John Carpenter's They Live Movie Reviews

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Life's a bitch and she's back on heat!

They Live is directed by John Carpenter who also adapts the screenplay form the short story Eight O'Clock in the Morning written by Ray Nelson. It stars Roddy Piper, Keith David and Meg Foster. Music is by Alan Howarth (and Carpenter) and cinematography by Gary B. Kibbe.

Unemployed drifter Nada (Piper) wanders into the city looking to find work, but upon finding a unique pair of sunglasses he sees a different world to everyone else. It's a world frequented by an alien race who are using the Earth for their own nefarious means.

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Carpenter does subversive sci-fi and it's a whole bunch of fun. Stripped back it's evident that They Live is Carpenter's wry observation on the politico posers who endorse the rich getting richer and everybody else sliding down the pole; to where they stop nobody knows! It's also a blatant paean to the glorious years of the 1950s when paranoia based sci-fi schlockers and creaky creature features ruled the air waves. It's also a wonderfully macho driven action movie, laced with comedy as well. You can rest assured there will be plenty of shooting, punching, dodging and spoken lines to make you smile.

Piper is no Kurt Russell, but we shouldn't hold that against him because he fills the role nicely. With muscular frame, 80s hair and a quip on the tongue, he is most assuredly a Carpenter leading man for the 80s. Alongside him is the reassuring presence of Keith David, himself a beefcake and also one of the coolest muthas on the planet. It's easy to believe that these two can save the planet, even after nearly beating each other to a pulp during a prolonged side-alley fight sequence, where Carpenter doesn't miss a chance to parody professional wrestling. While away from the beef, Meg Foster gets the lead lady role, with those amazing eyes nestling in perfectly with the world Carpenter has created.

Carpenter does political? Yes, but it's not the be all and end all of his intentions. He wanted to make an action sci-fi schlocker with sly politico undertones as motives. And that's exactly what he did. Joyously so. 8/10


I have to admit up front to liking every single, John Carpenter movie. They are works of art in there unique style and quality. This is actually my favorite of all of them. There could be a criticism that this movie is didactic and sends some sort of clumsy political or philosophical message but I'd have to reply that you simply don't get it. Unlike the modern propensity for movies to try to hammer home some political point or perspective, the message here is only window dressing. The message may (or may not) be important but instead of getting caught up in some sort of self-important moralizing, let's remember this is a movie - and a SciFi action movie at that. (that is the approach in my opinion) If I would compare movies to literature or movie makers to authors I'd compare Carpenter to Hemingway - although Carpenter specializes in anti-heroes and sometimes over-the-top characters, while Hemingway is understated. They are analogous for their own medium. This is action, sci-fi but like Hemingway's stories, this is a man's movie. Straight forward. Fun at times, brutal at times and even funny at times. Keep a watch out for one of the great one-liners in movie history when the star is in the bank - only peripherally related to "bazooka." A+ to Roddy Piper as well. When I first saw this movie I had zero expectation from him. Now I wish he'd have made a lot more movies...