They Live (1988)

Rating 18
Length 1h 34
Release 1h 34
Director John Carpenter
About Nada (Roddy Piper), a wanderer without meaning in his life, discovers a pair of sunglasses capable of showing the world the way it truly is. As he walks the streets of Los Angeles, Nada notices that both the media and the government are comprised of subliminal messages meant to keep the population subdued, and that most of the social elite are skull-faced aliens bent on world domination. With this shocking discovery, Nada fights to free humanity from the mind-controlling aliens.

Available on Netflix now.


The Good

  • The music has a similar quality to The Thing. That tap, tap, tap… a rhythmic beat that gets completely under your skin.
  • It is a film that will resonate with many people today. The themes of consumerism, political and moral bankruptcy and class divide. Other than the blatant 80s feel of the whole thing, this could be set today and I would not question it.
  • Roddy Piper is that brilliant 80s lead. I did want for Thomas Hayden Church at moments, but in reality Piper is perfect.
  • Keith David marks a welcome reunion between himself and Carpenter. Man, I love that guy and this portrayal is no exception.
  • The use of the glasses and the first time Nada uses them is like Dorothy landing on Oz. The contrast of the colour and the monochrome is just as breath-taking and mind blowing as the yellow brick classic. The visuals of the “they” really are iconic. I just love the whole aesthetic.
  • What an ending. What a brave ending that ensures there’s no sequel. Its a stand alone movie that is akin to something like Get Carter. (Edit: there’s apparently are not one, but two, sequels in the works. I shit you not, the titles are “They Laugh” and “They Love”. I had to check the publication date THREE times to make sure it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke.)
  • That fight sequence. Seriously, it’s such a beautifully crafted piece of cinema. Having a look online before today, it was the one thing I saw popping up time after time. I was a little sceptical and figured it was just fan boys. Nope, that sequence is a work of art. From the choreography, to the camera angles, everything works together.

The Bad

  • Meg Foster’s Holly was a little underused and underdeveloped. I’m not sure why Nada trusts her and I don’t think we’re given enough. The only thing that has me distrusting her is the fact that she’s Evil-lynn from Masters of the Universe, so that most definitely doesn’t count.

The Ugly

  • For how long it takes to set up, it really does race through to the ending. I feel like that once the fight between Nada and Frank the film is just a race to the finish line. I am happy with how it stands, but if I could change anything I would have a bit of a final show down.

Final Thoughts

I was absolutely blown away by this film and I cannot believe that I’d not seen this before. It cannot replace The Thing as Carpenter’s best outing for me, but it is certainly up there.