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Sitges 2016: “DON’T KILL IT” (Film Review)

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Director Mike Mendez should be familiar to FANGORIA readers: He’s brought us the likes of BIG ASS SPIDER!, THE GRAVEDANCERS, and LAVALANTULA. Mendez has a real talent for combining gruesome horror with stand-up-and-cheer fun. He’s got a knack for taking a simple, sometimes silly premise, and making it far more enjoyable than it has any right to be. By taking his skill for elevating absurdity and adding living comic book character Dolph Lundgren in a lead role, DON’T KILL IT strikes gold.

The title references a demonic evil, the rules of which are established quickly. When a person is possessed by the demon, they become a terrifying, screeching force of malevolence, using anything in arm’s reach to murder the people around them. If a would-be victim manages to kill the possessed attacker, they become possessed themselves. This is all demonstrated initially by the film’s strong, visceral opening, in which the demon slaughters a series of families in a small town.

Soon after the murders, the mysterious Jebediah Woodley (Lundgren) arrives in town with an inside knowledge of the killings, claiming to be a demon hunter. Eventually, he convinces the agent assigned to investigating the crimes, Evelyn Pierce (Kristina Klebe), to accept his help. Rather than the strong, silent type you’re used to seeing from Lundgren, his role as Jebediah Woodley has a steady stream of dialogue in the form of wisecracks, backstory, and exposition. He’s still a cartoonish ass-kicker, but with less stoicism and more self-awareness. It’s the sort of role I hope we’ll see Lundgren taking more of. Evelyn, meanwhile, acts as the deadpan foil to Jebediah’s wisecracking badassery, giving the demon-hunting proceedings an enjoyable buddy cop vibe.

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Lundgren’s turn as a cocky demon hunter draws its share of cheers, but Mendez also draws a tremendous amount of fun from the body-hopping mechanic of the demon. The necessity by the protagonists to catch the demon via non-lethal means adds a layer of tension and vulnerability, with outside interference constantly complicating things. The result is a series of creative, fast-paced sequences, including a must-see set piece at town hall that spills countless gallons of blood. Major credit is due to Robert Kurtzman, who did a great job with the film’s practical effects.

As with some of Mike Mendez’s other films, fun is the key factor, in DON’T KILL IT. There is plenty of splattery spectacle on display, heaps of enjoyable one-liners, and just enough clever mythology to leave you wanting more. All the elements combine to create a great ride that you’d be hard-pressed to watch without a huge grin on your face. In fact, this writer hopes we’ll be seeing the demon hunter Jebediah Woodley again in the future.

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[Note: Dolph Lundgren was kind enough to punch me following the film, which you can see below]

About the author
Elijah Taylor
Elijah Taylor used to own a chain of video game stores in Denver, Colorado. Now he works with Laser Party, a poster printing collective, and travels the world, eating, fighting, and attending film festivals.
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