It is a shame the Academy never remembers films released this early in the year, because crusty old demon hunter Jebediah Woodley is the sort of role that ought to finally earn Dolph Lundgren some Oscar glory, at least if we lived in a more just world. It is certainly a more dignified performance than Meryl Streep’s screechy freak show in Florence Foster Jenkins, so why not? Let’s face, Lundgren is a survivor, a crafty vet who plays to his strengths and he comes up aces in Mike Mendez’s meathead jewel, Don’t Kill It (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.
The demon currently terrorizing this sleepy Mississippi town was once captured by Woodley’s pappy, but it managed to escape, just like the slippery Devil in The Howling Man. It jumps into the bodies of whoever kills the hosts it possesses, making it nearly impossible to stop. It is sort of like the fallen angel serial killer in Fallen, but gorier and far less moody. Woodley intends to finish what his pop started, but he has been down this road before. He knows the local authorities are not likely to believe his whale of a tale until it is nearly too late. Fortunately, FBI Special Agent Evelyn Pierce accepts his story earlier than most, at least to a limited extent. They might just have a puncher’s chance of capturing it, but the special interest the entity takes in Pierce gives him pause.
Dolph Lundgren, demon hunter. Any questions? Don’t Kill It is a bloody, testosterone-charged midnight movie blast. Lundgren doesn’t wink at the camera, he melts it with his withering heat vision. Even though the premise claims you can’t kill the demon, he ought to be able to kill it anyway, because he is Dolph Lundgren. Say what you will, the man has screen presence and he knows how to use it.
Although relatively unheralded, Mike Mendez is one of the more inventive genre filmmakers working today. Like The Last Heist and “Friday the 31st,” his contribution to Tales of Halloween, Don’t Kill It is just brimming with attitude and mayhem. It ought to start building him a grassroots following among cult movie fans. Unfortunately, the clichéd portrayal of the local priest as an intolerant small town Savonarola occasionally puts a damper on the fun.
Of course, Lundgren is not the only cast-member (though you would be forgiven for thinking that). Kristin Klebe adroitly downshifts from the creepy psychopaths she played in Heist and Proxy to the straight-shooting Pierce quite smoothly. Together, she and Lundgren keep the film barreling forward, heedless any logical speed bumps. If Don’t Kill It was indeed conceived as the launch of a Jebediah Woodley franchise, then bring it on. Highly recommended for horror fans with a sense of humor, Don’t Kill It opens this Friday (3/3) in New York, at the Cinema Village.