Blu-Ray and DVD are happy homes for this cult classic. So Synapse’s release of THOU SHALT NOT KILL … EXCEPT in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack is a highly commendable thing. Format discussion over. On to the movie. THOU SHALT NOT KILL … EXCEPT takes an inordinate amount of time getting going, if, by “getting going”, you mean, for the serious action to occur. Despite its slow burn, however, it culminates in a hot boil. One could also credit the filmmakers for taking the time to tell a story and flesh out characters a little bit. So there are some exceptions to my taking exception to the pacing of THOU SHALT NOT KILL … EXCEPT. Right. What really counts sometimes is how much you’re smiling when the movie is all said and done and I was a pretty happy camper by the time the flick had run its course. I have, admittedly, seen it before, but it’s been a long time, so this might as well have been a fresh viewing. Well, it WAS a fresh viewing. But moving on. One of the biggest appeals of THOU SHALT NOT KILL … EXCEPT is its genre-defiance. A number of discernable genres exist within this movie, but it’s very important to take note of the fact of their existence WITHIN the film. THOU SHALT NOT KILL … EXCEPT stands outside the genres. It contains them rather than the other way around, which is the ordinary way of things. This means it’s hard to categorize and not only is that okay, that’s actually really great. That means it is what it is. And how is it? Good. Comedy, horror, action and satire co-inhabit the sphere of THOU, and they’re sexy bedfellows. The story of a ‘Nam vet and his buddies launching a private war on a religious hippie death cult led by a Manson-esque figure – played to the hilt by the later-famous director Sam Raimi (“Evil Dead” and “Spider-Man” franchises, “Darkman”, “Drag Me To Hell”, etc.) – makes for compelling viewing in the end. The leader of the soldiers with a private mission is now on a cane and has returned home, torn between his desire for the girl back home and the fear she’ll only pity him. Thanks to friends and the distraction of a violent showdown with the Chuck Manson wannabe and his violent pals, he is lifted from his self-pity. One could, if one so wished, elaborate on the symbolism of the crippled man finding the strength to stand up, but I’ll let you ponder that yourselves. Intentional or otherwise – a combination, I suspect – THOU SHALT NOT KILL … EXCEPT is laden with subtext. But that’s secondary to the general fun via cinematic mayhem and guerilla filmmaking. Or at least auxiliary. At least one can argue for the presence of substance here. That’s more than you can say for a lot of exploitation films. And the teeth marks Sam Raimi leaves all over the scenery are fun to look at. But seriously, the creativity and exuberance on the filmmakers’ part makes THOU SHALT NOT KILL … EXCEPT rather a dark joy.
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