What I Have Been Watching-They Live (1988) Mini Review


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

They Live is one of John Carpenter’s best-known works.  Even if you haven’t seen it, you have the seen the “Obey” image above on a T-Shirt somewhere.  This has become a cult classic since its release (as it was a box office bomb upon first release).

This is actually the first time watching it.  I know! Crazy isn’t it?  There are a few classics out there that I still haven’t seen.  Recently I have been trying to buckle down and finish catching up on some John Carpenter films that I have yet to watch.   They Live was high on my list and wow did I enjoy the hell out of this movie!

Plot: It follows an unnamed drifter…who discovers that the ruling class are aliens concealing their appearance and manipulating people to spend money, breed, and accept the status quo with subliminal messages in mass media. It is based on the 1963 short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” by Ray Nelson. [Source]

They Live is a wildly entertaining and funny satirical blend of science fiction and horror that is as relevant today as it was in 1988. This is one of John Carpenter’s most fun movies to watch but it is also one of his smartest. They Live had the political edge of Invasion of the Body Snatchers with the action thrill ride of Escape From New York.

What is really amazing about this movie is you really can’t put it into one box.  It is just a scary movie?  Well, in parts it is very creepy.  Is it a fun movie?  Oh, 100 percent! Is it an action movie? You bet it is.  It is all those things and more!

This was a movie born out of a reaction against the Ronald Reagan administration and consumer culture.  Carpenter (and the horror genre) is very politically minded and this is a very politically charged film. Carpenter manages to make it distant enough from making one to one comparisons to Reagan where the movie feels rather timeless. This is a story that can work in many different eras including our own.

Roddy Piper was perfectly cast in this movie and his counterpart, Keith Davis was equally well chosen.

There are some small flaws but not enough a lot to complain about.  If you haven’t seen They Live, get on it!

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