Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a big pro-wrestling fan and as a result I've watched some terrible films over the years just because they feature a wrestler, John Carpenter's They Live most certainly does not fall into this category.
Roddy Piper is the pro wrestler in this film and although he may not be the best actor in the world but he oozes charisma that he is able to transfer from the ring to film in a way most other wrestlers have been unable to do. John Carpenter knew exactly what the Hotrod's skills were and allowed him to help choreograph his fight scene with Keith David and to add his own dialogue which is how the infamous line “I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum” came about.
Whilst re-watching They Live 25 years after it's initial release I was amazed at how well the themes in the movie stand up in 2013. The main backbone of the story revolves around the social divide between the haves and the have nots, those that have money are buying into the corporate brands and chains like sheep whereas the poor struggle to survive as companies lay off staff left right and centre.
Of course there is more to this film than social commentary, there are aliens who run the planet by using subliminal messages that can only be identified by wearing special sunglasses, this sounds tacky but its done in that John Carpenter way that just makes everything OK.
This is a typical John Carpenter film, a slow but deliberate pace that gives time for the story to breathe without dragging, a strong story and his trademark keyboard soundtrack.
Despite having a good track record with good female leads including Adrienne Barbeau in The Fog and Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween, Meg Foster doesn't live up to such scrutiny in They Live, if anything she looks uninterested and as though she was going through the motions, she is probably my least favourite aspect of this film which is a shame as I want to like her purely for playing Evil Lynn in the Masters of the Universe movie (she was also the original Cagney in Cagney & Lacey before she was dropped as the studio apparantly feared people would think that her portrayal of the character was a lesbian – I bet she left that off her CV when auditioning for this and future roles).
The aliens themselves look good for the most part and are only seen in Black and White for the majority of the film which allows suspension of disbelief when the effects do look a bit dodgy as you know that you are seeing an alternate view of the world, it's a clever little cheat.
I appreciate I will always be biased toward this film as it seems to mesh all my favourite things together, wrestling, sci-fi, a touch of horror and a big dose of John Carpenter but I really believe this film still stands the test of time and is a true cult classic.
Writing for The Bearded Trio, Rhys Thomas.
Trailer for They Live.
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