Friday, November 22, 2013

'80s Cult Fun: They Live

It's amazing how a topical film from around 25 years ago still feels topical today.  Today's film is They Live, a movie that I've seen before.  Why am I finally reviewing it then?  Well, the film has gotten more play in the last year with a new DVD/Blu-Ray release and a series of jokes in Saints Row IV about it.  Seriously, the game has Keith David as the Vice-President who must escape a manufactured World run by aliens.  Who helps him?  Roddy Piper, of course!  It's brilliant.  For neophytes, Live is a 1987 John Carpenter film about a man named Nada who doesn't seem to quite fit in.  When he stumbles across a box full of cheap sunglasses (not to be confused with the ZZ Top song), things change and he discovers a purpose for his life.  Can he save us all or will we just end up being overrun by the aliens?  To find out, read on...
Nada (Piper) arrives in the big city looking for work.  He has skills, but he still can't catch a break.
There is a mysterious person preaching on TV about people being controlled.  He finds it suspicious and stumbles across his lair.  They get raided by the Cops, however, and he finds a box full of black sunglasses.

All I find are bags of money.  Damn my bad luck!
When he wears them, he sees the truth.  We are being controlled by the audio-visual aspects of the world and our World is full of freaky alien guys.

The aliens don't take kindly to their plot being found out.
Oh joy- Meg Foster and her too-light eyes are here.  This one of those films that makes people just not trust her.

Oh yeah, the plot.  She is his hostage, but seems to sell him out.  He escapes and seeks help.
In the film's most famous scene, Pipe and David fight over the latter not wanting to put on the sunglasses.  This fight scene runs continuously for about 10 minutes and features almost no cuts/editing (if any).

If this seems familiar, South Park did the scene shot-for-shot with Timmy and Jimmy.  Someone on YouTube mixed the two together for convenience's sake.  Plus it's weird.
Finally convinced, David joins Piper as they find the group.  They are the resistance against this new threat, so they make a plan and bring alot of guns.

Yes, this is similar to The Matrix.  Yes, it did come out over a decade earlier.  Yes, I'm done belaboring this point.
The whole thing leads to a raid on a TV Station- which Foster works at- that broadcasts the signal that tricks us all.

For some reason, they trust Meg Foster.  She's Evil Lynn- why would you do that?!?
I won't SPOIL the whole thing here, but the truth manages to get out.  Seeing these guys in Color for the first time- freaky.  The End.
They still hold up.  Yes, the film was about Reagan-Era Consumerism and how shallow we could be.  What helps the movie out is that it never specifically identifies itself as such.  There's no Reagan analog.  There's no bad 1980's music (since Carpenter worked on the Soundtrack).  Hell, there's not really even much bad fashion to date the thing.  There are a lot of bad 1980s films that feature woman wearing those giant shoulder pads.  There are also a lot of good 1980s films that feature people wearing way too much neon and suit jackets with the sleeves rolled up.  Where They Live shines is making itself feel timeless.  So much of the Effects were done cheaply, but hold up to pretty modern scrutiny.  My Stinger is probably the most blatantly-fake and even that is a stretch to many, I'm sure.  Is Piper the best Actor out there?  No.  He works really well with the material though, something that I can't say about other films he's been in.  This film's biggest crime is giving you a Roddy Piper film of a quality that just couldn't be matched.  If you haven't seen They Live, do so now.  If you have, give it another look.  As someone who is willing to openly-criticize Directors I like- see Carpenter's Village of the Damned-, I maintain that this one is worth another look.  Take us away, most awkward thing to discover during sex...
Up next, another Project Terrible film.  If your film is not a Comedy or a Horror Film, what the hell is it?  Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. SUCH a long fight scene. Every time you think it might end... NOPE, it keeps on going.