Movie Reviews 149 – They Live (1988)

They LiveJohn Carpenter has made some pretty outstanding Horror and Science Fiction movies during his career but some, while not exactly classics are still cult favorites that sometimes fall under the radar. They Live is one of those. A video store rental favorite back in the late 80’s, it hasn’t garnered much love since.

One of the reasons may be because the star of the movie is Roddy Piper. Now you may not know the name, but back then he was more commonly known as “Rowdy” Rod Piper of World Wrestling Federation fame. That’s right, a wrestler. Given the fact that any pro wrestler by definition has to have some acting abilities (Spoiler. Wrestling is fake!), having a wrestler as your star sure sounded dubious. So much so that even I nearly skipped this movie at the rental store. Thankfully I did not, because while he ain’t no Sir Laurence Olivier, truth be told, he holds his own against many other B movie actors. In order to offset any lack of acting chops for the entire movie the producers had the sense to shore things up co-star Keith David (probably best known for another Carpenter classic, The Thing) to give Rod a hand.

The message of the movie is a universal one, Big Brother is watching you, but in this case the Big Brothers are aliens. Creepy looking ones at that, but they get away with their sinister plot of world domination by hiding out right amongst us. Through some sort of transmission they can control the minds of people so that not only do people see the aliens as human, but it also clouds our minds of the subliminal messages (“OBEY”, “SLEEP”, “DO NOT QUESTION”, etc) scrawled over every surface.

When transient John Nada (Piper) comes across a pair of sunglasses that open his vision to the aliens and their subliminal message world, he decides to dig deeper by trying to find out where those glasses came from. This eventually leads him to a group of human rebels trying to expose the aliens, but first he has to convince some friends (David and starry eyed beauty Meg Foster) while trying not to accidentally foil the entire mission.

While the movie misses the mark on many facets (agonizingly slow start, plenty of logic fails, and awkward ending to name just a few), it does have a decent, if somewhat silly, story and more importantly it has some pretty awesome looking aliens. And in case you were wondering, Yes the movie does have a requisite ‘wrestling’ type of battle. But thankfully they get that out of the way pretty early so you can enjoy the movie without the feeling you are in Madison Square Gardens and at some point people are going to be throwing chairs at one another followed by a headlock.


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