|Selfie? Or selfish?|
To me, They Live is a warning of a future that's Orwellian in nature (Animal Farm, 1984). Do I believe that aliens are among us in camouflage controlling our very destinies? No. But I am fully aware that the extremes that are used in this film to hold down a sheep-like society, are absolutely being forced upon us today in one way or another. Shopping, screwing, eating, obeying; We are all told to live a certain way, because that's what's expected of us.
I was writing a movie review, wasn't I? Well all my rantings (so far) are actual plot points in this movie. With it being a John Carpenter film (Halloween, The Fog), it's not perfect, however it's always cool and gets to the point once the ball starts rolling. Released in late 1988, They Live was in and out of theaters very quickly (conspiracy?!), yet it's gained a cult following and has inspired a clothing line (OBEY) and a classic South Park episode (Cripple Fight). This picture is essentially about the haves controlling the have nots, and the lengths that they'll go to to keep things that way. Even though this is based on someone else's story, Carpenter has made it his own social commentary of the era with his signature score and filming style.
He also uses some familiar faces from his previous films to ensure that you know who's movie you're watching. Peter Jason (Prince of Darkness), George 'Buck' Flower (Escape from New York), and Keith David (The Thing 1982), have small to larger roles, especially David. His character symbolizes the hard working American that keeps his head down and accepts his place in the system. And at first, so does Roddy Piper's (Hell Comes to Frogtown) main hero as well.
This movie should have made the popular WWF wrestler a big action star, but for whatever reason, it never happened. Piper has the charm and semi-decent acting chops to lead this movie and keep you interested. The invasion stuff is cool, but some of the action scenes are poorly coordinated and unrealistic as hell (convenient shooting skills). Piper's also funny when he gets upset and unleashes his fury on the nearest bystander.
Highs- It may be too long (over five minutes) and takes away from the flow of the story, but Piper's and David's "Put on the glasses!" fight, is epically funny ("cripple fight!"). My only guess as to why it ran on for so long, is that it was another of Carpenter's commentaries on how stubborn we are with accepting the truth. When Piper first wears the glasses, learns the truth, and goes on a confused tear, it is a highlight.
Lows- As with all of Carpenter's films, the run time is too short (93 minutes) and many questions are left unanswered. That's typical with this guy, but sometimes something can be more compelling if things didn't feel so rushed and incomplete. Meg Foster's (Blind Fury) character is a wasted motivator for Piper. There's nothing there between them, and yet somehow the film forces them together anyways.
They Live is an imperfect classic from John Carpenter that has a message that still rings true today. It's fun, it's funny, and it's an eye opener. But maybe you're not ready to hear the message? Maybe you should just keep on reading that fluff piece article, or watching that reality show about the haves and how glorious their pampered lives are? Maybe you should just live in your bubble and not question everything? I promise you that "They" are relying on that, aliens or not.
Rating-7.5 out of 10
They Live (1988)
R | 1h 33min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller | 4 November 1988 (USA)
A drifter discovers a pair of sunglasses that allow him to wake up to the fact that aliens have taken over the Earth.
Director: John Carpenter
Writers: Ray Nelson (short story "Eight O'Clock in the Morning"), John Carpenter (screenplay) (as Frank Armitage)
Stars: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster