There are plenty of people who love bad movies, the ones where the budget is low and aspirations are high. The kind of films where the creators do whatever they can to tell their story. These are the movies that inspire rabid cult followings, titles like Troll II or Miami Connection.
With that in mind, it’s time to talk about Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except.
The year is 1969. A quartet of hard-drinking Vietnam vets are compelled to fight back against a murderous Manson-esque cult that has taken guests and residents at a local campground hostage. It’s a tremendous exploitation film idea, ludicrous and brave, and the overall silliness of the film does not disappoint. Blood and guts abound, as do foul words and the kind of pithy macho language that would make John Milius head to his bunk for a few minutes alone.
Battle scenes were filmed in Hartland Township, Michigan, making the ‘Nam look like a well-manicured state park. Imagine a soldier carrying his wounded buddy across the green of the 14th hole at a particularly posh golf course, and you’ve got the idea of how firmly grounded in reality this movie is.
If that doesn’t sound promisingly loony enough for you, examine the film’s pedigree. The screen story was written by Josh Becker, Bruce Campbell ,and Sheldon Lettich. Becker and Campbell, arguably the most famous B-movie actor in America, later worked together on Alien Apocalypse. Lettich went on to create numerous films with Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Appearing in Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except, you’ll find the Raimi Brothers, Sam and Ted. Sam Raimi is the creator of the Evil Dead property and Ted is a B-movie legend in his own right. Sam plays the leader of the cult, with questionable teeth and ratty hair, while Ted plays a character called Chain Man.
There is hot weirdness at every turn in this movie, along with sub-standard yet sincere acting. Also known as Stryker’s War, Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except deserves the kind of lavish praise heaped upon films like The Room and Gymkata. It’s messy, funny, and bloody.
Compared to other movies of its ilk, the cult following for Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except is small, and that’s a shame. It deserves to be re-evaluated and brought to larger audiences. The time is right for this movie to take its place in the cult movie pantheon.
Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except is currently streaming on Fandor.