This week we review the John Carpenter directed They Live starring wrestler Roddy Piper. It’s always interesting to see what holds up in films from the 80s and what doesn’t. The story is the thing that holds up best in this film, some of the other elements, well…
The story revolves around the concept that us poor, dumb humans are constantly being manipulated through subliminal messages that are coming from advertising, TV and the media in general. All of this is being carried out by aliens who live among us and are using a secret broadcast signal that keeps the humans “asleep”. A group of rebels who have uncovered the plot are working to expose the aliens and bust the whole thing open. The script is pretty well written (with the exception of some really bad dialog here and there) and does offer a film that makes you want to sit and watch how everything plays out.
The film falls a bit shy in a few spots. The effects are looking pretty low-budget compared to how they looked back in ’88; the flying saucers and the effects make up look like something done on a college level now. Some of the action isn’t great either as it’s not as intensely and realistically choreographed as films are now. The one scene that still works here though is the fight scene between Piper and Keith David in the alley, that’s still a blast to watch and just when you think the fight is over, somebody throws another punch and it keeps escalating.
Then there’s the acting. Piper is the anchor here and has some decent moments. Like I said there, some decent moments which also means some not-so-decent moments as well. He’s often very wooden, forced and not so wide in terms of emotional range. He makes for a better wrestler than he does action movie hero. There are some moments that still ring true and are enjoyable such as when he walks into a bank ready to confront the alien scourge and declares: “I’ve come here to kick ass and chew bubble gum. I’m all out of bubble gum.” Classic.
While it’s not up there with The Thing or Escape from New York, They Live is worth a viewing if you can get past some of the cheesy acting and effects.
reviewed by Sean McKnight