Before starting this review I need to clarify that this film is probably a whole lot more fun to watch with a little alcohol and a group of like minded friends. Those like minds being huge fans of low budget B films.
Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except was written and directed by Josh Becker who was childhood friends with the likes of Scott Spiegel (who produced and co-wrote the film), Sam Raimi (who acted in the film) and Bruce Campbell (who helped develop the story and starred in the original Super 8 short film). They all used to make 8mm films together in high school. Raimi went on to make Evil Dead, Spiegel directed Intruder and Becker made this.
Thou Shalt has the same low budget look and feel of the other two above mentioned films, but sadly it doesn’t really quite stand up to them in quality. The film opens with a group of soldiers in Vietnam. Our hero, Sgt. Stryker (Brian Schulz), takes two bullets in the leg and is sent home. He returns to his small town in middle America to lead a nice quite life. All that changes when a Charles Manson inspidered cult (lead by Sam Raimi) kidnap his girlfriend, along with a couple dozen other townsfolk. At this same time a bunch of Stryker’s Army buddies show up so the group head into the woods to find the cult and save the day.
The opening scenes in Vietnam are hilarious because it’s very obvious these were shot in middle America. In fact, the same middle America where the climax takes place. But the action special effects are pretty good here for the budget. They do their best to make you feel like your in Vietnam and they don’t totally fail. The middle of the film is pretty slow and not much happens. However, the last 20 minutes or so when the soldiers go after the cult are a blast!
Sam Raimi is hilarious as the cult leader. He actually gives a pretty good performance delivering some very hilarious lines. What kills it (and you can take that in a good or a bad way depending on who you are) is the horrendous wig that Raimi is wearing. It’s so ridiculous fake you can’t help but laugh everytime you see it. Ted Raimi also shows up in a small role as Chain Man. The best performance in the film comes from Robert Rickman who was a local Mr. T impersonator and completely channels that character and his scenes are some of the best in the film.
What Raimi and his pals do better than anything is low budget gore. And while Thou Shalt doesn’t have anything scary in it, the gore in the cult slaughter at the end is pretty fantastic. People get impaled on all sorts of fun things in this film.
It’s impossible to say that Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except is a good film. However, if you like low budget films with cheesy acting and some good gore, then this film is right up your alley. This film apparently has a pretty big cult following and I can understand why. But watching it alone without a beer in hand left a little something to be desired.
This film is presented in 1.66:1 widescreen and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. For an 80’s extremely low budget film the transfer here looks and sounds pretty darn good. As good as you’d want it too. And the soundtrack is really good. Technically speaking, it’s the best part of the film.
Stryker’s War (48 min.) The original short starring a young Bruce Campbell. I almost like this one a little better. What’s most interesting about watching this is how many of the gags made it into the feature film. Made In Michigan: The Making of…: (32 min.) This is one of the making ofs that makes you want to like the film more than you do. Great interviews with the cast and crew. It’s a shame to find out Bruce Campbell was supposed to star, cause it would have been a better film with him in it. Commentary: You get two of these: One with director Josh Becker and Bruce Campbell, the other with Brian Schulz and Michael Felsher. Bruce Campbell always keeps the commentary lively and informative. Thank you Mr. Campbell for not wasting my time. Interview with Bruce Campbell: (9 min.) On the set of My Name Is Bruce Campbell talks about the making of the film and shares some interesting stories. Deleted Scene with Commentary: (1 min.) Dude vomits in a helmet. Alternate Title Sequence: (1 min.) The film was originally called Sgt. Stryker’s War and this showcases that.Original Trailer: DVD copy.
Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except certainly has a place in the history of film. It’s by no means a great film and doesn’t stand up to other films by this creative crew, but it’s got some great moments and some solid performances for a film of this budget.
Synapse films presents Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except. Written by: John Becker and Scott Spiegel. Directed by: John Becker. Starring: Sam Raimi and Brian Schulz. Running time: 83 min. Rating: Not Rated. Released: April 10, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Bruce Campbell, Evil Dead, Sam Raimi