Cert: 18 Runtime: 93 mins Director: John Carpenter Cast: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster and Peter Jason
I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.
I’ve had a John Carpenter binge recently and They Live was a film I had been aware of for years. I finally popped my cherry with this film the other day. I can honestly say I have no idea why I have never watched it before? So what is They Live about? Nada (Roddy Piper), a wanderer without meaning in his life, discovers a pair of sunglasses capable of showing the world the way it truly is. As he walks the streets of Los Angeles, Nada notices that both the media and the government are comprised of subliminal messages meant to keep the population subdued, and that most of the social elite are skull-faced aliens bent on world domination. With this shocking discovery, Nada fights to free humanity from the mind-controlling aliens.Brilliant, funny satire of yuppie pond scum who we all did suspect of being evil world conquering aliens. It starts slow but once it gets going it never stops. The fact that it is so short is actually one of its advantages. It has great humor action and suspense.
The use of black and white photography is such a smart touch by Carpenter. First, it lets you know when someone is wearing the glasses. Also, it was a very low budget film, the black and white hides some of the makeup flaws you would have picked up on right away. Notice how Carpenter is aware Piper is a bad actor; he has him with just laconic dialogue. As long as Piper keeps it short he does fine, it is only the few times he has to speak paragraphs we get into big trouble. The film is like a roller-coaster; at the beginning it takes a little while to get to the top of the hill but boy does it move after that.Meg Foster, with those creepy cat’s eyes, always plays a great evil woman. Childs steals the movie; there is a wrestling match over his putting the glasses on that is great to watch and drop dead funny also. This has as much humor as action in it. It really is one of the greatest satires of the yuppie slime culture of the 1980s.
The action scenes, while done on a very small budget, do not avoid it because of that; remember this is John Carpenter, do you know how little Escape From New York cost? He knows how to do great work on almost no money at all. Ironically, his best work was done on the smallest budgets. Halloween and New York were very small budget films and they are his very best. The Thing was a big budget film and not one of his best.Do not think just because the budget is small the effects are bad. No, it has a few great effects scenes; Carpenter never lets you down with effects. His movies, with the exception of all films after and including Ghosts of Mars, feature great acting. Pipper is the only bad actor in the crew and Carpenter really controls him. He has his usual great supporting cast; you will recognize them right away he puts them in all of his films.