by Dolph Lundgren, think of Jebediah as Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name if he had a smirk, a sense of humor, and lived out of his car like some common drifter.

Jebediah just arrived in the backwoods burg of Chicory Creek, Mississippi.  Also in town is FBI agent Evelyn Pierce, a local native made good who is back to investigate three recent triple homicides, hopefully with some help from small town lawman Chief Dunham and his dim deputy Otis.

What Jebediah already knows and everyone else is soon to find out is that Chicory Creek has a demon on its hands.  Not one of the winged, horned, fanged, or red-skinned varieties.  This demon is a spirit that possesses its host to brutally butcher every human within sight.  The catch is, anyone who kills the person possessed becomes the next unlucky someone to carry on the curse.

Things are going to get much, much worse before they can get any better.  It’s bedlam on one street and a massacre on the next as this demon rips through the population while whittling it down to near nothing.  And when it comes across Evelyn, the demon sees a new way to bring mayhem to the masses.  Chicory Creek, and Evelyn in particular, is going to need every ounce of Jebediah’s knowledge, as well as his net gun, if they are going to have any chance at surviving what comes next.

Even if you’re unfamiliar with director Mike Mendez, knowing that his body of work includes titles like “Bimbo Movie Bash,” “Big Ass Spider,” and “Lavalantula” should be indicator enough of the cinematic style in play here.  “Don’t Kill It” is partially what a Troma film might be like if Lloyd Kaufman allowed camp to come naturally and didn’t invest every chit to intentionally represent his movies like live-action cartoons.  Mendez and “Don’t Kill It” at least think enough of their kooky quirks to be restrained through modest mainstream appeal for a movie that can play well to the right kind of crowd.

If you’re interested in understanding the mechanics of how a demon can magically possess anyone who kills it, no matter the murder method, distance, or other details, you’re barking up the wrong tree.  This horror story doesn’t hold up to any sensible scrutiny.

A subplot with a pastor is like a pesky fly that more important scenes keep swatting away.  Most moments relating to an early bar rendezvous could be similarly snipped and the core of Jebediah’s character would still come out intact.  Other asides also interrupt the main arc more than they enhance it, not the least of which is the “will they or won’t they, but they probably will” romantic tension between Evelyn and Jebediah.

With 12 days in preproduction and another 17 spent with the camera, “Don’t Kill It” went from finished script to fully shot in about one month.  Whether because of that fact or in spite of it, the movie emerges as Mendez’ most watchable effort to date.  Nevertheless, some run and gun shooting and a few choppy effects show signs of a time crunch cutting corners here and there.

Many of the kills are spectacularly splatter-filled affairs, though some are more silly than scary.  Wisely, the camera usually cuts quickly and moves right to the next bursting skull so there isn’t a window to react to how cheaply, particularly in CGI-enhanced shots, the movie fakes much of its murder.

The concept is a smart one for an indie budget looking to create a supernatural killer that doesn’t require labored makeup or intricate effects beyond black eyes, blood, and a banshee howl added in post.  Still, the scope seems a little thin since there isn’t a memorable monster or even a truly knockout setpiece to create a supremely awestruck moment.  It’s a lot of human on human violence, which is satisfactory if that’s all anyone anticipates.

I can’t envision a compelling urge coming up where “Don’t Kill It” would top a list of preferred choices to spontaneously pop into a disc player.  As an “it’s already on TV anyway” alternative though, it fits for an “as long as you’re in the mood for it” movie.  That means having a predisposition to finding the fun in schlocky splatter.  Having a few PBRs and a couple of game friends on hand wouldn’t hurt to help with finding that fun in something so good-naturedly absurd.

Review Score:  65