“They Live” stars wrestler turned actor Roddy Piper, Keith David, and Meg Foster. It’s directed by John Carpenter (Halloween, Christine) who adapted this concept from the short story written by Ray Nelson titled “Eight O’Clock in the Morning”.
A quite loner named Nada discovers that most of the world is inhabited by aliens in the form of humans. These aliens can only be seen through a special pair of sunglasses that Nada discovers in a warehouse. Not only is Nada is able to tell aliens from humans, but these sunglasses reveal subliminal messages in billboards and magazines.
With such a dilatory approach, this film suddenly rushes into a series of beat downs and gunfire for no apparent reason. This part (although admittedly confusing) gives viewers a kind of feel for how the low-class society is treated in not obeyed by higher authority. It might not be scary but it does have creepy black and white imagery that adds furor and a kind of unique vibe. Although this isn’t John Carpenter’s best work, it definitely gains my approval by adding some tasteful one-liners, a few humorous gestures, and an ending that touches the sensitive part of my funny bone.
The acting might not be great, but it is never subliminal. You might catch Roddy Piper and Keith David biting their tongue in an effort not to laugh during shooting, making this film obviously not one for the cynics. Aside from a poorly rendered and needlessly overlong fist-fight and unanswered questions, this is definitely my type of film. The intriguing concept, political references, and broad humor lead to a more entertaining take on alien invasion. The casting was a gamble. Keith David might have overacted every so often and Rowdy Piper isn’t a crowned actor of any sort, but the film still worked in its own subversive manner.
If you enjoy the occasional goofy one-liner thrown into the mix along with some stimulating ideas, you shouldn’t be disappointed. Some of the scenes are prolonged and not exactly something needed to make it enjoyable. These just a few minor gray spots the film holds. In the long run, it was made to do one thing. Kick ass and chew bubblegum…and it’s all out of bubblegum.