Each time I look into Dolph Lundgren's face I see the Doc Savage movie that could have been. But he isn't playing Doc Savage in Don't Kill It, just an oafish demon bounty hunter named Jebediah Woodley (aren't they all named like that?) channeling that Kurt Russell, Big Trouble in Little China vibe. I admit it's funny to watch. His deadpan delivery fits easily within his worse for the wear duster and bumbling machismo in dealing with a demonic outbreak knocking down the population in an already small town. But it only goes so far, and, after a short while, no further. Director Mike Mendez doesn't realize or isn't concerned about that.
An ancient demonic evil (aren't they all ancient?) resurfaces near a Mississippi town, killing anyone in close proximity while screeching the usual demonic screech and showing those de rigueur beady black demon eyes. Jebediah arrives in time to be ignored, then believed, then to become chief player at fumbling through it all with his funny looking net gun and misfiring gumption. More direction and scripting devoted to that would have amped up the enjoyability factor here, but Lundgren's lethargy permeates everything when it's only him who should be moving slow.
You see, the kicker here is that you can't kill the demon outright. If you do, you get possessed. So the hilarious moments come from the inability of most everyone involved to keep from doing just that. So the demon bounces around from victim to victim, killing and possessing like demons are wont to do, in a lackluster, by-the-numbers, straight to disc or streaming or syfy channel horror movie way. The inherent absurdity and humor to be embraced in all the pinball-possible kinetics are barely hugged. Talky lulls between action scenes, action scenes that skimp on the action (except for those to be mentioned later), all of that keeps the pace of this endeavor to a little less than a brisk walk when it needs a flat out run instead.
That's the one-note setup given in the script. The townsfolk (who provide typical clueless fodder for the gore gags), the sheriff (who shows the usual I can't handle the truth reactions), the FBI agent (who can't decide to lead or follow or jump into the action with feet firmly planted), and Jebediah (with his predictable laid-back clumsiness) fail to catapult that one note very far. More effort on characterization, more contextual effort between gore gag events, and more of a storyline are the missing elements here and from too many horror movies. Have horror fans become that simplistic and non-discerning? Do directors and production people think horror fans are, these days, a non-discerning bunch that will swallow anything thrown at them? I mean, really, what is all that gibberish about FBI agent Pierce (Kristina Klebe in a torpid turn as an FBI agent) being of angelic heredity? Did Lundgren wing that one or what?
Here's something I will swallow, and you may find it tasty, too. The few scenes that are genuinely funny and rise above the stodgy acting, slow poke timing, and can-we-hurry-on-with-this-please gaps. For instance, like the town meeting. Filled with shots of cartoon-styled, poorly done gore gags (which heightens the effect, so good job there) and an almost keystone cops energy of who's got the hot potato going round the town hall room, it is one town meeting that's hilarious in its carnage.
It's one of those rare moments when Jebediah's character (the part where he doesn't think things through well at all, which is much of the time), the impracticality of holding the meeting in the first place (would you give a mass murderer easy access to most of the town's people in one place?), and the fumbling mayhem as all hell breaks loose (deputies will be deputies) is choreographed like a ballet held in a boxing ring. Simple yet sublime.
Now that's what I'm talking about.
It helps make up for the wait to get to it. Another such ensemble of deathly destruction follows. Eventually. But mishandling tone--make fun of death involving kids at your own peril--sets it down a peg. Flying demonic kids of doom are a plus, though, so I'll give points for that anytime.