they liveUniversal
1988
R

“I have came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass…and I’m all out of bubblegum.”

One Saturday after noon in the summer of 1992, on the local Fox affiliate station, I happened upon a movie that got my curiosity up. I missed the title itself, but it looked like it was a movie that starred pro wrassler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. I continued watching because I was intrigued by this up to now unknown (to me) movie that had a former WWF star that wasn’t Hulk Hogan in a role. I didn’t know what this movie was, but it got far too interesting for me to stop watching.

Of course, now I know that the televised Saturday afternoon movie I stumbled upon all those years ago was They Live, one of the classic sci-fi movies John Carpenter made during his 1980s output. I’ve since then have watched this multiple times since that fateful afternoon, as it truly is one of the classics of sci-fi cinema.

In They Live, we follow the Unnamed Drifter played by Roddy Piper (he’s credited as “John Nada” in the credits) as he finds some construction work in Los Angeles, and befriends the local shantytown dwellers. In a nearby church, strange transmissions emanates, which result in a raid by the law enforcement destroying the town. The church is empty, but “Nada” finds a hidden box of sunglasses. When putting them on, he notices that things are not quite right; there are subliminal messages that are now all around where he goes, and some of the people look like they’re not from this planet. When he takes the sunglasses off, things are back to normal. Soon, he realizes that what was once considered “normal” was all an elaborate conspiracy by strange creatures to keep humanity at large enslaved to their mediocre existence, while they get rich off of our cultural enslavement. Yep, about as subtle as a brick upside the head, there. Soon, he’s been noticed as being able to see by the alien conspirators, and then the wackiness doth ensue. Boy howdy, does it ever.

They Live is a great sci-fi movie classic, managing to strike a balance between campy and chilling with the added result of causing you to chew on it long after the end credits roll. It does suffer a bit at trying to stick the ending, but the trip there is great. Roddy Piper was a good pick to play the lead, which makes me wonder what kind of career he would have had if he stuck with acting. I mean, outside of the professional wrestling acting and all. The alien effects are rather effective and off-putting, and the concept of being able to see beyond the veil of normal reality and seeing what really is beneath is a concept that has fascinated me for longer than I can remember, really. And I can still remember pretty far back. Overall, They Live is required watching for you science fiction novices out there.

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