Sam Raimi is a Hollywood player who has directed hugely successful and expensive motion pictures. I'm not much of a fan of the superhero movies, or his Oz feature, but I'm always happy to see anyone break out of the confines of the small horror pool and hit the big time. I much prefer his smaller Hollywood movies, like The Gift and A Simple Plan.

Of course horror fans everywhere revere Raimi for the groundbreaking low budget classic The Evil Dead. It's sequel, Evil Dead 2, is one of the highlights of the eighties.

My favorites are the rough, early pictures that led up to Evil Dead 2. I even like Crimewave.

Raimi was part of a ragtag team of renegade filmmakers that included figures like Scott Spiegel, Josh Becker, and of course Bruce Campbell. These guys made various movies together, with cast and crewmembers assuming different positions in the productions.

One of the best of them is Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except. Originally conceived and filmed as Stryker's War, it's a rollicking action-adventure-horror feature that is almost preposterously entertaining.

Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except opens with a scene from the Vietnam War, where a newbie second louie makes a bad decision that gets his platoon shot to pieces. Sgt. Jack Stryker winds up with a bum leg and a drinking problem out of the deal. He retires to a sleazebag cabin out on the woods to nurse his physical and emotional wounds.

Three of Jack's old Marine buddies are out drinking and carousing. All of them were on the ill-fated mission that left Jack a cripple. Including the Second Lieutenant whose orders led to the disastrous outcome. Riddled with guilt, they decide to pay ol' Jack a visit.

The soldiers are having a high old time, getting drunk, blowing the shit out of stuff with Jack's arsenal, but something ugly is amiss. A group of murderous hippies have descended upon Jack's small town. Jack and his team must go to war once again to save their town and to eradicate the scum.

Hippie murderers? It's not as far-fetched as it might sound. Many think of hippies as flower power peaceniks, but there was a much darker side to the movement. Consider Charles Manson, the Hell's Angels, the Weather Underground, Altamont. Hippies could be pretty scary.

Sam Raimi chews the scenery with considerable gusto as the grimy leader of the hippie group. Obviously inspired by Manson, he almost takes his performance over the top, but he just barely keeps it reined in.

There are ample scenes of violence and gore, with bargain basement effects that mostly work. These filmmakers were known to descend into Three Stooges-type slapstick, and there is a little of that here, but not enough to hurt the picture.

The woke set would choke, and the language used is about as PC as Archie Bunker, but it's all in good fun. Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except is All-American entertainment. The good guys are doughboy roughnecks, and the bad guys are irredeemable degenerates. What more could one ask for in the mid-1980s?

Written by Mark Sieber

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