Jump to content

They Live [XDBX Film Club 06]

Recommended Posts

They Live

They Live


  • Released

  • Rating

  • Genre

    • Science Fiction
    • Action


Nada, 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.



  • Roddy Piper
    Roddy Piper
    John Nada
  • Keith David
    Keith David
    Frank Armitage
  • Meg Foster
    Meg Foster
    Holly Thompsen
  • George Buck Flower
    George Buck Flower
  • Peter Jason
    Peter Jason
  • Raymond St. Jacques
    Raymond St. Jacques
    Street Preacher
This page uses the themoviedb.org API.
Posted (edited)

This month's film club is all about b-movies, and when you look towards the upper end of that genre you start seeing the name John Carpenter quite a lot.  Director of classic genre films like Halloween, The Thing, Assault on Precinct 13, Escape from New York and The Fog, the film of his we'll be watching this month is the anti-consumerism manifesto that is 1988's They Live, nominated by @Pb76.


In my opinion the best film ever made that stars a wrestler (sorry Dwane), They Live is based on a short story, Eight O'Clock in the Morning, by Ray Nelson, from 1963, and stars "Rowdy" Roddy Piper as John Nada, a drifter who survives by working day labour in downtown LA.  Finding a box of magic sunglasses in a church, he discovers that the world is populated and run by a race of malignant aliens who subliminally manipulate the human population to consume, conform, and obey, keeping them ignorant of the truth.  These aliens discover that Nada knows who they are and set about to stop him.

This film, like most of Carpenter's filmography, has had a huge impact on pop culture, from the design of the aliens (you'll recognise them from the masks in GTA at least), the messages to obey becoming a part of street art legend thanks to Shepard Fairey (check out the excellent documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop for more about that) and the six-minute long punch up Piper has with Keith David, which is one of the best fight scenes in film history and has inspired a number of imitators.  

john carpenter comedy GIF

I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass - and I'm all out of bubblegum.

Edited by LimeGreenLegend
  • Like 2


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

As this is a B-movie I didn't have too high expectations in terms of acting, script etc but for most of the film it did better than my expectations and was quite entertaining.

I think it started started very well. The story is well constructed and very well paced. The lead and main support actors were as good as should be expected for this sort of film. Some of the minor characters were very wooden but with maybe one exception (see later) that didn't spoil it. The basic story is a good one and I've watched interviews with John Carpenter explaining some of his motivation, what the film is, and is not, about. The idea of the rich and powerful really being malignant aliens controlling the Earth and bribing gullible humans into accepting them by ensuring those who go along with it get promotions and other material benefits is a good story to make. (I have to mention at this point; I was watching a version on Youtube and the person who posted it had added their own subtitles occasionally telling me how this film is really about the Illuminati!). One other thing about the film in general; I've seen this classed as a “horror” film in some places. It isn't. I generally don't like horror films, I don't like being scared. There is nothing really scary in this. It's sci-fi with slightly scary looking aliens.

Now for the bad, for me. The last 20 minutes or so spoil it. I fell asleep, woke up and restarted the last 20 minutes twice! Even considering it was late at night and I had had a couple of drinks, that has to say something about how little I enjoyed the end of the film. So why was that? It's the bit starting from when Nada and Frank enter the alien HQ and make their way through the building to turn off the alien's signal. There's 3 things about this section that I really don't like.

Firstly the actor playing the man that gives them the tour, thinking they are converts to the alien scheme, is not very good at all, and his dialogue is quite banal at times. His was the acting I referred to earlier that I think did partly spoil it.

Secondly the film uses what I regard as bad sci-fi, that is attempting to explain the unexplainable with actual science. I'm referring to the the alien teleport machine. The tour guide man says something like “it uses gravity waves or something like that”. I am a scientist. I hate it when films do that. Sci-fi should either stick to just what is at least theoretically possible or don't bother trying to use scientific explanations. I don't mind either way. Both are perfectly valid for me. Maybe I am overplaying this and that scene is just meant to show how stupid the humans who have accepted their alien masters are, but it didn't seem like that to me. I know this is only a small part of the film, but they never bother explaining other things like how the glasses and wrist watches work or why the aliens are here in the first place, and that's fine. I think it's just this small bit of the film stands out to me as the worst scene in the worst section.

Thirdly and finally, Nada and Frank fighting their way through the building to the roof is like a bad 80s TV show, and I guess it does have a lot in common with those. I hate it when you have the good guys fighting off larger numbers of bad guys, all armed with automatic weapons, yet despite the fact that the good guys always shoot the bad guys the instant they see them, the bad guys never even inflict the slightest wound on the good guys. It's just silly! Why do it? If you want lots of shooting action, fine, no problem (so long as that's not all the film is about), but make it a bit more realistic please! It could have had a bigger group of good guys attacking the alien HQ, and only two of them getting to the roof. Or if it has to be just the two of them then they could use their brains a bit more to evade most of their enemies with stealth rather than firepower.

So to summarize, it was as good as I could have realistically expected for a B-movie for most of the film, but for me had a crap ending that spoiled it. Another 2/5 from me for this one.


Edited by djw180
  • Like 3

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...