Carpenter is King – THEY LIVE (1988)


It’s a marvelous Halloween day here in the Appalachian Mountains, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this glorious holiday then with one of my all time favorite Halloween films.

They Live is so good. Seriously.

I was sitting at the local cigar store one rainy day, chewing the fat when this film popped up on AMC. I was hooked from the first time I heard the bluesy electronic soundtrack come barreling across the speakers. I look up and see “Rowdy” Roddy Piper walking the urban jungle of Los Angeles as a character named “Nada” searching for work. He takes a job as a construction worker and befriends Frank, played by the oh so awesome Keith David. From that point on Nada inadvertently finds out that an alien race is hiding the truth from us humans and are using us to feed their every growing universal empire. By putting on special sunglasses, Nada can see the truth. Billboards advertising a new hair product simply says “Obey.” Money states “This is your God.” Everything is black and white with the shades on.

Nada will not stand for this shit.

If you haven’t seen They Live and you’re looking for the quintessential 80s cheese fest, I can’t recommend this film enough. It’s full of the best one liners ever spoken, not to mention the acting and story are so insanely top notch. It’s one of those “once in a lifetime” flicks that can never be reproduced. It’s an awful shame that Piper didn’t get more work, because honestly he could have had an action franchise solely based on his work in this film. He’s visceral and balls-to the-wall and is so over the top that you can’t help just falling in love with him. I understand that he suffered a bit of a breakdown, which is a true shame, because if he could have just been Nada in a bunch of films, they would be the best films ever made. EVER.

Citizen Nada. I’m all for it.

Ok, ok. I do gush for this, but just watch this scene where Nada is trying to “convince” Frank to put the glasses on. I’ll wait.

Now tell me you don’t want to immediately go buy this movie.

They Live is the type of movie that just couldn’t be made anymore. This film, based off of two short stories Carpenter had read, really encapsulates that Body Snatchers type of film, while making an everyday Joe into a hero. It wasn’t so much a “These aliens are taking over and we are helpless” but more “I have a shotgun and I will kill these sons of bitches.”  There is a definite critique of commercialization happening here. A quote from the man himself, on the making of They Live “”I began watching TV again. I quickly realized that everything we see is designed to sell us something… It’s all about wanting us to buy something. The only thing they want to do is take our money.”

It’s a hilarious throwback to a time where movies were just movies, plain and simple. And Carpenter made it all his own. The music, the action, the camera. Each part an entity in its own right. I have a serious problem when I show this film to people and they don’t get it. They just see an 80s movie that hasn’t aged well and lacks any real dimensions. I can’t see it that way. It’s not that I refuse to grow up or anything, it’s just that They Live is a solidly good film. It’s not deep or philosophical. It’s fun. It’s an actual movie.

I know that film makers with the style and attitude of John Carpenter are making a come back, and I’m grateful. I love seeing directors like Rian Johnson and Joss Whedon making big splashes in the industry but staying insanely true to themselves. It’s a totally different game when directors are proud to stand behind their product and ideas.

They Live represents a lost time in cinema. A time when even popcorn flicks had enough heart to keep us as the viewer completely enthralled. I miss the days of 80s Carpenter.

With that, short and sweet, I hope you all have an amazing Halloween, as for me, I’ve come to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I’m all out of gum.


Originally posted 2012-10-31 15:48:41. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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