Tuesday, June 11, 2013

They Live (1988)

Seen: At the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge.

They Live is the main John Carpenter movie I've been meaning to see for a while, and then the Brattle showed it! Yay for me! The director's satirical horror stars Roddy Piper as a buff drifter looking for honest work in Los Angeles. He falls in with a community of homeless men and women who do their best to get by day to day, but soon discovers that some of them are involved in a strange secret faction working against the government. He eventually comes upon special sunglasses they developed, and looking through them changes his entire understanding of human society. He then arms up and kills a shit ton of rich people.

With pointed social commentary, hyped-up action sequences, and a healthy dose of horror-comedy, They Live is a good movie made better to future viewers by its hilarious portrayal of exaggerated 80's masculinity. Seriously, the amount of overblown manly-man moments between Piper and Keith David is ridiculous, and, intentional or not, it further serves Carpenter's satirical purpose. Everyday life is brainwashing you and everyone you know, modern society is structured to benefit rich white people and fuck over everyone else, hetero-normative standards of living are subconsciously enforced by the media, and those in control always work to maintain this status quo. His blaring signs screaming "OBEY" and "MARRY AND REPRODUCE" may be humorously obvious and over the top at first, but that doesn't mean his point isn't accurate. Also: ALIENS!

Of course, it's not all dire social commentary around here, in fact for the most part They Live is a fun and funny action movie with a few twists and turns and very cool effects. I dug the whole sunglasses-vision aesthetic, with black and white alien creatures casually grocery shopping and Roddy Piper gaping in confusion for like fifteen minutes before deciding to just Tear. Shit. Up. It's pretty great. Also there's a lady with impossibly blue eyes who is mostly kind of subdued but then at one point she straight-up shoves a man out of a window to his likely death, without any warning, and I LOVED that.

I must mention that this movie takes too long to get going, which is unfortunate, and that its repetitive soul bass line score didn't really fit, I felt. But otherwise it's pretty great! And I'm so happy that now I get the "bubblegum" line that's referenced everywhere!


Pair This Movie With: The violent urban sequences made me think of The Terminator, which is another quick 80's action thriller with horror elements and would make for a fun night. Alternatively, some of the general weirdness reminded me of Repo Man, plus there's the Sy Richardson connection!


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