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THOU SHALT NOT KILL... EXCEPT...
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Reviewed by: Ammon Gilbert

Directed by: Josh Becker

Starring:
Brian Shulz
Sam Raimi
Robert Rickman

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
Lt. Striker returns home from Vietnam after being wounded in battle to rekindle his high school sweetheart and live a peaceful life in his mancave of a cabin in the woods. Life is swell until a cult of evil f*ckers arrive in town to wreak havoc, including torture, murder, and torment. Fed up with the atrocities of these sick individuals, Striker decides to take matters into his own hands with the help of his former Marine buddies Sgt. Jackson, 2nd Lt. Miller, and LCpl. Tyler. Itís the Marines versus the Manson FamilyÖ go!
Is it good movie?
Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Scott Spiegel, and Ted Raimi. These are all recognizable names in Hollywood, if not only for their more recent work with the SPIDER-MAN series or HOSTEL PART 3, but because of their horror creation from the early Ď80s that made a name for themselves: THE EVIL DEAD. Right after they hit it big with Ash battling demons in the woods, the crew came together for a little Vietnam / Revenge / Exploitation film, THOU SHALT NOT KILLÖ EXCEPT (TSNKE), and thanks to the glory of Blu-ray, the film is now available to own for your viewing pleasure.

The story is simple: Marines home from Vietnam take the matter of a lunatic cult of murdering mother*ckers into their own hands with what we like to refer as, a little bit of vigilant street justice. Or in this case, backwoods in-the-middle-of-nowhere justice. With a set up like that, how can you go wrong? You really canít, as TSNKE delivers exactly what youíd expect: a gritty revenge flick with tons of blood splatter to go around. But unlike other grindhouse exploitation films, this one has a sense of humor, and amidst all the violence, it doesnít take itself too seriously. Itís from the people who brought us THE EVIL DEAD, after all.

The effort by everyone involved is felt throughout, with some really solid performances by Brian Shulz, Tim Quill, and Robert Rickman. But the biggest standout in the film is by famed director Sam Raimi as the infamous Cult Leader, a role he plays as obnoxiously over-the-top as humanly possible. And itís this over-the-top portrayal that sets him one step ahead of the rest. Heís creepy, heís vile, heís crazy, heís dirty, heís crazy, and heís just so damn fun to watch that you look forward to seeing him in the next scene. And as a villain, heís perfect, as you want nothing more than this guy to die a messy death.

While the film isnít perfect (itís low budget grindhouse, afterall), it sure as hell accomplishes what it sets out to do, itís entertaining as hell, and itís a whole lot of fun. Thereís plenty of violence and gore, but thereís also a lot of time spent with the characters, building relationships, background stories, and all-around character development (of the heroic Marines, at least), making it more than just a splatter flickóbut a splatter flick where you actually give a flock about the characters involved.

Video / Audio
Video: Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the film looks as good as it ever has or ever will, thanks to the high definition transfer. Sure, itís not the crisp and clear HD film quality of what weíve come to expect today, but for a low budget flick from over 25 years ago, it looks just about perfect (for what it is).

Audio: Most audio mixed in 2.0 is either Mono or Dolby Digital, but since this is the remastered Blu-ray, this puppy is 2.0 HD-DTS quality, yo! And itís the touch of DTS gives the filmís 2.0 mix a pass. Considering this was the original way it was presented, filmed, and conceived, you canít really fault it, now can you?

The Extras
Made in Michigan: The Making of 'Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except": A looking-back style featurette about the making of the film from some of the key players involved (Josh Becker, Scott Spiegel, Tim Quill, John Manfredi, Rob Rickman, and Ted Raimi). Obviously produced for the release of the Blu-ray, this featurette is more like a retrospective than anything else. They had a lot of fun making this movie--and you can tell!

Alternate "Sgt. Stryker's War" Title Sequence: See the opening sequence with the film's original title popping up on the screen!

Deleted "Puking" Scene w/optional commentary from director Josh Becker: For those who wanted more vomit in this movie, there's this deleted scene of Manfredi barfing in a biker's helmet--with hilarious results!

Interview with Bruce Campbell: The Chin makes an appearance to talk about the film as he walks around his compound in Southern Oregon. It's Bruce Campbell! What's not to like???

Original Super 8mm "Stryker's War" Short Film: The original 45 minute short STRYKER'S WAR, starring Bruce Campbell as Striker, which was later made with a bigger budget as THOU SHALT NOT KILL... EXCEPT. Great to see Bruce in action doing his thing (so young!), and to see what the original vision of the story was and what the final product ended up being. Differences here and there, but it's more (or less) the same fun film.

Original Theatrical Trailer: The film's original '80s-flavored trailer! Great voice-over, great music--it's what great trailers are made of.

Last Call
Part war movie, part revenge flick, part grindhouse, part exploitation, and all fun--THOU SHALT NOT KILL... EXCEPT is a solid piece of entertainment from the guys who gave us THE EVIL DEAD (among many, many others). Remastered and slapped with the perfect amount of extra features, if you're into seeing Sam Raimi as a crazy cult leader or some Marines kick a ton of ass, this here is a solid buy all around.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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