When he's sent home from Vietnam after being injured in the line of duty, Sgt. Stryker thinks the war is over. The battle has only just begun as a crazed cult that's lead by a deranged maniac thinking he's Jesus Christ takes over Stryker's home town. Along with three of his fellow Marines, Stryker plans to take back the town and kill all the cult members before they claim any more victims.
I can't recall how many times I've come across "Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except" when browsing for movies. Not once did I ever give it the time of day. I would see it and just keep on browsing. I guess maybe because of the title, I'm not sure, but I never bothered to even read a synopsis. Maybe I was content with being ignorant but, regardless, nothing about it ever caught my attention. That is until I received Synapse's release as a gift and I realized how many of the folks involved with "Evil Dead" had a hand in making "Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except".
Set in 1969, "Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except" follows the exploits of Sgt. Stryker; a soldier in the Vietnam war who is sent back home after being injured in the line of duty. Everything seems to be the same when Stryker returns, that is until a crazy Manson-like cult shows up and starts killing people and takes an entire camp ground hostage. Injury aside, Stryker and three of his fellow soldiers plan on dealing with the psychotic cult the only way Marines can. Kill 'em all!
Again, having no previous knowledge of "Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except" I figured it was going to be something along the lines of "I Drink Your Blood". Mildly entertaining but easily forgettable (sorry, "I Drink Your Blood" fans). And it is, to an extent, but the best way I can think of describing "Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except" is combine "I Drink Your Blood" with "Deadbeat At Dawn" and toss in the humor and shlock value from "Evil Dead 2" and you'll kind of get an idea what's in the movie.
I say idea because if you haven't seen the movie or any clips from it, then you have no idea what you're going to get with this cheesy-shlock masterpiece until you see it. Much like "Evil Dead", "Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except" is based on a Super-8 movie that was made by a group of wide-eyed Michigan kids. It even features Sam Raimi as the crazy cult leader in both the Super-8 version and the feature length film. And unlike other crazy, killer hippie-cult movies, Josh fully embraces the shlockiness of the story and allows the movie to be as insane, over-the-top and campy as it can be without making a single apology for it.
And I don't mean to make it sound like it is one of those so bad it's good type of movies. It's not the perfect movie; it has flaws and issues like you would imagine from fresh filmmakers making a low-budget action movie. But it is a decently made movie -- which is more than what can be said about "Alien Apocalypse" -- it's well paced, good progression of the story and characters and it often feels and looks like a movie. Not some backyard project. What really makes the movie, what really turns it into more than just an okay action-sploiter is the final act of the movie and climax.
Once we hit the moment where the Marines decide to take on the cult, the movie turns into a nugget of fried gold because "Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except" loses it's goddamn mind. The original and more fitting title, "Bloodbath", was perfect for the movie because that's what it turns into. An All-American fuckin' bloodbath! There are still those comedy beats within the melee, usually a "Three Stages" -esque gag, so it's still done for entertainment's sake. Even so, the chaos that ensues satisfies one's lust for carnage. Especially when it involves a lot of dead hippies.
"Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except" isn't a great movie by any stretch of the imagination but it is a good and entertaining low-budget action-exploitation movie. It's not a total cheese-fest as there is a decent movie buried amongst the bad wigs, squibs and schlock. It's definitely a movie that people should see who enjoyed that little movement of filmmakers from Michigan, like Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel and Bruce Campbell, and not because they're involved, but because it has the same tone to it that "Evil Dead 2" and "Intruder" had. Even if you're not exactly a fan of those guys, it is still a movie worth checking out since there is competence behind the production. Plus it's fun and nuts.
Note: I would recommend picking up the release by Synapse that is a blu-ray/DVD combo since they did an excellent job of cleaning up the movie. Also because on both discs is the original 50 minute Super-8 short that features Bruce Campbell as the character Stryker.