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They Live

They Live

What he said:

He

After recently watching They Live again for the first time in a few years, it occurred to me this is the only John Carpenter movie I own; which is insane to me. He hasn’t had a successful movie in ages and his movies were always fairly low-budget, but John Carpenter has put out some classic stuff. Halloween, Escape From New York, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, and They Live; these are all movies I have seen countless times and enjoy immensely. His career went in the crapper with some bombs during the 90s, but I always kind of liked Vampires. He has had even less success since than he did throughout the 90s. My point being is that even though he has pretty much become irrelevant, I need to get my ass out there and get some John Carpenter movies. There’s always room for the classics.

They Live is about a drifter named Nada (former Wrestler Roddy “Rowdy” Piper). Though he is never referred to as anything throughout the entire film, he is credited as Nada. A drifter wanders into town and is seemingly nameless. When people address him, they don’t call him by anything or even ask him his name. See the symbolism going on there? There’s plenty more where that came from. Anyways, Nada is just your average working man looking for a place to stay and an honest day’s work. Soon enough he stumbles onto a construction job where he meets Frank (Keith David). Frank is in a similar situation as Nada. He goes where the work is and hasn’t seen his family in 6 months. Frank also takes him to a makeshift homeless shelter that serves as a hub for many like them. As long as they don’t cause any trouble and chip in with repairs, newcomers are always welcome.

The shelter is across the street from a small church. One of guys in charge, Gilbert, seems friendly enough, but is always disappearing into the church at the wee hours of the morning. Nada’s curiosity gets the better of him and he sneaks into the church one night and uncovers some kind of secret organization. Who they are and what they are doing, he can’t quite figure out. Next thing he knows, police raid the camp and lay waste to the entire setup. Something doesn’t seem right though as they are acting particularly aggressive and appear to be looking for something specific.

This is when things really start to spiral out of control for Nada. On the run from the police, he uncovers a massive conspiracy that is totally out of this world. Literally.  It turns out the police and just about every other powerful organization or form of government is under control by alien invaders! They are disguised as human beings, but Nada soon discovers their true intentions. The human race has been subjected to subliminal messaging and other forms of mind control for quite some time. This is the point where Nada decides he’s just going to go for it and take out as many of these alien S.O.B.s as he can.

Carpenter really lets loose at this point in the film. Paranoia, conspiracy theories, and stuff straight out of a 50s sci fi flick are scattered throughout this movie. This is a first-class B-movie if I’ve ever seen one. That’s kind of Carpenter’s thing is though, so it should come as no surprise. He was a master at making a modern B-movie.

Roddy Piper may not have been the best actor in the world, but he is exactly what this role needs. He’s a big, tough, but average looking guy who kicks ass and takes names. And he does it while delivering some the most hilarious lines I have ever heard. It’s a damn shame that him and Carpenter never teamed up again and Piper instead went on to do a bunch of forgettable, direct-to-video action flicks. He’s really on-point in this movie though. I have always said I’d rather watch a good B-movie than a bad movie that’s trying to be a legitimate piece of film any day.

He’s also one half of one of the most memorable fights in cinema history. When his character meets back up with Frank again and tries to convinces him there is massive cover up and society is under control of aliens (which one can only see if they wear a special set of sunglasses), a fight ensues. And boy is it a fight. These two men do things to each other that in the real world would have killed any mortal man; but in the movieverse it is just another day at work. It is one of the most epic fights ever put on film and if you’ve got 6 minutes to spare, I highly recommend revisiting this hilarious slugfest.  

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on April 18, 2012.