Don't Kill It
|Don't Kill It|
Theatrical release poster[N 1]
|Directed by||Mike Mendez|
|Produced by||Robert Yocum|
Michael Thomas Slifkin
|Written by||Dan Berk|
|Edited by||Mike Mendez|
Burning Sky Films
|Distributed by||Archstone Distribution|
|Budget||$1 million (estimated)|
Don't Kill It is a 2016 comedy horror film directed and edited by Mike Mendez. It stars Dolph Lundgren as Jebediah Woodley, a demon hunter who travels to Mississippi in the hopes of destroying an ancient, but homicidal demon. Kristina Klebe, Tony Bentley, James Chalke, and Miles Doleac appear in supporting roles.
After being postponed on two separate occasions, principal photography for the film commenced in Lexington, Mississippi over the 2015 Christmas season; filming concluded after 17 days of shooting. Don't Kill It had its premiere at the Fantasy Filmfest in Hamburg, Germany on August 27, 2016. This was followed by the North American premiere on September 26, 2016, at the Fantastic Fest film festival in Austin, Texas. Don't Kill it received a limited theatrical release on March 3, 2017, and opened to mostly positive reviews. Noel Murray of The Los Angeles Times called the film one of Lundgren's "most entertaining movies in years".
As a man, Gabriel, and his dog are out hunting in southern Mississippi, the dog discovers and opens a small, unusual golden container while chasing a deer. When Gabriel relocates the dog, it acts strangely before violently attacking him. After shooting the dog, Gabriel returns home, displaying the same unusual behavior and black eyes. After killing his family, he enters a neighboring house and begins killing the family there before being shot dead by the family's father, Marcus, who immediately gets the same black eyes and proceeds to murder the rest of his family.
A demon hunter, Jebediah Woodley, hears news of the murders on the radio and travels to the small town to investigate, at the same time as FBI agent Evelyn Pierce, who grew up in the area and has been assigned to investigate possible domestic terrorism. The police chief, Dunham, and Pierce quickly dismiss Woodley's claims of demon activity and have him detained as Pierce leaves to interview a witness to the most recent series of murders. Woodley advises her to ask about the killer's eyes. The witness explains that Marcus entered her home and killed her daughter before being killed by her husband, who then suddenly killed their son; he attempted to murder her before she escaped. Pierce learns that that the husband's eyes turned black as he went into his murderous rampage, and realizes Woodley's story is true.
Woodley explains to Pierce and Dunham that this demon possesses the body of whoever killed its last host, and is unusual in its high body count. The only way to defeat it is by killing it only after ensuring one's own death; his own father captured the demon when Woodley was a child by poisoning himself before killing the host, with Woodley holding onto the captured demon for decades before it escaped. As Woodley and Pierce investigate the last person to have killed the demon's host, Pierce is attacked by the demon. Instead of killing her, the demon shows an interest in her and attempts to get her to kill it, giving her horrible visions of an apocalyptic future. Woodley attacks it, but it escapes. Later, Pierce visits her old home and tells Woodley that as a child, she drowned in her pool, but was mysteriously brought back to life minutes later, and was later chased out of town by superstitious citizens.
Dunham organizes a town hall meeting to warn citizens of the danger but is interrupted by the demon, who slaughters the congregation and rapidly changes bodies before Woodley can capture it. It flees to a nearby house, where it manipulates a young girl into killing it. Dunham flees from the town as Woodley enters a church, where the local pastor Erikson, who remains suspicious of him, accuses him and Pierce of being evil. Annoyed, Woodley attacks him and leaves, rejoining Pierce before encountering the father of the possessed girl, Emmett, who urges Woodley to help. Woodley and Pierce travel to Emmett's home, where he has locked his daughter in a backroom. Woodley convinces Emmett to poison himself and kill his daughter, ending the demon's trail as before. However, the FBI, who have been called there secretly by Pierce, storm the home before Emmett can carry out the killing, and Emmett dies uselessly; the head agent, Deacon Shepherd, has Woodley arrested for poisoning him. The possessed girl slaughters the FBI agents except for Shepherd, who mortally wounds a possessed agent before fleeing with Woodley and Pierce.
The demon eventually possesses Shepherd, who once more goads Pierce into killing it. Woodley captures it and prepares to poison himself before killing it, like his father. However, he and Pierce are interrupted by Erikson, who has tracked him down with a mob of congregation members who believe Woodley is evil and has captured an innocent man. Erikson attacks Woodley as the mob frees Shepherd, who immediately begins to murder everyone present. Erikson kills him and is possessed. As the demon tries to kill Woodley, Pierce grabs a vest covered in grenades from a corpse and activates one before killing Erikson. Apocalyptic phenomena from Pierce's earlier visions begin to occur as a possessed Pierce levitates off the ground, apparently an extremely powerful host for the demon, but the grenade detonates and kills her. Woodley sadly captures the remains of the demon in a flask, which he drops into the ocean. However, the flask is quickly consumed by a great white shark, implying that the events will repeat in the near future.
- Dolph Lundgren as Jebediah Woodley
- Kristina Klebe as Agent Evelyn Pierce
- Tony Bentley as Chief Dunham
- James Chalke as Pastor Erikson
- Miles Doleac as Deacon Shepard
- Otis Willard as Toby Bronson
- Michelle West as Amber
- Todd Farmer as Marcus
- Dawn Ferry as Wendy
- Thomas Owen as Jeremy
- Billy Slaughter as Agent Jackson
- Aaron McPherson as Emmett
- Joh Bohn as Agent Lug
- Jasi Lanier as Rose
- Michael Aaron Milligan as Frank
- Laura Warner as Eunice
- Randy Austin as Gabriel
- Milorad Djomlija as Glen Prichard
- Sam Furman as Danny
Mike Mendez was attached to direct the film for over three to four years,[N 2] largely due to "a happy accident". The scripted film took place in Alaska, and had a "30 Days of Night [and] Fargo feel" to it. But according to Mendez, when Don't Kill It was green-lit, it was a case of: "great, we're shooting in Mississippi". Due to the small budget, Mendez knew they weren't "going to cover the town in snow and pretend it's Alaska", so he had to adapt "very quickly" to the situation at hand. In order for them to create the "final elements", producer Scott Martin raised over $15,000 for the film via Indiegogo; his initial aim was to raise $100,000 through crowdfunding.
Dolph Lundgren was cast in the lead role of Jebediah Woodley; he found out about the role "probably" 9–10 months before shooting began on the film. He rehearsed different pages of dialogue and monologues in a short space of time, but claims to have "had it all down"; as production was postponed on two occasions, which caused the character to grow on him with time. On his character, Lundgren said: "Jebediah Woodley is one of those guys that when I'm sitting in my rocking chair one day, thinking back, I'll remember that guy. He was a fun guy to play."
Kristina Klebe portrays FBI Agent Evelyn Pierce. Just before Thanksgiving and "maybe a week or two" before shooting began, Mendez gave her a call and said he would send her the script. Despite working with Mendez on Tales of Halloween (in 2015) and The Last Heist (the following year), Klebe still had to "put herself on tape" because they were auditioning a few people. She didn't hear anything back until four days before filming; at which point she was cast. This was due to all of the producers disagreeing on who they wanted to play the role. On Klebe's performance, Lundgren said: she "plays her character pretty straight", which worked "quite well" in retrospect due to Woodley's "crazy and colorful" nature. He went on to say: "Kristina really loved the part, so she was very accommodating and willing to explore it and work hard."
Principal photography took 17 days in Canton, Mississippi, over the 2015 Christmas season. Although credits at end of movie day it was filmed in Lexington MS. Many shots do show the Holmes County courthouse located in a Lexington. Mendez said they had "12 days to prep" beforehand, during which time he was "lucky" to get five or six hours sleep each night. The town initially sought for filming refused to grant permission, so the production crew had to move "20 miles out". Mendez claims the "town [used for filming] had never had a movie shot" there before, and went on to say: "it's actually one of the poorest suburbs in America, to be honest". Apparently, the city and public were very interested in the movie's production and the presence of Dolph Lundgren within their community. Furthermore, the local authorities were helpful; and provided the production crew with access to different locations; including the local church, as well as "police cars [to shut down] streets for filming."
Archstone Distribution acquired the worldwide distribution rights on May 27, 2015, during which time it was announced they would "launch sales" at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Don't Kill It received its worldwide premiere on August 27, 2016, at the Fantasy Filmfest in Hamburg, Germany. The North American premiere was on September 26, 2016, at the Fantastic Fest film festival in Austin, Texas. On March 3, 2017, the film was released in "select theaters" and made available through video on demand.
Don't Kill It reportedly premiered to "rave" reviews at many major film festivals around the world. Richard Whittaker of The Austin Chronicle attended the US premiere in Austin, Texas. In a positive review, he described "this horror-comedy [as a] gutbuster [of] belly laughs". Unlike Lundgren's other movies, Don't Kill It "revels in his dry yet goofy sense of humor, rather than the taciturn killer he was born to play". Lundgren was the component Mendez "really needed"; "perfectly" self-aware; his "perfect muse/foil for his brand of smartly/silly horror spoof". Bloody Disgusting's Trace Thurman came to the same conclusion, stating: there's "plenty of tongue in cheek" in which "Dolph Lundgren [is given] a chance to shine". According to him, Don't Kill It "plays like a B-movie version of Fallen, but without the class of that latter film; that's a compliment. 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". Unfortunately, the film "peaks early" with the church shootout. The scene is "so fantastically entertaining that nothing that comes after it is able to measure up to it." Contrarily, Thurman took aim at Klebe, stating: "[she] 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."
Noel Murray of The Los Angeles Times, called the film one of Lundgren's "most entertaining movies in years." He praised screenwriters Dan Berk and Robert Olsen for their "clever story about a supernatural force that turns its human hosts mindlessly homicidal". On the contrary, he criticized Mike Mendez for his editing, claiming "his many, many set-up scenes are to clunky", but on a positive note gave him praise for the fast pace and "lightness" of the film. Matt Donato of We Got This Covered awarded three out of five stars, stating: "Don't Kill It is some DIY insanity that leaves more scattered limbs than an overturned Halloween decoration truck". He praised Lundgren for his "enjoyable comedic wit"; although "nothing Oscar worthy, it carries Lundgren "a lot farther than you'd expect".
Hayleigh Foutch of Collider said the film "is a cheeky camp parade with buckets of low-rent charm, and for fans of camp cinema and Lundgren's B-Movie fare, Don't Kill It will fit like slipping into something cozy and familiar with a few surprises along the way." Agreeing with Donato, she said: Lundgren "rarely gets to have so much fun" in his movies. And like others, she spoke of the "lull [in the] second act", during which time the movie falls into "exposition and back story". Michael Nordine of The Village Voice gave a somewhat negative review, stating: [Lundgren] seems to hover just above the material, aware of its silliness but willing the indulge it all the same. Those who favor gore above all else will be at home amid the blood and guts, but anyone hoping for more than a VOD time-killer that's occasionally in on the joke of its own ridiculousness is barking up the wrong tree."
Lundgren said he'd be open to returning for a sequel, but hopes any potential sequel will have better planning and "more resources" at hand. On a similar note, Mendez said: "People are reacting to the film so much, and what we constantly hear is, 'Will there be another one?' What more could you ask for? We're finding [Jebediah] at a moment in time. There have been adventures before and there will be adventures afterwards, so I'm hoping we'll find a financial partner that wants to explore that and take that ride, because we'd love to explore that, too."
Notes and references
- Loeffler, Shawn. "Don’t Kill It In Select Theaters And On VOD", Yell Magazine, published February 11, 2017. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
- Soltes, John. "Interview: Dolph Lundgren takes on ancient evil in 'Don’t Kill It'", Hollywood Soapbox, published March 2, 2017. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
- McNary, Dave. "Cannes: Dolph Lundgren to Star as Demon Hunter in 'Don't Kill It'", Variety, published May 7, 2015. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
- Browne, Niall. "Interview: Don't Kill It Director Mike Mendez", www.moviesinfocus.com, published November 28, 2016. Retrieved July 2, 2017.
- Foutch, Hayleigh. "'Don’t Kill It' Review: Dolph Lundgren and a Demon Have a B-Movie Battle Royale", Collider, published March 3, 2017. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
- Anderson, Derek. "Interview: Dolph Lundgren & Mike Mendez Discuss Demon Hunting Down South in Don't Kill It", www.dailybread.com, published March 3, 2017. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
- Wilson, Staci Layne. "Exclusive: Mike Mendez Talks Don’t Kill It", Dread Central, published February 23, 2017. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
- Martin, Scott. "Don't Kill It-See Dolph Lundgren as a Demon Hunter", Indiegogo, publishing date unknown. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
- Buckley, Heather. "Don’t Kill It (2016): Interview with Kristina Klebe", Diabolique Magazine, published March 9, 2017. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
- Bain, Whitney Scott. "Mike Mendez|Don't Kill It", Starburst Magazine, publishing date unknown. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
- Squan, MGD. "Banshee’s Miles Doleac Joins The Cast Of Don’t Kill It!", www.horrorsociety.com, published December 23, 2015. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
- Anderson, Travis. "American Horror Story Actor to Star in New Mike Mendez Film", Coming Soon, published December 23, 2015. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
- McNary, Dave. "Cannes: Dolph Lundgren to Star as Demon Hunter in 'Don’t Kill It'", Variety, published May 7, 2015. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
- "Fantasy Filmfest Catalogue (August 17–28, 2016)", Fantasy Filmfest, published August 8, 2016. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
- Collis, Clark. "Dolph Lundgren is a boozy demon-hunter in Don't Kill It — exclusive images", Entertainment Weekly, published September 21, 2016. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
- Drew, Ari. "Don't Kill It (2016), Dread Central, published September 25, 2016. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
- Staff. "Don't Kill It – In Theaters/On Demand 3/3", www.horrornews.net, published February 14, 2017. Retrieved July 2, 2017.
- Whittaker, Richard. "Fantastic Fest Review: Don't Kill It: Dolph Lundgren goes for laughs in demon comedy", The Austin Chronicle, published September 28, 2016. Retrieved July 2, 2017.
- Thurman, Trace. "Fantastic Fest Review: ‘Don’t Kill It’ Gives Dolph Lundgren a Chance to Shine", Bloody Disgusting, published September 30, 2016. Retrieved July 2, 2017.
- "Don't Kill It (2017)", Rotten Tomatoes, published June 30, 2017. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
- Murray, Noel. "Dolph Lundgren is back aving fun in the horror-comedy 'Don't Kill It', The Los Angeles Times, published March 2, 2017. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
- Donato, Matt. "Don’t Kill It Review", We Got This Covered, published March 2, 2017. Retrieved July 2, 2017.
- Nordine, Michael. "Sadly, Dolph Lundgren’s ‘Don’t Kill It’ Just Ain’t Killing It", The Village Voice, published March 1, 2017. Retrieved July 2, 2017.
- Wixson, Heather. "April 4th Blu-ray & DVD Releases Include Don't Kill It, Invasion of the Bee Girls, We Go On", www.dailybread.com, published April 4, 2017. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
- Landy, Tom. "Mike Mendez's 'Don't Kill It' Blu-ray Announced", www.highdefdigest.com, published February 28, 2017. Retrieved July 3, 2017.